The word “Neanderthal” is so associated with dumbness that it’s mostly used as an insult. Many an awkward, bookish adolescent has made himself feel better by referring to a physically superior peer as a Neanderthal, just not so loud that the other kid can hear them.
Well, kiss that point of pride goodbye. Researchers now argue there’s no evidence that Neanderthal’s were dumb at all.
According to recent research published by University of Colorado Boulder researcher Paola Villa and co-author Wil Roebroeks, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, there is no evidence to support the long held idea that Neanderthal’s were dumber and more primitive thinkers than “anatomically modern humans.”
“The evidence for cognitive inferiority is simply not there,” said Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. “What we are saying is that the conventional view of Neanderthals is not true.”
The researchers took a look at some of the common theories for why Neanderthal’s, after thriving from 350,000 to 40,000 years ago, died out. Then they knocked them down with evidence.
The idea that Neanderthal were worse hunters and communicators? Doesn’t hold up to evidence of them working as a group to drive bison into a sinkhole in France.
The idea that they had a less varied diet? Researchers have found that they may have eaten “wild peas, acorns, pistachios, grass seeds, wild olives, pine nuts and date palms,” which is probably more diverse than you.
And there’s evidence that Neanderthal’s also used body painting and had other symbolic rituals.
The reason these misconceptions got so ingrained might have to do with incorrectly comparing two points on the human development timeline as if they were equal, the researchers argue.
“Researchers were comparing Neanderthals not to their contemporaries on other continents but to their successors,” Villa said. “It would be like comparing the performance of Model T Fords, widely used in America and Europe in the early part of the last century, to the performance of a modern-day Ferrari and conclude that Henry Ford was cognitively inferior to Enzo Ferrari.”
So if they weren’t inferior, how did they die off? Lowered fertility from interbreeding with anatomically modern humans is one possibility, so you may be a little bit Neanderthal yourself. Not that that’s anything to be ashamed of.
[Source: Science Daily]