Weâre People Too! How Neanderthals Lived, Loved, and Learned
Neanderthals are often portrayed as brutish, primitive, and inferior to modern humans. But recent discoveries have challenged this stereotype and revealed that Neanderthals were people too â a separate, shorn-off branch of our family tree. We last shared a common ancestor with them about 600,000 years ago, and they lived in Europe and Asia until about 40,000 years ago, when they went extinct.
In this article, we will explore some of the fascinating aspects of Neanderthal life, culture, and cognition that show how much we have in common with them â and how much we can learn from them.
Neanderthals Were Skilled Hunters and Toolmakers
Neanderthals were not just scavengers who relied on leftovers from other predators. They were capable of hunting large and dangerous animals, such as mammoths, rhinos, and bison, using spears, knives, and other stone tools. They also used fire to cook their food, make glue from birch bark, and create better weapons.
Neanderthals were not only adept at making tools, but also at modifying them for different purposes. For example, they used a technique called \"hafting\" to attach stone blades to wooden handles, creating more efficient cutting tools. They also sharpened their tools by retouching the edges with a softer stone or bone.
Neanderthals Had Complex Social and Emotional Lives
Neanderthals were not loners who lived in isolation. They formed small groups of about 10 to 30 individuals, who cooperated in hunting, sharing food, and caring for each other. They also buried their dead with flowers, animal bones, and tools, suggesting that they had some form of ritual or belief system.
Neanderthals also had feelings and emotions similar to ours. They suffered from injuries and illnesses, such as broken bones, infections, and arthritis. They showed compassion and empathy by helping their injured or sick companions. They also expressed themselves through art and adornment. They made jewelry from shells, teeth, and feathers. They painted their bodies with red ochre. They even carved patterns on bones and stones.
Neanderthals Were Intelligent and Creative
Neanderthals were not dumb or slow-witted. They had brains that were slightly larger than ours on average. They also had a complex language system that enabled them to communicate with each other. Although we do not know what their language sounded like, we know that they had the same gene (FOXP2) that is involved in speech production in modern humans.
Neanderthals were also capable of learning new skills and adapting to new environments. They migrated across different regions and climates, from the cold steppes of Siberia to the warm coasts of the Mediterranean. They learned how to use marine resources, such as fish, shellfish, and seaweed. They even interbred with modern humans who arrived in Europe about 45,000 years ago. As a result, many people today have some Neanderthal DNA in their genomes.
Neanderthals were people too â people who had a rich and diverse culture that reflected their intelligence, creativity, and emotions. They were not our ancestors, but our cousins â cousins who deserve our respect and admiration. By studying them, we can gain a better understanding of ourselves and our origins. aa16f39245