Who’re You Calling a Neanderthal?
2013 05 08
By David Frayer | New York Times
Most Westerners think of Neanderthals as stumbling, bumbling, mumbling fools who aimlessly wandered the landscape eking out a miserable, forlorn existence. Yet Neanderthals lived longer in Europe than modern humans have, by several hundred thousand years, and survived good and bad times.
The “Neanderthals are inferior” attitude traces back to their earliest descriptions in the mid-1800s when the first Neanderthal was labeled as “freak” or an “idiot” or “incapable of moral and religious conception.” For many, the discoveries after 1865 confirmed these labels. Even the majority of human paleontologists supported this view.
But in the last 10 years there has been a major reassessment of the Neanderthals, and it turns out they share a lot of the behavior and capabilities of people in Europe today. This revolution in the way academics think about Neanderthals arises from discoveries in archaeology, re-evaluations of their anatomy and revelations about their genetic makeup.
The most amazing is the extraction of nuclear DNA sequences from Neanderthal remains, which show that Europeans derive up to 4 percent of their genes uniquely from Neanderthals. Some 80 gene sequences come directly from Neanderthals and include regulators of smell, vision, cell division, sperm integrity and smooth muscle contraction.
One gene we share with Neanderthals is FOXP2, part of the gene complex associated with language production. We know variants of this gene in modern people cause language dysfunction and it was long assumed Neanderthals had a nonmodern form. This was partly based on the general assumption that Neanderthals were not like us — and some argued that Neanderthals lacked the ability to produce the essential vowels of language — “a,” “e” and “u.”
New anatomical work refutes this, and the evidence from FOXP2 shows that Neanderthals had the exact genetic sequence found in fully vocal moderns.
Another key to the language question is brain lateralization. Language is mostly on the left side, in the ear region. Someone who has suffered a stroke in this region often has impaired language ability, as well as paralysis on the right side of the body, because the left side of the brain controls that, too.
This lateralization is a hallmark of modern humans and is reflected in handedness. All humans have a right-hand-to-left-hand ratio of 9 to 1. Our nearest ape relatives lack this hand laterality, along with the modern FOXP2 sequence, but Neanderthals had both. Their 9-to-1 ratio was identical to all modern humans. The implication for all this is that Neanderthals could speak.
What did they talk about? Perhaps what colorant to use, since manganese dioxide blocks, and red and yellow ocher, have been found at some of the sites where they lived. In the Netherlands, early Neanderthals were liquefying these colorants, as seen in red ocher drops found at one site. Were these colorants dripping out of skin bags? No one knows, but it is unlikely they were dissolving red ocher in their hands.
Or were they talking about what feathers to decorate themselves with? At a site in Italy, feathers were removed from the wings of the bearded vulture, Eurasian black vulture, golden eagle, red-footed falcon, common wood pigeon and Alpine chough, based on cut marks found at the wingtips of bird bones.
Possibly they spoke about the strategies involved in catching them. Or maybe Neanderthals spoke about the power of eagle talons. Pendants made from these claws have been found at numerous sites in France and Spain spanning nearly 60,000 years. Some of the latest Neanderthal sites turned up modified and sometimes pierced tooth and bone pendants and other art objects.
Or maybe Neanderthals spoke about their dead. Newborns, children, adolescents and adults have been found in prepared graves, in a few cases with grave goods and other items to prepare them for whatever was to come.
Read the full article at: nytimes.com
Top Image via The Cultural Niche
Tune into Red Ice Radio:
Troy McLachlan & Theodore Holden - Hour 1 - Cosmos in Collision: Antique Solar System, Neanderthals & Modern Man
Lloyd Pye - Hominoids
Ross Hamilton, Jim Vieira & Hugh Newman - Hour 1 - Giants, Mound Builders & Etheric Energy
Freddy Silva - Ancient Sacred Sites, Invisible Temples, Giants & Our Ancestors
Nora Gedgaudas - Hour 1 - The Paleo Diet, Primal Body & Primal Mind
New Evidence of Symbolic Thought in Neanderthals
Them And Us: How Neanderthal Predation Caused Modern Humanns
First Love Child of Human, Neanderthal Found
Last-stand Neanderthals queried
Could ’Almas’ be surviving Neanderthals ?
Was human technology superior to neanderthals’?
Neanderthals used feathers as ’personal ornaments’
Neanderthals Found Certain Plants Important, Had Medicine
The Science and Art of Neandertal Teeth
Latest News from our Front Page
Illegal Aliens Cleared For U.S. Military Service
2014 10 18
The Pentagon announced a new policy allowing illegal immigrants the opportunity to enlist in the armed forces, Thursday.
USA Today reports that the new recruitment policies will focus on people with "high-demand skills" like foreign language acumen and health care training:
"For the first time, the program — known as Military Accessions in the National Interest, or MAVNI — will ...
Bronze Age Sundial-Moondial Discovered in Russia
2014 10 16
A strange slab of rock discovered in Russia more than 20 years ago appears to be a combination sundial and moondial from the Bronze Age, a new study finds.
The slab is marked with round divots arranged in a circle, and an astronomical analysis suggests that these markings coincide with heavenly events, including sunrises and moonrises.
The sundial might be "evidence of ...
Humans may only survive 68 days on Mars
2014 10 15
Space enthusiasts planning a move to Mars may have to wait to relocate: conditions on the Red Planet are such that humans would likely begin dying within 68 days, a new study says.
Oxygen levels would start to deplete after about two months and scientists said new technologies are required before humans can permanently settle on Mars, according to the study ...
Tom Sunic’s letter to the US Ambassador to Hungary
2014 10 14
October 11, 2014
Mr. André Goodfriend
Embassy of the United States of America
Szabadság tér 12
Dear Mr. Goodfriend,
As an American citizen I would hereby like to express my concern over the recent decision by the Hungarian government to ban the National Policy Institute (NPI) conference which had been scheduled to take place in Budapest from October 3 to October 5, 2014. ...
"Vampire grave" found in Bulgaria
2014 10 14
A "vampire grave" containing a skeleton with a stake driven through its chest has been unearthed by a man known as "Bulgaria’s Indiana Jones".
Professor Nikolai Ovcharov – a crusading archaeologist who has dedicated his life to unearthing mysteries of ancient civilisations – said that he had made the discovery while excavating the ruins of Perperikon, an ancient Thracian city ...
|More News » |