How sapiens were Neanderthals?: Very (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 17:02 (103 days ago) @ David Turell

The latest findings show that Neanderthals see really quite equal to early H. sapiens:

"it’s now clear that Neanderthals weren’t any less ‘evolved’ than us. Nor is there much decisive evidence that they were fundamentally less social or less inclined to mingle with those outside their tribe. They simply travelled on their own path, running roughly in parallel to ours, albeit with different twists and turns in the trail. They were not parochial cul-de-sac Europeans, but instead lived across immensely varied lands well into Asia – even towards the shores of the Pacific, if some Chinese stone tools are any indicator. They were capable hunters and knowledgeable gatherers; artisan crafters across a range of materials. Weathering multiple glacial cycles, they survived extreme climate change as rapid and severe as the worst predictions for the coming centuries.


"A new array of methods, and a growing awareness of bias due to outdated excavation and collection standards, brought our perception of Neanderthals into much sharper resolution. In the decades since, evidence from hundreds of sites has been meticulously parsed and amassed, revealing the Neanderthals as top-level team hunters. They took on mighty beasts including bears, rhinos and possibly mammoth, using finely honed wooden spears for close-quarters jabbing; others were likely thrown like javelins. The myth of speedy critters such as birds or rabbits being out of reach has been crushed, while seafood was at least sometimes on the menu. Strand-line gathering was practised, whether for shellfish or the odd washed-up marine mammal, and maybe freshwater fish.

"Plants supplemented this varied carnivorous diet. Neanderthals made their living across a huge geographical area, from North Wales down to Palestine, and eastwards nearly halfway across Siberia, so it’s no wonder we find preserved morsels of figs, olives, pistachios and date palm in caves across the Mediterranean and West Asia. In archaeological sediments and on stone tools, remnants of tubers (wild radish, water lily) and seeds (wild cereal, peas and lentils) have also been discovered. All this tells us that Neanderthals were very likely chowing down on cooked food more diverse than meat. Perhaps food was as important to social identity tens of millennia ago as it is for us today.


'Just recently, scientists applied a dating technique measuring the radioactive decay of uranium-thorium in the minerals encrusting the paintings, thereby revealing a minimum age. The results were startling: the oldest ranged from 67,000-52,000 years, appearing some 20,000-7,000 years before we believe that H sapiens arrived in Europe. For many scholars, this represents strong evidence that Neanderthals were responsible.


"Over 174,000 years ago, it seems that Neanderthals walked into the isolated chamber and carefully built these large circular structures. More than 400 pieces from the central parts of the stalagmite columns were placed in layers, some balanced on top of each other, others standing in parallel. Many had been extensively burned, and blazes had been kindled in the small piles. At least some of the fuel was bone, potentially including bear, which isn’t easy to set and keep alight. So far there are no artifacts, and no explanation for the rings, but these structures would have taken time and planning to create, and the foresight to provide sufficient illumination underground. Research is ongoing – most excitingly, to see what lies beneath the floor, entombed in calcium carbonate – but Bruniquel has already opened a vista onto a Neanderthal mind as elaborate as our own.


"However it happened, the science is clear: to produce the amount of DNA surviving today, taking into account complex processes of selection against Neanderthal genes and less fertile hybrids, there must have been an awful lot of sex between the communities.


"it turns out the Neanderthals and Denisovans were close contemporaries, living in the same region for thousands of years. During protein sampling aimed at locating more hominins among unidentified bones from the cave, one stood out. Researchers had chanced upon a bone fragment from a girl, probably a teenager, who was a first-generation hybrid: her mother a Neanderthal, her father a Denisovan. Even more incredibly, her paternal ancestry revealed an even older genetic record of mixing between these populations, hundreds of generations before.


"Yet their relatedness to us is hardly the most interesting thing about them. Instead of a cautionary tale of a disreputable cousin, they are a uniquely precious mirror that refracts, rather than reflects. Far from some primitive offshoot, Neanderthals should be more accurately understood as another of nature’s experiments in humanity."

Comment: this article shows H. sapiens chauvinism clouded our proper and present view of Neanderthals. Not much different than early sapiens

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