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Not So Different

Researchers unearth little evidence to suggest modern humans are superior to their Neanderthal ancestors.

By | May 1, 2014

Models of modern human (left) and Neanderthal skullsWIKIMEDIA, MATT CELESKY, DRMIKEBAXTERPaola Villa of the University of Colorado and Wil Roebroeks from Leiden University in The Netherlands have a bone to pick with those who view modern humans as superior to Neanderthals—at least with regard to their intelligence. In a paper published in PLOS ONE this week (April 30), the researchers reported on their systematic review of archaeological records of Neanderthals and modern humans, through which they found little evidence to support the latter group’s intellectual dominance.

“The evidence for cognitive inferiority [of Neanderthals] is simply not there,” Villa said in a statement. “What we are saying is that the conventional view of Neanderthals is not true.”

Scanning the fossil records, Villa and Roebroeks found hints that Neanderthals may have actually been a lot like modern humans—they seem to have had similar social networks and capacity for innovation, the researchers showed. As to why the ancient hominins died off? The researchers concluded that all of the explanations for Neanderthals’ disappearance that they reviewed were based on incomplete data, and therefore, were flawed. They added that single-factor explanations for Neanderthal extinctions ought to now be disregarded, noting in particular that “their demise was clearly more complex than many archaeology-based scenarios of ‘cognitive inferiority.’”

“Stereotypes help people to order their world, but the stereotype of the primitive Neanderthal is now gradually eroding, at least in scientific circles,” Roebroecks said in a statement.

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Avatar of: wctopp

wctopp

Posts: 30

May 1, 2014

There's a recent study from China that reports a GWAS effort that turned up a number of chromosomal locations that correlate with good performance on paper "intelligence" tests.  It would be interesting to see if any of these map to the regions that have survived in modern humans and originated in Neanderthals or Denovians.  Maybe we're "so smart" because we're part Neanderthal.

Avatar of: John Edser

John Edser

Posts: 24

May 1, 2014

What critically separated Cro--Magnon from Neanderthal was that only the former were tribal.

Artefacts associated with tribal ritual & belief evolved via Cro-Magnon psychologically bonding the group in which specialisation & exchange provided enormous individual advantage, allowing modern man to spread from Africa.

Avatar of: Barry Freed

Barry Freed

Posts: 1

May 1, 2014

I have thought for many years that the humanoid variants that appear in the fossil record have been over-classified by paleontologists. These findings by Villa and Roebroeks corroborate that notion and, in my opinion, move us closer to a more profound understanding: "modern humans" and Neanderthals are NOT distinct species!

Avatar of: privatethinker

privatethinker

Posts: 3

May 1, 2014

Perhaps, Ethiopian humans and Neanderthal humans living in what today is an undetermined area of Middle East, mixed because there were NOT genetically different as it is stated in poetic language in the bible with Solomon and Sheba queen myth. A partial mix of both people took place there and three differente groups arised. Among the mixed new humans some returned to Africa (Menelik), some migrated to Europe and Asia. The majority of those who remained in Middle East, did not mix with Ethiopians (at least during that particular encounter). One thousand years after, the debate about considering other people equals arised again and many of the descendants of those who remained "unmixed" before, accepted equality and left Middle East,  One conclusion might be that characteristic of this new humanity is the will of mixing and consider any other being with similar apprearence as an equal.   

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