Not So Different

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

Tracy Vence
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,...

“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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Not So Different

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