Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dealing with dumb myths, Neanderthals different, not inferior

Science Daily/Universite de Montreal, 1/14/15.  "Stone age humans weren't necessarily more advanced than Neanderthals."

Say what, Pacifica cousin?
Big head more or less brain,
possible skills differences
 ....  "This is the first time a multi-purpose bone tool from this period has been discovered. It proves that Neanderthals were able to understand the mechanical properties of bone and knew how to use it to make tools, abilities usually attributed to our species, Homo sapiens," said Luc Doyon of the university's Department of Anthropology, who participated in the digs. Neanderthals lived in Europe and western Asia in the Middle Paleolithic between around 250,000 to 28,000 years ago.  ....   The tool in question was uncovered in June 2014 during the annual digs at the Grotte du Bison at Arcy-sur-Cure in Burgundy, France. Extremely well preserved, the tool comes from the left femur of an adult reindeer and its age is estimated between 55,000 and 60,000 years ago.

....  "It was long thought that before Homo sapiens, other species did not have the cognitive ability to produce this type of artefact. This discovery reduces the presumed gap between the two species and prevents us from saying that one was technically superior to the other.Read article.

RelatedThe Wire/The Atlantic/Adam Clark Estes, 9/6/11. "It wasn't just Neanderthals: ancient humans had sex with other hominids." Scientists have collected evidence for years that modern humans interbred with our ridge-browed Neanderthal ancestors in Eurasia. But in Africa, where the Homo sapiens species is said to have emerged, a lack of genetic evidence has left researchers scratching their heads about exactly how we came to beat out not only the Neanderthals, or Homo neanderthalis, but also the other archaic species like Homo erectus and Homo habilis.  ....  As recently as five years ago, researchers deduced that humans and Neanderthals had interbred at some point based on the shapes of skulls found in caves or buried under thousands of years worth of soil. Then, a ground-breaking paper published last year by Swedish evolutionary biologist Svante Pääbo in Science brought genetics into the equation. Pääbo provided genetic proof that Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa and into the Neanderthal-occupied Eurasian continent, where they met and mated with the more primitive men. Pääbo and his team made the discovery while comparing samples of Neanderthal DNA with that of modern human DNA."

Tested/science/life, (Jamie and Adam), Wesley Fenlon, 3/13/13,"Why bigger Neanderthal brains didn't make them smarter Us."  "We like to think that we're smarter than than the neanderthals that went extinct some 30,000 years ago. As homo sapiens, we have good evidence--the wheel, skyscrapers, rollercoasters--but the fact remains that neanderthal skulls were significantly larger than our modern human skulls, and that meant they had the capacity for brains just as big or bigger than our own. So why didn't they put that roomy brain cavity to better work? According to Smithsonian Mag, a recent scientific study from Oxford proposes a new explanation for why neanderthals never wrapped their big brains around farming or a written language. The study proposes that neanderthals dedicated far more of their brains to controlling their bodies than we do. Though they were shorter than humans, they were also stockier and stronger, particularly in the upper body. The study also suggests neanderthals had to commit more brain power to vision than we do."  Discovery/Evolution, 12/12/12, "Humans vs. Neanderthals: How did we win.?"

Science News magazine/Ashley Yeager, 4/30/14, "Neandertal's inferiority to early humans questioned." ....  "The results do not support the idea that Neandertals went extinct because they were inferior to early modern humans. Instead, the extinct hominids may have disappeared as a result of interbreeding with and assimilation into early human communities, researchers argue April 30 in PLOS ONE."

Note related photographs: cranial by Dr. Mike Baxter/Wikimedia from the Tested/Science/Life article.  Posing for photograph from the Atlantic Wire article/Getty.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

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