"Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake up and become aware. It does not teach, it points." ~D.T. Suzuki

Monday, September 23, 2013


or What Are You? A Neanderthal?

What Are You?

A Neanderthal?

Homo sapiens neanderthalensis
La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1
"The Old Man" 60,000 yrs. old

I was attracted to paleo-anthropology and evolutionary ecology because like most humans I wanted to know my origins. I studied the Neanderthals because they were us and yet not us. I was certainly curious how a species that managed to endure for hundreds of thousands of years became extinct. I looked at all the evidence I could get my hands on, poured over all the published arguments and discussed with others, as to what happened to the Neanderthals. Did they mix and hybridize with humans? What happened? I had to know!

Did We "Dance" With Neanderthals?

La Chapelle-aux-Saints cave
was the first discovery of a Neanderthal tomb

What I had seen, showed that their physical and cultural differences from us were VERY narrow. Had they met, would there be a barrier to mating, and if they were not too different genetically, could it have been possible to have viable hybrid offspring from this mix?

As I have researched and patiently waited the years, for the field work and science that would recover more intact Neanderthal DNA, new sequencing techniques that would build a bigger database of both the human and Neanderthal genome. All these would provide the whole Neanderthal genome and the human data that would help with the unanswered questions about the final fate of my favorite subject, our close relatives,
the Neanderthals.

What happened to the Neanderthals?

They were not dumb. They were not brutes.
And in a way they're not entirely extinct either.

Want to see a real live Neanderthal?
Look in the mirror.
This short video will explain
ALL (non-african) humans in the world today
have a genome with about 2-4 percent,
uniquely Neanderthal DNA.

So, if your ancestors were not from African, then...
You Are A Humanderthal

The Neanderthals lived for hundreds of thousands of years. They showed the first glimmers of modern behaviors such as a sophisticated stone tool culture, control of fire, hunting and gathering, caring for the infirm and elderly, and interestingly some amount of symbolic or ritual behavior including burial of the dead. These traits we consider quite human and when you learn more about them you will see that there's no shame in being Neanderthal.

There is genetic evidence that when humans came out of Africa between 80,000 and 50,000 years ago the first encounter and therefore chance for human and Neanderthal interbreeding happened in the Levant. Beyond this, it is not known if mating may have continued throughout Europe and Asia. But it seems it could have until about 35-25,000 years ago, when after this time... the Neanderthal sites, their remains and artifacts are no longer found in the archeological record.

An Excellent Presentation by Carl Zimmer
Neanderthal Facial Reconstruction 
Then as compared to Now

You see what you think you see... Compare how we used to think of Neanderthals, to what we know now. With more finds and new technologies, we realize...hey, they look a lot more like us! They didn't look like what we first thought at all. But then again, there was still a great deal we didn't know about them.

That was then. Now we have quite a bit of evidence to clear up many of the questions surrounding who the Neanderthals were, what might have happened to them, and what was their evolutionary and contemporary relationship with humans.

Over the years of research, refinement of technique and of course new finds, we have learned much about them.yet there remains so much more about them to be learned. Where they differ in genes and mutations can teach medicine more about many diseases. The further study of their genome has much to contribute to evolutionary medicine.

 They likely had language and beyond tool production and other behaviors,

Neanderthals had their own aesthetics.

The Neanderthals indeed had culture(s)
passed on from generation to generation.

One still intriguing question that new dating methods have brought up is the artists who made the cave art in Europe. Was that only a modern human trait? Or was that the innovation that came from their meeting or mating? A Cro-magnon hybrid? Why there is cave art and what is the meaning of the art is speculative at best.

At more than 40,800 years old, these dots and crimson hand stencils on the walls of a cave called El Castillo in Spain are the world's oldest cave art.

 It is the earliest time that the archeology shows humans and Neanderthals began overlapping in Western Europe roughly 45,000 years ago. 

The details of Neanderthals are fascinating.
In future posts I hope to share more of those, including details of the Neanderthal sites and the human cave art that I have excavated or visited in Southern France.
Are We Human? or Are We Dancers?
© 2013 MU-Peter Shimon

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