Tuesday, August 26, 2008

'Stupid' Neanderthals A Myth


A new Science Daily article reports that American and UK researchers have brought new evidence to light that crushes a long held belief that Neanderthals went extinct because they could not compete with Homo-Sapiens in areas requiring intelligence. For 60 years it had been a commonly held belief that in the area of tool making, homo-sapiens outstripped and out performed those of neanderthals. Researchers spent three years producing stone tools. Archaeologists often use the development of stone blades and their assumed efficiency as proof of Homo sapiens' superior intellect. Yet when scientists compared the type of blades created by homo-sapiens to those of the neanderthal they found that there were no fundamental difference in efficiency and effectiveness in either tool types. In fact, their findings showed that in some respects the flakes favoured by Neanderthals were more efficient than the blades adopted by Homo sapiens. Far from clearing up the mystery of why the neanderthal became extint, it now has deepened it. It has been shown that neanderthal was equal in hunting, had no real disadvantage in communicating and now in some cases, superiour tools.

<- read more of the science daily article ->

graphic via Rhagor

7 comments:

Shaun said...

We also shouldn't forget that both Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons had a larger cranial capacity than 'modern' humans...

paul said...

I really don't see why they differentiate Cro-Mags from Homo-Sap. For all intents they are the same. The average person could not tell the difference between a Neander and Homo-sap and you have to be good in your field to tell the difference between Cro-mag and Homo. The one major difference between Neander and Homo was cerebral cortex which is much more highly developed, but for all intents you could slam a Neander down in any agrarian culture today and they would fit right in.

Shaun said...

Are you 'fessing up to something Paul? Where IS your picture...???

wolfkahn said...

While I do think Neandertal intelligence was roughly comparable to fully-modern humans, I do have have some problems with this study.

First, the criteria seem oddly skewed to favor the more primitive weapons. "the team analysed the data to compare the number of tools produced, how much cutting-edge was created, the efficiency in consuming raw material and how long tools lasted."

By the standards listed above a rock with a sharp edge is a great tool while a spearhead or bone needle is "inefficient."

What about range? Sharpness and ability to puncture the prey?

The second problem is that they "recreated stone tools known as 'flakes,' which were wider tools originally used by both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, and 'blades,' a narrower stone tool later adopted by Homo sapiens."

There is no likely reason that a widespread people (Homo sapiens) would universally, over time, replace one tool set for another unless the new tools were better. Most likely the thinner "less efficient" blades were Atlatl hurled darts, much better for hunting than big spears.

Their suggestion that the "reason for this shift may be more cultural or symbolic" is hardly credible. Life was far too hard to make your hunting weapons less efficient for symbolic purposes.

PS
Paul can't be a Neandertal. He doesn't have a prominent brow ridge or talk is a high-pitched voice.

paul said...

than...huhrur...cough..thank you very much. Hate to disappoint but I stand 5'8" heavy jaw 54" chest and arms long enough to touch the bottom of my kneecaps standing....I think I am adopted....

Paul said...

I think we are missing one point. One of the main differences that had to make a difference in the two races is tool adaptation. Neander was slow if ever to adopt newer tools. Cro-mag showed innovation on the basic set often between close geographic locals. Cultural pressure and density may have played a hand but I truly thing it was an innate ability to recognize an improvement and be willing to use it.

wolfkahn said...

Absolutely Paul. The general scientific consensus has been that although very intelligent Neandertals has less imagination and ability to think "outside the box."