The Other I

June 4, 2013

Learning from the Neanderthals

Filed under: Intriguing Science,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 7:21 pm
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We all know that we can’t predict the future with any certainty.

But I’m beginning to think what has happened in the past is just as uncertain.

This week we’ve been trying to figure out events in my family a mere generation ago.  Simple questions like “Who was it that was engaged to my mother before she married dad?  When did our parents meet, and who introduced them?”  have baffled us.

And now scientists are telling us that the evidence suggests that we Homo sapiens did not co-exist with the Neanderthals for any length of time in Europe.  Newer dating techniques suggest that the Neanderthals were probably extinct in Europe 40,000 years ago, ten to fifteen thousand years earlier than we thought.

Why did the Neanderthals die out when Homo sapiens did not?  The Neanderthals had brains as big as ours, and had survived in Europe for tens of thousands of years before Homo sapiens even left Africa.

And the Neanderthals were as big and as fast as Sapiens, so it is unlikely that we hunted them to death.  But we might have out-competed them for resources.  Neanderthals have larger eye-sockets and probably better eye-sight than Sapiens.  This made them good hunters, but used up much of the frontal brain that Sapiens developed for social networking and more abstract thought.  So Sapiens became more cooperative, better at sharing and learning from each other.

Hmmm.  Maybe there’s something we can learn from our ancient ancestors.

Or we may inflict on ourselves the same fate that befell Homo Neanderthalis.

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