Before Farming

Neanderthals and us

conflicting new interpretations on our relationship to each other

Before Farming (2010), 2010, (3), 1–10.

Abstract

Recent archaeological, fossil and genetic discoveries involving Neanderthals, as well as new interpretations of Neanderthal behaviour, are reviewed in order to examine how similar or different Neanderthals were to early modern humans and, ultimately, to us. It is argued that Neanderthals have been cast in a bad light since their discovery in the 1850s and that prejudice still pervades much research. However, the most extreme views can easily be discounted and a new picture of Neanderthal behaviour and society is emerging. New genetic studies are confirming ideas about interbreeding to the extent that it appears there is a bit of Neanderthal in all people outside of sub-Saharan Africa. It is concluded that the next decade will reveal ever more myth-shattering discoveries, especially in east Asia.

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Taçon, Paul