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Neanderthals' Skull

How smart were the Neanderthals really?

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This is the question that experts have been trying to answer for decades and recent research has added to the growing opinion that Neanderthals were much smarter than we had previously given them credit for. Now a new investigation in France, which is due to be published in the Quaternary Science Review, has offered further clues that suggest Neanderthals were far from the primitive sub-human brutes they were once believed to be.

An international team of scientists from France, the US and Spain, conducted analyses on stone tools and other materials, such as wood fragments, which were recovered from an archaeological site known as Abri du Maras, in the Middle Rhône Valley in southeastern France.

Their analyses revealed cut marks on bones of a wide variety of mammals, fragments of bird feathers and fish scales, and plant fragments, which offers a fascinating insight into the diet of the Neanderthals. It shows that they didn’t only specialise in large game hunting, but exploited a wide range of resources including large mammals, fish, ducks, raptors, rabbits, mushrooms, and plants.

The researchers also found Levalloise flakes, which are associated with Neanderthal stone tool technology, traces of twisted fibre, suggesting the manufacture of cordage or string, and six lithic points that appear to be related to complex projectile technology, a development usually only associated with early modern humans.

“This evidence shows a level of behavioural variability that is often denied to Neanderthals,” said the study author. It shows that far from being behaviourally inflexible, the Neanderthals used a range of tools and resources to ensure their survival for thousands of years.

While it is still unclear what caused the eventual extinction of Neanderthals, scientists are at least able to rule out what did not cause their decline. The suggestion that Neanderthals were overtaken by modern humans due to their limited set of tools, techniques and resources is now an out-of-date perspective with no evidence to support it.

By April Holloway



Could this suggest systematic hostile actions by modern humans at some point to get rid of their neighbors who became for whatever reason an obstacle to domination. Interbreeding happened we know by DNA evidence. how much was by rape or consent is up for grabs. I tend towards less the competition theory more to We Want It All so Leave or Die theory. Small clan groups can be seen as easier to get rid of than an army of like-minded individuals yes but the two groups are on a even par of intelligence, skills and adaptability. I cannot see the Neanderthals not putting up a fight when they were threatened. That leaves issues- new diseases introduced by new people in an area and no immunity by older group. Was it a mostly peaceful and a lot of kinship ties between the 2 groups by marriage ties and subsequent intermix of genes. Or did the modern women have problems with birthing neanderthal babies because of the anatomical differences. Does not that leave just plain greed as an motive? Am I in left field here. I would like to know what other people think.

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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