The Neanderthal-Sapiens Connection

The Neanderthal-Sapiens Connection

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In May 2010, after years of intense discussions surrounding possible fossils of mixed Homo sapiens and Neanderthal descent floating around the scientific community, a team led by Svante Pääbo of the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, published the results of their pioneering journey towards retrieving ancient Neanderthal DNA. The study sent out a shock wave: it discovered that our own DNA contains between 1-4% Neanderthal DNA, meaning our early modern human ancestors had indeed not only shaken hands with Neanderthals back in Ice Age Eurasia, but had also definitely shaken other body parts and interbred with them. The team's find not only pushed modern humans and the Neanderthals a lot closer together, but also paved the way for more ancient genetic research, which has since been shedding more light on the Neanderthal-Sapiens connection.

The Neanderthals were relatively short and stocky humans with big brains who gradually developed in chilly Eurasia, with features that become clearly recognisable between c. 200,000-c. 100,000 years ago and the 'classic', full set of features as we identify them settling in around 70,000 years ago. They were well-adapted to the often cold temperatures that held sway across the regions they were found in, all the way from Spain and the Mediterranean to Northern Europe and Russia, as well as throughout the Near East, and as far east as Uzbekistan and Siberia, and were capable of hunting even the biggest Ice Age creatures such as mammoths or woolly rhinoceros.

Genetic research has shown that the Neanderthals are a sister group to us; we share a common ancestor quite a long way back, in Africa, between c. 550,000 and c. 750,000 years ago, but our relation with them does not end there. Although already meeting and interbreeding with their sister species in more localised instances as far back as 100,000 years ago, possibly in the Near East, modern humans first expanded into Neanderthal territory at large from around 55,000 years ago, when a big wave of them left Africa and started spreading across the world, with the Near East as a first pit-stop. It is this location and timeframe that accounts for the biggest visible chunk of Neanderthal DNA entering our modern human systems. On their travels into the rest of Eurasia, modern humans clearly did not find vast, uninhabited lands with unchallenged prey for them to hunt, but had to share or compete. Somehow, after successfully surviving for such a long time in not exactly the breeziest of conditions, Neanderthals then disappeared from the fossil record by around 40,000-30,000 years ago, not long after modern humans encroached on their grounds.

It is not entirely clear whether or not Homo sapiens may have had a direct or indirect hand in pushing the Neanderthals into extinction.

There are still a fair few hiccups in our knowledge of what happened when these two species met. For instance, it is hard to say how we should visualise them actually meeting and sharing certain areas; the options range from excessively violent and competitive to happily exchanging tips and tricks. It is also not entirely clear whether or not Homo sapiens may have had a direct or indirect hand in pushing the Neanderthals into extinction, and which other factors may have been at play.

Another big component to this debate is interbreeding – how exactly does it fit into this story? Under which circumstances and to what extent this may have taken place can radically alter the view we have of how modern humans and Neanderthals interacted over the space of time they shared Eurasia. It certainly impacts on our view of the social side of things; it means that genes were exchanged and our genetic makeup was altered, an effect that was felt not just there and then in Ice Age Eurasia but all the way up until this day. It also means Neanderthals did not die out in the strictest of senses, because part of their DNA still survives in us.

Initial meetings

As mentioned above, there is a family relation; by at least c. 500,000 ago one group of what is generally thought to have been Homo heidelbergensis (or Homo antecessor) upped and left Africa, journeyed all the way to Europe and somewhere in those regions gradually developed into Neanderthals, while the portion of Homo heidelbergensis that was quite alright with Africa and stayed behind became part of the eventual development towards Homo sapiens (who appeared by around 200,000 years ago).

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Both genetic evidence and archaeological finds seem to support the Near East as the place of first contact. This area shows (so far) the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens outside of Africa, at the sites of Skhul and Qafzeh in Israel, where burials have been dated to be older than 100,000 years ago – and perhaps even up to a staggering 130,000 years ago. Moreover, Neanderthals are also known to have been present here, at neighbouring sites such as Tabun Cave and Kebara Cave. Evolutionary geneticist Svante Pääbo envisions a possible scenario where modern humans may have moved into these Near Eastern caves when the climate was warmer and more suited to their needs, whereas Neanderthals could have been pushed that far south in colder periods, likely resulting in these two species meeting at least at some point within the long period of time they weaved in and out of the same region. This Near Eastern setting is also the most logical explanation for the very early presence of Homo sapiens DNA in a set of Neanderthals found in the Altai Mountains in Siberia – a place where Neanderthals are also known to have interbred with another human species, the Denisovans – as the data indicates that ancestors of these Neanderthals must have met and interbred with modern humans around 100,000 years ago.

The main interbreeding events we can trace today

As the main wave of modern humans left Africa around 55,000 years ago, they seem to have run into Neanderthals in the Near East & interbred with them.

However, the main component of Neanderthal DNA that jumped over into our Sapiens gene pools came from interbreeding at a later point in time; as the main wave of modern humans left Africa around 55,000 years ago, they seem to have run into the Neanderthals in the Near East and mixed with them (or, perhaps, mixed with a crowd of modern humans living there who had themselves already interbred with Neanderthals at some point in the past). This group of travelling Sapiens then carried their mixed genes to the far reaches of the world as they spread out across Asia (with East Asians possibly receiving another shot of Neanderthal DNA along the way) and into Europe. As a result, non-Africans today possess on average around ~2% Neanderthal DNA. Interestingly, somewhere in Southeast Asia these modern humans bumped into yet another species of human that was already presumably living there – the Denisovans. This gives us another clue about what was likely to happen when two different groups of humans met; modern humans interbred with them, too, between c. 54,000-c. 44,000 years ago. When it works, it works; there are plenty of clues that interbreeding was likely a common feature along our evolutionary road.

When it comes to the practical side of these kinds of mixings, we do not know whether we should picture meetings between two different – albeit related – kinds of humans as spontaneous neighbourhood barbecues that resulted in people getting quite friendly with each other as more food and drink was consumed, as violent and unhappy affairs, or anything in between. What we do know is that – as far as we can detect, that is – all or almost all of the genes that jumped over flowed from Neanderthals into modern humans, meaning there were mixed babies that were raised in modern human societies. However, this does not mean the reverse did not happen, too; possible fertility issues in that direction, or the fact that such gene flow would not have been preserved as easily in the smaller and already shrinking Neanderthal population, may have simply made it untraceable for us today.

Sharing Eurasia

Upon arriving in Europe by at the earliest around 45,000 years ago in a single founding population, Homo sapiens may have had a bit of an 'Ah, you guys again' revelation (not literally, of course, as there would have been a few thousand years in between the Near Eastern encounter and the European ones). Right off the bat, there was a huge contrast: Neanderthals had been living in temperamental Ice Age Europe for thousands of years already and had adapted to the cold both physically and with regard to their lifestyle, whereas the arriving modern humans, albeit already carrying bits of Neanderthal DNA with them, would have had to learn to cope with the new regional conditions. Although it seems like this might have put Sapiens at a disadvantage when trying to carve out their own living space, they were hugely helped by the fact that the numbers were in their favour; both their group sizes and their overall population density were much larger than the resident Neanderthals, whose already dwindling population must suddenly have faced competition for resources.

But how did this Europe-sharing work in practice? Whether or not the invading modern humans ended up sharing certain valleys and actively socialising and exchanging tips and tricks with the resident Neanderthals, or whether they instead pushed the Neanderthals out of their way and covered the previously Neanderthal sites with their own tools and objects is a question with more than just one possible answer. When a certain site shows an earlier, distinctly Neanderthal tool culture (a big general one around this point in time is the Mousterian), and a slightly later Homo sapiens-made tool culture (the main one associated with Sapiens spreading across Europe is the Aurignacian), with no evidence that either set of tools had clearly influenced the other – which would imply acculturation – we tend to lean towards the displacement idea. This can arguably be seen at, for instance, Kaldar Cave in Iran, sites in the Swabian Jura in Germany, some sites in Italy, and at Châtelperron in France.

However, some other sites paint a different picture. The Middle Danube region in Central Europe, for instance, shows the influence of a newly arriving stone tool culture on an already existing Neanderthal one, and suggests that these two specific groups would have literally stood eye to eye to some degree and overlapped a bit in living space. Close proximity, although visible here, may not even have been a prerequisite for a certain degree of influence, though; ideas were possibly even capable of spreading indirectly across much larger distances. Theoretically, if a Neanderthal in the Lower Danube region came really up close and personal to a modern human there and was shown a nifty new tool, this knowledge could have spread when his group met another Neanderthal group, and so forth, travelling all the way to a Neanderthal group in the Dordogne in France.

it is safe to say we should imagine a broad range of different scenarios for when Neanderthals met modern humans.

There is actually a really cool find that shows how fluid this whole connection story must have been in practice. It is now clear that a bone tool known as a lissoir, which was thought to have been exclusively modern human, was already created from within a Neanderthal context before Sapiens even arrived in Eurasia. This means that this tool was either invented independently by the Neanderthals; that they were somehow influenced by Sapiens across large distances; or that modern humans actually hijacked the idea for this tool from the Neanderthals in the first place.

Considering the varied nature of our own species, I feel it is safe to say we should imagine a broad range of different scenarios for when Neanderthals met modern humans and vice versa. Some of us (and them) would undoubtedly have been violent brutes taking over areas that caught their eye, whereas others would have been more curious and social, obviously up to a close enough point to interbreed on certain occasions, which probably continued at least to an incidental degree after the 'main' traceable mixings in the Near East. The two groups certainly had a couple of thousand of years of overlap during which they could potentially have exchanged both ideas and genes, as well as competed for resources. Going a step further, though, there is even a fairly widespread belief that modern humans were cognitively and technologically superior, giving the Neanderthals a run for their money.

The Neanderthals' disappearance

This superiority argument has been fairly popular in the past. The idea is that modern humans were smarter and better than our competitors – using superior weapons and more effective hunting strategies – to which the Neanderthals had no sufficient answer. As a result, they then eventually kicked the bucket.

Up until the last decade, this theory was backed quite well by the archaeological evidence. Whereas Upper Palaeolithic modern humans were clearly capable of making stuff like spear throwers and created beautiful cave paintings that must surely show they had developed to the point of symbolic thought, it was hard to prove the Neanderthals came up to the same cognitive benchmark. However, more recent studies have pointed out there really was not enough of a difference between these two humans to make this supposed superiority the main perpetrating factor. Neanderthals are now known to have been highly sophisticated, too; they used ochre in a likely symbolic way, knew sophisticated heating techniques to produce pitch, and produced ornaments such as eagle claws as well as quite specialised tools (including the bone lissoirs named above). Moreover, they were formidable large game hunters with a broad general diet who must have really known their way around prehistoric Eurasia.

The supposed gap between our species is narrowing. Clearly, we were not so very different at all, and certainly not different enough for it to have been the only cause of the Neanderthals' extinction. Earlier this year, a study even suggested that because there was such a difference in population size between the two groups, modern humans would not have needed any severe advantage over the Neanderthals in order to replace them. Not only were there a lot fewer Neanderthals, living more scattered and in smaller groups than the arriving aliens; their numbers, too, were already decreasing when modern humans entered the arena, leaving them vulnerable.

Something that may have had a hand in this and that has previously been overlooked a bit is the climate, which is now known to have been much more unstable around that time than we thought. On the Iberian peninsula, for instance, evidence has popped up indicating that Neanderthals vanished from there as early as around 42,000 years ago (while in other regions in Europe they may have clung on until c. 30,000 years ago at the latest), and that right at this time the climate started going through all sorts of annoyingly large fluctuations. This could help explain their dwindling population size in general.

Interestingly, there are also theories that point at interbreeding as a contributing factor to the Neanderthals' demise. Although we know that interbreeding happened, probably in the Near East, it is hard to reconstruct how common this may have been throughout the period in which Neanderthals and modern humans came into contact with each other. The huge amount of time that has passed since the Neanderthals disappeared would have watered down their genetic contribution, and there is evidence that the mixings were never even a straight-forward affair, but came with selection against certain portions of Neanderthal DNA. Male mixed children may have been sterile, which would obviously reduce the amount of Neanderthal DNA being passed on beyond that first step. The social dynamics between the two groups must have played a role, too. All in all, it is possible that mixing might have happened fairly consistently, and that the dwindling Neanderthal population may have been partially assimilated into that of the modern human newcomers. One can imagine the much larger modern human numbers effectively 'swamping' the Neanderthals, but it is hard to say how likely a scenario this is.

What is clear is that the Neanderthals vanishing from the fossil record (but not the genetic one) must have been the result of a complex process involving many different factors, such as tough climatic conditions; a small and dwindling population size; contact with newcomers that at least in some areas included interbreeding; probably competition for resources; and perhaps even assimilation.

The genetic impact

Our colliding fates actually go to a deeper level still. Science has reached that wonderful point where we can see not just the DNA we originally received from the Neanderthals, but also unearth the functions of some of these genes which still have an effect on us today. Among the ones that have been identified are genes affecting skin and hair colour, which suggest that as modern humans first arrived in the colder Eurasian conditions, they helped themselves adapt by picking up lighter skin and fairer hair from the Neanderthals. The immune system shows a similar story; certain variants of genes boosting immune response, which would have helped defend modern humans against the new array of parasites and bacteria, are courtesy of both Neanderthals and the Denisovans.

However, although these changes were probably originally useful within hunter-gatherer societies trundling around the prehistoric landscape, our vastly different lifestyles and environments today mean that we are now seeing some serious side-effects of the Neanderthal legacy. For instance, although a gene variant that ensures faster blood clotting could have saved the lives of prehistoric people getting hurt running around hunting things that were a fair bit bigger than they were, it also increases the risk of strokes and the likes, which is inconvenient considering today's high life expectancy. Moreover, in today's more sterile environments, the Neanderthal immune response boost sometimes gets translated into allergies. Other present-day issues that seem to have roots within the transmitted Neanderthal DNA in modern humans are all sorts of fun things like urinary tract disorders, nicotine addiction, skin lesions, risk of depression, predisposition towards malnutrition, and, for Native Americans, increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Clearly, we really thought this one through when we met our first Neanderthal.

The Denisovan genome has been sequenced, too, so their genetic impact on us is also starting to be canvassed. It has become clear, though, that it was not just these two species of human Homo sapiens got all up close and personal with, but that different humans mixed all the time, even way back within Africa. Palaeontologist John Hawks compares our evolutionary path to a river delta, with a main stream that supplied more than 90% of the ancestry of today's humans, and loads of other little streams weaving in and out, eventually heading into the desert and going extinct. We even know that some still unknown human 'ghost' lineages must have existed because of this genetic legacy. Homo sapiens are the product of this entire past and preserve a dynamic and varied history of many meetings, in which the Neanderthals clearly played an interesting part, but there is no doubt that we also played an interesting part in the lives of all of these other humans, too.

Ancient DNA and Neanderthals

John Gurche, artist / Chip Clark, photographer Homo neanderthalensis, adult male. Reconstruction based on Shanidar 1 by John Gurche

While DNA can be used to understand aspects of biology and evolution, the fact that DNA is a fragile molecule and decays over time has made it difficult to use DNA to learn more about extinct species. After decades of work, scientists can now use ancient DNA to understand aspects of the biology of our closest extinct relatives, the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) such as their appearance, physiology, speech capability, and population structure, as well as their phylogenetic relationship with modern humans, our own species (Homo sapiens).

Neanderthals were the first fossil hominin species discovered by scientists in 1856. The Neanderthal lineage has been the source of much debate within the anthropological community, but the consensus now is that the most likely common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans (at least with the current fossil record) is Homo heidelbergensis. The Neanderthal and modern human lineages probably began to diverge about 500,000 years ago, with the ancestral population to Neanderthals traveling to Europe and the Middle East and the ancestral population to modern humans remaining in Africa for roughly another 400,000 years. Neanderthals had plenty of time to develop cold-weather adaptations to allow their bodies to retain as much heat as possible in the frigid European climates. Their bodies were stockier and their limbs slightly shorter and more robust than their modern human counterparts. Despite this difference, Neanderthals and modern humans looked very similar and occupied similar ecological niches when their habitats overlapped. One question remains central to the study of Neanderthals and modern humans: if we were so similar, why did the Neanderthals become extinct and while modern humans thrived?

We can use the DNA from fossil Neanderthals to approach this, and many other questions, such as: What was the relationship between Neanderthals and anatomically modern Homo sapiens? Did Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans interbreed? Did Neanderthals contribute to the modern genome? How much? What do the Neanderthal genes that have been identified in the modern human genome actually do? Scientists answer these questions by comparing samples of Neanderthal nuclear and mitochondrial DNA to those of modern humans, even comparing them gene to gene.

Jews – Modern Day Neanderthals

Renegade Editor’s Note: This is a contentious theory, with some people even asserting that the Aryans are the true Neanderthals, and that Neanderthals have been given a bad reputation because of this. It does seem entirely likely that jews do descend from a different species or at least subspecies than the rest of us.

Author’s Update:

When researching and writing this article, I was unaware of the controversy surrounding it or that many now believe that Aryans descended from Neanderthals. It seems more likely that any similarity between modern Europeans and Neanderthals is the result of late interbreeding. I am hesitant to believe that Aryans are descended from Neanderthals for the following reasons:

1)Neanderthal’s body is completely adapted for the cold. Until the Great Cataclysm around 12,000 years ago, the Earth was a tropical paradise. The fossils and rock strata, which are supposedly millions of years old, were all formed at once during the resulting flood. This is covered in detail in Renegade host Charles Giuliaini’s book ‘An Alternative View of the Distant Past V2’. Therefore, Neanderthal is quite young in evolutionary terms.

2)Aryans are the most pure genetic line on the planet. Their beauty, fine features, emotional and spiritual sensitivity, and creative genius are
found nowhere else. I can’t conceive of this lineage evolving from anything primitive. I believe, as the legends state, that they are descended from ‘gods’- whatever that ancient race may have been, it was quite advanced.

3)The two groups co-existed and competed. There is also evidence of great animosity between the two- examples: in southern Europe, Homo Sapiens hunted Neanderthal nearly to extinction. Neanderthal settlements have been found where Homo Sapiens, presumed to be captured in battle, were brutally dismembered and butchered.

That being said, the original assumption that Jews are ‘modern Neanderthals’ is a bit simplistic as well. They are more likely related to Denisovans, an Asiatic sister group to Neanderthal. There is even evidence of pure Neanderthal-type(Denisovan?) tribes still living in remote areas of the Caucasus called ‘Almas’ or Kaptar’. Modern Jews would seem to be an ad-mixture of Human, Denisovan, and possibly the large-skulled race mentioned in the article, i.e. something not-quite-human(my theory).

The Jews’ Asiatic origins are further reinforced by the facts that the Hyksos, the Hebrews who invaded ancient Egypt, were also called ‘Asiatics’ and that the Ashkenazim and Turk/Mongols seem to be different branches of the same family. Although the various genetic research studies regarding the Jews are conflicting, there does seem to be an ancient Hebrew/Semitic theme common to most of them- most conclusively in the Y-chromosomal DNA, and especially in the priestly caste known as the Kohanim.

I won’t remove this article because so many still believe Jews to be Neanderthal, as I did, and because it served as a starting point in a valuable investigation into the relationship between Neanderthal to both Jews and modern Europeans, as well as the true origins of the Jews.

Original Article:

We in the Jew-wise truth movement tend to recognize Jews by certain defining physical and mental traits: hooked noses, beady eyes, gravely voices, socio pathology, paranoia, the hoarding of resources, and a hatred for non-Jews. But what if these traits were the result, not the cause, of their fundamental difference from us?

Image taken from the article ‘They Are Not Like Us’ by Jack Harper

It’s said that the truth is often stranger than fiction. Believe it or not, modern Ashkenazi Jews and several other groups – the ‘Asiatic hordes’ of Turk-Mongols which followed the Russian WW2 shock troops to butcher and rape Europeans, as well as many Georgians, of which Stalin was an example – are all descendants of Neanderthals. I believe the Khazars were as well. Which, of course, makes the whole ‘Khazar Theory’ a moot point. Whether they converted or not, they were still of Semitic/Neanderthal stock.

Regarding the Ashkenazim, they are the true Caucasians – the descendants of Neanderthals who survived the ice age in the Caucasus Mountains, then later spread into eastern Europe. The Ashkenazim turned pale from living through the ice age, bundled in furs – reinforced later as they mixed with Europeans. The other major Neanderthal lineage was Asiatic, originally concentrated in modern day Mongolia. I believe the Neanderthals were primarily blood type B. Blood type researcher Dr. Peter D’Adamo states that blood type B originated with nomadic, shepherding peoples. The people of ancient Mongolia and the Middle East are prime examples of nomadic shepherds. Eastern Europe has a much higher than average amount of blood type B to this day.

The Jewish/Neanderthal group is best defined, however, by the mitochondrial DNA haplotype group J. Scientists don’t dare call this a Neanderthal DNA type, but it is. The following image shows its distribution which supports this information perfectly.

I believe the Ashkenazim are a separate Neanderthal lineage primarily because of their higher average IQ. The source of this higher IQ is a common ancestry with another lineage possessing extremely large skulls. These skulls have been found in modern times in Peru – they are called ‘Paracus Skulls’. There are two types of elongated skulls: one non-human, with 25% greater brain capacity, and the natives who practiced skull flattening in an attempt to emulate them. According to Brien Foerster, the world’s leading researcher on elongated skulls, recent DNA testing shows that the non-human type originally came from the Caucasus Mountains – the same place the Ashkenazim originated from. The elongated skull lineage was undoubtedly the priestly class. This trend persisted for some time as all ancient headdresses, including that of the pope today, are elongated and could easily have hidden such heads.

Comparison of human and non-human elongated skulls. Image taken from Wikipedia.

In any case though, Jews all are share common ancestry which is far different than Whites. The very term ‘Caucasian’ is a misnomer intended to confuse. True whites are Aryans, descended from Nordic or Celtic stock. Nordic – the blond-haired stock which according to mythology descended from the ‘gods’ – original blood type O neg And Celtic – the red-haired stock, which archaeological evidence proves are descended from giants – original blood type A neg. The ancient Egyptians were an example of this lineage. After being multi-culturalized by the Hyksos (Hebrews), they left Egypt and settled in Ireland. This is why the Jews hate the Irish so much – they are descendants of the ancient Egyptians.

The fact that these ethnic groups are Neanderthal technically makes them non-human. Being pathologically evil as they are, they love to reverse meanings. According to the Talmud, only Jews are human non-Jews are lower than animals. What’s more, Orthodox Judaism teaches that this difference extends to the very soul. Chabad Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh stated “Gentile souls are of a completely different and inferior order. They are totally evil, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever…”. Chabad Rabbi Mendel Schneerson further stated “A non-Jewish soul comes from three satanic spheres, while the Jewish soul stems from holiness”. This explains the Jews’ complete lack of empathy toward mankind. History shows that Jews have been the cause of at least 90% of the suffering on this planet throughout recorded history. We are literally witnessing an inter-species war of survival between Neanderthal and Homo Sapiens.

This information also explains many apparent contradictions in history. One example is the discrepancy in the U.S. Constitution: It states “All men are endowed by their Creator with certain Inalienable rights” yet at the time of its writing, only white property owners were included in its benefits, while all minorities were excluded. Why? Because ‘men’ refers only to Jews. ‘White property owners’, as a group, were the elite of their day – then, just as today, society’s elite consisted almost entirely of Jews and their Gentile puppets. Over the next few decades, the more average white citizen began to share in the Constitution’s provisions. But once the Jews had firmly established their power base, average whites were excluded from sovereignty and true freedom through the passage of the 14th amendment. And once again only the elites benefited, which is where we are today.

Other articles and posts on this subject, with pictures and supporting information:

For further reading on the racial aspects of this article, I would recommend:

-Chosen People from the Caucasus by Michael Bradley
-The Children of Ra by Arthur Kemp
-Brien Foerster’s 7-part video series ‘DNA Results Of The Paracas Elongated Skulls Of Peru’, available on Youtube

Neanderthals and immigrating modern humans attained comparable levels of cultural achievement

If one were to form an opinion on the basis of how Neanderthal-related scientific discoveries are reported to the public, one would hardly guess that this much-revised view of Neanderthals as a cognitively sophisticated, fully human part of our ancestry has already been endorsed by a significant number (if not a clear majority) of archaeologists and palaeoanthropologists directly involved with the research. Thus one of the most fascinating features of contemporary studies of the origins of modern humans lies in the continued popularity, particularly in the media and more conservative quarters of the academic world, of traditional views of the Neanderthals as aliens – not from outer space but from outer time. Although there are reasons to be found strictly in the domain of the scientific history of the subject, the particular role played by Neanderthals in late 19th-century debates over evolution goes a long way to explain such current attitudes.

At that time, Neanderthals were used as supporting ancillary evidence in mainstream ethnological views of the racial ladder, to which they added a temporal dimension. Today, ranking human races is no longer acceptable but, in western culture, the philosophical or religious need to place ‘us’ at the top of the ladder of life is still very prevalent and explains the continued search for images of what ‘we’ are not (or not anymore) that, by contrast, enhance the basics of what ‘we’ are. Thus, depending on different perceptions of the fundamental basis for the triumphant status of civilized society and industrial capitalism, so the tendency arose for Neanderthals to be represented as lacking in the corresponding behavioural features. For instance, to give but a few examples, the Enlightenment emphasised the power of reason, Adam Smith stressed the importance of the division of labour, and David Ricardo explained the role of international trade and comparative advantage. And, sure enough, explanations for the demise of the Neanderthals have variously postulated competitive inferiority caused by their lack of symbolic cognition, labour specialisation and long-distance circulation of raw materials.

The fact that such propositions are demonstrably in complete contradiction with the empirical record does not seem to deter their uninterrupted flow. This suggests that the Victorians were not completely wrong, Neanderthal studies do have the potential to bring progress not only to the understanding of past humans as they were in the past but also to the understanding, through philosophy, sociology and the historiography of science, of present humans as we are in the present. Put another way, despite the apparent cacophony, the field of Neanderthal studies has at least one uncontroversial conclusion to offer: that Neanderthals should not be left to archaeologists and palaeoanthropologists alone.

Did Christ die for Neanderthals?

The discovery that Neanderthals once existed raises the question of their relationship with homo sapiens. Neanderthals have been studied in various disciplines, giving rise to a range of opinions about them. This article raises the question in a theological perspective, asking what a Thomist should make of the status of Neanderthals, whether they were created in the image of God and Christ died for their sins. Having examined what light might be thrown on their status by that of angels and aliens, it is asked whether Neanderthals are part of the same human family as sapiens. Genetics has shown that sapiens and Neanderthals had offspring, leaving Eurasian sapiens with about two per cent Neanderthal DNA, including our Lady, and implying that, when the Word became flesh, the Word became partly Neanderthal. Since reconciling Catholic teaching on Monogenism with the results of population genetics implies interbreeding between humans properly defined by a subsistent immaterial soul and a wider population, there is reason to ask whether the meeting of Neanderthals and sapiens may also have been an example of interbreeding. Possible evidence for Neanderthals possessing a subsistent immaterial soul, and so being part of the same human family as sapiens, is assessed.

In 1856, some1 1 This paper was delivered as the annual Aquinas Lecture in 2020 for the Thomistic Institute at the Dominican House of Studies, Washington, D.C. miners had the unenviable task of clearing out a small cave in the quarry where they were working. As they did so they came across some bones – arm bones, leg bones and ribs - and the top of a skull. As far as the miners were concerned, these remains were not human but bear. And that assumption was not unreasonable, but bear they were not. Within a year they had been identified as something more human than bear, but not quite the same as us. That was the view of a local schoolteacher who, with the support of a university anthropologist, identified the remains as belonging to an archaic human species. It was certainly closer to us than any ape, and like us walked on two legs, but its shape and frame were outside the range of any known homo sapiens, outside of the range of us. A different view again was put forward in the 1870s by a pathologist, who thought the bones did belong to one of us, but to an unfortunate individual who suffered deformity. By the early twentieth century it was the schoolteacher's view that had prevailed.2 2 On the history of the interpretation of the archaeological evidence, see Julia R. R. Drell, ‘Neanderthals: A History of Interpretation’, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 19 (2000), pp. 1-24. The species itself was named from the Neander Valley in Germany, where the discovery had been made, giving us homo neanderthalis, Neanderthal man.

Once the initial discovery was made, older discoveries were identified as belonging to the same species, and further remains found. In comparison to homo sapiens, the Neanderthals had heavy-set projecting brows, swept-back cheekbones, smaller chins, bigger chests, and flaring pelvises. On present evidence the Neanderthals were largely confined to Europe, but also present in the Middle East and into western Asia. The earliest possible remains have been dated to around 430,000 or so years ago, and the latest to around 40,000 years ago. After that they disappear. In contrast, the oldest sapiens remains are found not in Europe, but in Africa, and they date back some 200,000 to 300,000 years ago. Later sapiens remains are found also in Asia and Europe, making it certain that for thousands of years Neanderthals and sapiens lived in proximity to one another. This raises the question of what the relationship was exactly between these two populations.3 3 See Clive Finlayson, Neanderthals and Modern Humans: An Ecological and Evolutionary Perspective (Cambridge: CUP, 2004) The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals died out and we survived (Oxford: OUP, 2009).

This question has been the study of archaeologists, palaeontologists, anthropologists and geneticists, as a range of scientific disciplines have addressed the evidence, giving rise to a range of opinions about the lives of Neanderthals, even within one discipline. I have no expertise in any of these sciences, but have tried as best I can to understand what they have to say, in order to take account of what they have to say within a theological framework.4 4 I would like to express my sincere thanks to Dr Leo Goodstadt, who helped me gain a better understanding of the scientific issues involved in the question. I also benefitted greatly in my study of anthropology from participation in 2015 in a summer school for theologians held at the University of Notre Dame under the auspices of the Evolution of Wisdom research project, which was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. Today I am going to look at the Neanderthals and their relationship to us from a theological perspective in the Catholic tradition, asking what a disciple of St Thomas Aquinas should make of them. Are they to be counted among the humanity God created in his image and likeness and which fell into sin, or are they to be counted instead among the other animal species of our world represented in the first chapter of Genesis? Or are they something else? While creation itself is to be renewed through Christ at the last, according to Christian faith Christ is said to die for our trespasses, for our sins.5 5 E.g., Rom. 4.25 8.21. So did Christ die for Neanderthals?

We should be clear from the beginning what kind of answer we cannot give. If Christ did not die for Neanderthals, that cannot be because his sacrifice on the cross was not powerful enough to take them into account. Aquinas took the view that Christ's human death had an infinite, superabundant value it was the death of a divine person. Christ's death must therefore be sufficient to deal with any and every human sin.6 6 Summa Theologiae, III, q. 48, a. 2. If there is some sin for which Christ did not die, that cannot be because of any insufficiency in him or in his cross, but we would need to look for an explanation elsewhere.

If we want to make theological sense of Neanderthals, we can start by asking if there are any models in the Thomist tradition which can throw light on them, apart from the species of our world already found in Genesis 1. One such model is the angels. Though angels do not explicitly appear in Genesis 1, their presence is found throughout Scripture. Aquinas held that they too were created in God's image and were recipients of grace, although Christ did not die for them.7 7 Summa Theologiae, Ia., qq. 50-64 q. 93, a.3 IIIa., q. 8, a. 4. For a recent Thomist account, see Serge-Thomas Bonino, O.P., Angels and Demons: A Catholic Introduction (Washington DC: CUA, 2016). But if Christ did not die for their sins, could this be a possible model for us to understand Neanderthals? I do not think we can in fact pursue this line, because Aquinas had a reason why Christ did not die for angels, and it had to do with their immaterial natures: Aquinas thought angels had no matter, not even a spiritual matter. Aquinas associated immateriality with intellectual power, and he thought that the purely immaterial angels had very powerful intellects. But all this meant that, when they made their decision for or against God, that decision affected their whole being so thoroughly that their basic direction in regard to God was unchangeable.8 8 Summa Theologiae, Ia., q. 64, a. 2. We humans, on the other hand, are bodily, material beings, and our basic direction can be changed, albeit now only by divine grace. And so it makes sense for Christ to die for our sins, but not for those of angels. Neanderthals, however, were material like us, and so if they sinned, they should be able to repent, by grace. So it seems that angels are not a good theological model for understanding Neanderthals, and we need to look elsewhere.

Another possibility is that of alien life, unrelated to our own, on other planets. Aquinas is clear that Christ's sacrifice is sufficient not only for this world, but for any worlds God might create.9 9 Commentary on the Gospel of St John, 1.8. So, whether God has created other universes, or there are other planets in this one, populated by creatures made in God's image, Christ's sacrifice is enough for their sins too. Aquinas himself thought that God created only one order, in which we are the only rational animal, but theologians have since given thought to the status of possible life in God's image elsewhere.10 10 For some recent discussion, see Edmund Michael Lazzari, ‘Would St. Thomas Aquinas baptize an Extraterrestrial?’, New Blackfriars 99 (2018), pp. 440-57. One issue is whether Christ, in becoming human, died for human beings only. Though his sacrifice may be sufficient for alien beings, it may not have been directed to them, but only to those of Christ's own species. Theologians have often thought of Christ making satisfaction on our behalf as a member of our human family, just as any of us might fittingly help out a family member who could not repay a debt.11 11 Cf. St Anselm of Canterbury, Cur Deus Homo?, II.8. When discussing Christ's incarnation, Aquinas is clear that God could have become incarnate in a human nature created totally afresh.12 12 Cf. Summa Theologiae, IIIa., q. 31. Such an incarnate person would be truly human by way of possessing a true human nature, but perhaps would not count as a member of our particular human family. But would that have been a fitting scenario for making satisfaction on behalf of us? Aquinas certainly thought it was fitting for Christ to be one of our human family in that his humanity was not created totally afresh but provided by one of us, the Virgin Mary. But would that mean he could not be a member of other alien families, even alien families that were human, and so Christ would not have died for those families but only for ours, the one of which he was a member? The question is whether, even if we regard Neanderthals as human in some sense, would they be members of our human family, the same human family as us? Are they like alien humans, or are they just us?

It is here that genetics has made a decisive contribution by investigating the DNA first of homo sapiens and more recently of Neanderthals. DNA is found in cells that make up the bodies of human beings and of all other life on earth. Within this DNA lies a kind of code, which provides what it is easy to think of as a kind of instruction manual, the genome, which contains information required for any organism's development. But, because every organism's DNA is inherited from a parent organism, DNA also encodes something about that organism's past, its ancestry.13 13 I have found very helpful and recommend David Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past (Oxford: OUP, 2018). Fine changes or mutations in an organism's DNA, which are then passed on to its descendants, but not to others, enables geneticists to build up a picture of how different living things, different species, are related to one another. We all know that DNA can be used to determine a paternity suit, and all of us can take a swab from the inside of our cheeks and submit our DNA for commercial analysis, and learn something about our own ancestry. Such testing has shown, for example, that I'm British!14 14 In other words, my DNA's largest match is to populations in Britain there are however also smaller matches to populations elsewhere. But genetics has also told us more spectacular things about the more distant past, because in decoding the DNA of all sorts of living things, geneticists can work out the relationships between them, and determine which genetic events came before or after others. By estimating how often genetic mutations which have then been passed down occur, it is also possible to estimate dates for these events with some confidence, even if these dates are then open to revision as our knowledge grows. And so decoding DNA has uncovered something about the relationship between Neanderthals and us.

How DNA came to be extracted from the bones of Neanderthals is a fascinating and exciting story.15 15 I recommend Svante Pääbo, Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes (New York: Basic Books, 2014). However, the story begins with investigation of our own DNA. In 1987 a team of geneticists decoded a tiny fraction of the DNA of several individuals from around the world. Whereas most of our DNA is found is the nucleus of most of the cells that make up our body, this small fraction is found outside the cell's nucleus in what we might think of as the batteries or engines that power the cell, the mitochondria. While our fathers as well as our mothers contribute to the DNA in the nucleus of our cells, only our mothers contribute this Mitochondrial DNA.16 16 There are, however, rare cases of paternal inheritance of Mitochondrial DNA. Each person receives it from their mother, and she from her mother, and she from her mother, back into history. This is what genealogists call the matrilineal line. Each one of us has many, many lines of ancestry going back into the past. Each of us has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, then 32 and 64 as we go back through the generations, though eventually we will find the same people on different lines and the tree curves in on itself as the branches are entangled. But, be that as it may, each of us has many, many lineages going back on a complex tree. Mitochondrial DNA passes down only one of these many lineages, from your mother, back from her mother, her mother, and so on. If any two of us here could trace our matrilineal lines back, at some point we would meet a woman in common, an ancestor shared by us on the matrilineal line, maybe thousands of years ago. The team of geneticists, making sense of the different genetic changes inherited in this DNA by the different participants in their investigation, could construct a sort of family tree for the matrilineal lines of these different participants from around the world. The inheritance of different genetic mutations allowed the participants to be placed on different branches of the tree, each of which branched off at a different moment in time from the main trunk. Ultimately, following the matrilineal lines of everyone back, they met a single woman, whom they dated to have lived 200,000 years ago.17 17 R. L. Cann, M. Stoneking, and A. C. Wilson, ‘Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution’, Nature 325 (1987), pp. 31-36. More recent estimates place Mitochondrial Eve, as she became known, about 160,000 years ago.18 18 Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here, p. 5.

Now although all of us here, and everyone outside this lecture theatre, will be descended on their matrilineal lines from Mitochondrial Eve, it is not being claimed that she was the first ever female human or the only woman alive at the time or anything like that. There is no reason to suppose that she was the Eve of the Bible. Other women were alive at the time, and while they may have had descendants, they had no descendants on the matrilineal line that have survived down to the present day. Only Mitochondrial Eve's matrilineal line has survived, in all of us. Genetics in fact suggests the homo sapiens breeding population has always numbered some thousands.19 19 Ibid., pp. 14-15 Heng Li and Richard Durbin, ‘Inference of Human Population History from Individual Whole-Genome Sequences’, Nature Genetics 46 (2011), pp. 493-96. Mitochondrial Eve lived in such a population. The fact that those participants whose DNA branched off most deeply in time, most nearly to Mitochondrial Eve, were from Africa confirmed what the archaeological evidence had already suggested, that sapiens was formed as a distinct population in Africa. This had immediate implications for the relationship of sapiens to Neanderthals. Up to the 1980s, sapiens were widely thought to have evolved from archaic human species in different regions around the world, including the evolution of sapiens in Europe from Neanderthals. But now it was clear that all modern humans, no matter where in the world they live, had their origin in a single population, and that was in Africa.20 20 Ibid., p. 49. The Neanderthals, for whom there is no evidence of ever having lived in Africa, could not then be the parent species of European sapiens or of any sapiens. The tendency now was to think of the two as separate species, with a common descent from some earlier archaic population, but as essentially different from each other. The possibility of sapiens and Neanderthals interbreeding was mooted, but was widely thought to be rather unlikely. Either they could not, or they were just too different to try.

At first it was only Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA that was tested, and these initial results in 1997 appeared to support a somewhat separate existence.21 21 M. Krings et al., ‘Neanderthal DNA Sequences and the Origins of Modern Humans’, Cell 90 (1997), pp. 19-30. If Neanderthal matrilineal lines had connected with sapiens matrilineal lines in the last few hundred thousand years, that would have been evidence that the two populations interbred. But it appeared not to have been so. The most recent estimate for convergence on the matrilineal line is way back between 360,000 and 470,000 years ago, in some population ancestral to both Neanderthals and sapiens.22 22 Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here, pp. 29-30. However, just as the investigation of the wider sapiens genome, and not just mitochondrial DNA, had already filled out a more complex picture of human ancestry,23 23 Ibid., pp. 17-22. so the investigation of wider Neanderthal DNA and comparison with sapiens DNA revealed some procreation common to the two populations after all. More precisely the result published in 2013 was that, while people of only African descent showed no significant match between their DNA and that of Neanderthals – Neanderthals after all had never lived in Africa - those of Asian and European descent did show such a match.24 24 K. Prüfer et al., ‘The Complete Genome Sequence of a Neanderthal from the Altai Mountains’, Nature 505 (2014), pp. 43-49. The article was published electronically in 2013. In light of this fact, it makes best sense to think of this common procreation taking place within that segment of homo sapiens that had crossed out of Africa around 50,000 years ago, of their meeting and having children with Neanderthals in the Middle East, before successfully spreading their own genes, now partly Neanderthal, through Asia, and into Australia, Europe, and eventually America.25 25 On the day this lecture was delivered, new evidence was announced of a small presence of Neanderthal DNA in those of African descent, presumably through Eurasian migration of homo sapiens into Africa. See Lu Chen, Aaron B. Wolf, Wenqing Fu, Liming Li, and Joshua M. Akey, ‘Identifying and Interpreting Apparent Neanderthal Ancestry in African Individuals’, Cell 180 (2020), pp. 677-87.

So how great is the contribution of Neanderthal DNA to people of European and Asian descent? We start from the fact that everyone receives fifty per cent of their DNA from their father and fifty per cent from their mother. My mother and I have both had our DNA tested by the same company, and we were revealed to share fifty per cent of our DNA. As a result of this I was able to tell her that I now have a scientific basis for knowing she is my mother, rather than just take her word for it!26 26 More technically, this comparison of our autosomal DNA shows either that we are siblings or that one or other of us is the parent of the other. And because everyone receives fifty per cent of their DNA from their father and fifty per cent from their mother, a child born of a single Neanderthal-sapiens union would inherit fifty per cent Neanderthal DNA and fifty per cent sapiens. The proportion of Neanderthal DNA in descendants living in an entirely sapiens population would then have decreased with each generation after that union. One sapiens skeleton from Romania, dated to about 40,000 years ago, had around six to nine per cent Neanderthal DNA. At some point this figure levelled out across the Eurasian population at about two per cent. Europeans and Asians today show a match of around 1.5 to 2.1 per cent.27 27 Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here, pp. 40-43. According to the National Geographic's Genographic Project, I have 1.9% Neanderthal DNA. Our Lady then would certainly have had about two per cent Neanderthal DNA, and our Lord would have inherited DNA from her. Jesus’ virginal conception makes his own genetic make-up a bit of a mystery of course, because he had no human father to provide a Y-chromosone of DNA to make him male or any other DNA. But, however we make sense of this, we should conclude that when the Word became flesh, the Word became Neanderthal. Or around two per cent.

But what is the significance of Christ's Neanderthal DNA? Perhaps not very much, if the Neanderthals were just as human as us. And we might have reason to think they were, given that we had children together. There are different views about how to define a biological species, but it is most commonly thought that compatibility for breeding is the key criterion: if they can breed successfully, they are the same species. And, although they may have been on separate evolutionary pathways, and one day been no longer able to reproduce together successfully, when they met, sapiens and Neanderthals could still manage to produce some fertile offspring.28 28 Ibid., pp. 43-49. But is it possible that this might count as two distinct species being able to interbreed, rather than sapiens and Neanderthals counting as a single species? It seems to me that we have a specifically theological reason to consider this possibility.

People sometimes wonder how a genetic account of human origins in a population of some thousands is compatible with traditional Christian teaching that we descend from a single couple. Aquinas thought we descended from a single couple and this is very much bound up with his theology of original sin.29 29 Summa Theologiae, Ia., q. 81. Pope Pius XII taught that, since it is not evident how original sin can be reconciled with a larger original population, we must stick with an origin from a single couple.30 30 Pius XII, Humani Generis, 37. Some theologians think we must accept the picture presented by science, and adjust our theology of original sin.31 31 E.g., Karl Rahner, S.J., ‘Evolution and Original Sin’, Concilium 6 (1967), pp. 30-35. However, the data of genetics and Church teaching is not actually in conflict, if we distinguish between the human species defined in biological terms and the human species viewed in theological terms, that is, defined by the image of God. The theological difference here would be the presence of an immortal soul, making us human without qualification. Aquinas held that what fundamentally differentiates the human being from all other animals is the fact that the human soul is a subsistent immaterial soul, intellectual and immortal.32 32 Summa Theologiae, Ia., q. 75. It is by way of this soul, which enables acts of higher knowledge and love, and potentially acts of knowing and loving God, that human beings are in the image of God.33 33 Summa Theologiae, Ia., q. 93. If we accept that only one original couple was theologically human, but had a wider population with which they could procreate, but where having only one parent with an immortal soul was sufficient to get an immortal soul yourself, then we can conclude that the image of God would spread through the population within generations, and all biological humans would eventually be theological humans too.34 34 Kenneth W. Kemp, ‘Science, Theology, and Monogenesis’, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 85 (2011), pp. 217-36. One consequence of this way of thinking is that early theological human beings interbred with non-theological human beings. But if that was the case then, why could it not be the case when sapiens and Neanderthals met? Given that sapiens were already in the image of God, perhaps they had children with Neanderthals who were not? Though the Neanderthals may have been biologically the same species, perhaps they were not the same species theologically.

So were Neanderthals theologically human or not? I think the only way we can approach this question is to ask whether or not Neanderthals had immortal souls, as we do. But, apart from Christian teaching, how do we know that we even have such souls? We cannot just have a look at our immaterial souls, and Aquinas thought that we only know the character of our souls through what we do. Aquinas argues from the fact that we make intellectual acts of knowledge of things abstracted from their material conditions, to the immateriality of the intellectual soul. Our knowledge is not just of particulars but is universal, enabling pursuits like philosophy and science, and the potential to be elevated by God to supernatural knowledge and love of him. If human knowing were more limited to a material process, Aquinas does not think our souls would be such subsistent, immaterial souls.35 35 Summa Theologiae, Ia., qq. 75, 87. Finding evidence of intellectual flights throughout the history of sapiens is difficult enough, however, let alone in Neanderthals. The rise of Greek philosophy or Western science is explained through a multitude of factors: they may require a subsistent immaterial soul, but that soul's presence does not guarantee we will all be philosophers or scientists. So what other evidence can we look for in support of the presence of an immortal soul?

Aquinas defines human beings as ‘rational animals’,36 36 E.g., Summa Theologiae, IIIa., q. 15, a. 2 ad 2. not only immaterial but also material.37 37 Summa Theologiae, Ia., q. 75, proem. Human beings lead an animal life, but one that participates in intellectuality. We have emotions or passions (as many animals do, on Aquinas's view), but our passions are not generic animal emotions, but participate in reason.38 38 Summa Theologiae, Ia.IIae., q. 56, a. 4 ad 1. We are often surprised at the wonderful capabilities of other animals, and it is sometimes difficult not to suppose that they think rationally as we do.39 39 Cf. Daniel D. De Haan, ‘Approaching Other Animals with Caution: Exploring Insights from Aquinas's Psychology’, New Blackfriars 100 (2019), pp. 715-37. Aquinas had a very high estimate of the lives and capabilities of non-rational animals, and he would not have been surprised by all we now know about the lives and capabilities of other species.40 40 Summa Theologiae, Ia.IIae., qq. 6-17. This should put us on our guard against assuming that some sophisticated behaviour attributed to Neanderthals must automatically mean that they had immortal souls. Non-human animals have all sorts of levels of sophistication: they have a sense of danger, for example, imagination, the ability to solve problems they can cooperate to achieve goals, communicate through gestures and sounds, have a sense of beauty and of another's perspective. On a Thomist view, much of animal capability is taken up into human intellectual life and participates in it, is shaped by it. People who reject the immortal soul have often looked for human distinctiveness in some particular behaviour, like organised hunting or tool use. But these searches normally fail when such things are found in some form among other species, whether living or in the archaeological record. What we need to look for in the case of Neanderthals is evidence of some behaviour that bears the mark of an intellectual soul such as we have.41 41 Authors who advocate for the intelligence of Neanderthals (though not from a Thomist perspective), include Thomas Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge, How to think like a Neandertal (New York: OUP, 2011) Clive Finlayson, The Smart Neanderthal: bird catching, cave art & the cognitive revolution (Oxford: OUP, 2019).

Popular candidates have included burial of the dead. The oldest burials found are in a cave in Spain, dated to some 430,000 years ago.42 42 E. Carbonell and M.Mosquera, ‘The emergence of symbolic behaviour: the sepulchral pit of Sima de los Huesos, Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain’, Comptes rendus palévol 5 (2006), pp. 155-60. But whether this burial was a ritual or religious act, as we practice burial, cannot be known without a wider context. Stone circles found in a cave in France, dated to around 180,000 years ago, suggest religion perhaps, but certainly the formation of a place into some sort of ‘space’, perhaps the making of meaning.43 43 J. Jaubert et al., ‘Early Neanderthal Constructions Deep in Bruniquel Cave in Southwestern France’, Nature 534 (2016), pp. 111-14. Another candidate is care for the sick and elderly. The discovery in a cave in Iraq of a skeleton of an older, half-blind Neanderthal man with a withered arm suggests evidence that he must have been cared for by his community during his lifetime.44 44 Erik Trinkaus, The Shanidar Neanderthals (New York: Academic Press, 1983). Are these finds evidence of the intellect a Thomist would associate with a subsistent immaterial soul, or might the Neanderthals have been sophisticated non-rational animals giving shape to their domestic space, as many species carve out a niche for their home, caring for the disabled, for whom we might easily imagine valued roles in a non-rational group despite disability, and expressing feeling for their dead, as some animals do? Without further context, such evidence is difficult to interpret.

Of course most of the evidence of the lives that Neanderthals led does not survive. Wooden artefacts, for example, will only very rarely survive in the archaeological record. And the best evidence we can have for a subsistent immaterial soul is surely language. A Thomist might suppose that it is the immateriality of the human soul that elevates the capacity for communication we find in other animals, to be able then to signify the most abstract of ideas, to form potentially an infinity of different sentences, to tell stories that narrate alternative worlds or envision the future. Though all sorts of animals communicate through signs, whether vocal or not, no other animal speaks with such language. But spoken language is of its nature lost to the limitations of the archaeological record, and writing appears only relatively late in our story, after about 8,000 ago. Neanderthals certainly had much the same anatomy as sapiens for producing vocalised sounds, and genetics might suggest that Neanderthals had a capacity for language, because they share with sapiens much the same form of a gene that we know to be important for linguistic communication.45 45 Pääbo, Neanderthal Man, pp. 252-53 Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here, pp. 8-10. However, while that seems to suggest Neanderthals were somehow disposed for human language, without knowing that they had an immortal soul to elevate that communicate ability, a Thomist is thrown back on the archaeological record, searching for indirect evidence of language in human culture, say in technology or art, which might in themselves be evidence for an intellectual soul.

We should note, though, that archaeology hardly gives us any certainty of when sapiens first spoke. Anthropologists seem to be certain language was there before 40,000 years ago, and this is based on such evidence as the cave paintings that appear around that time in Asia, together with other sophisticated graphic art, figurines, bone carvings and so on, which point to a human intellect that could think linguistically and symbolically, even religiously. Some speak of a ‘cognitive revolution’ about this time, when so many different elements of human culture gradually came together en masse, on analogy, I suppose, with the later agricultural, scientific and industrial revolutions, and the technological revolution we are experiencing today.46 46 R. G. Klein, ‘Archaeology and the Evolution of Human Behavior’, Evolutionary Anthropology 9 (2000), pp. 17-36. For a critique of the genetic aspect of his position, see Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here, pp. 6-8. Despite no direct evidence of language, anthropologists normally seem loathe to suppose that sapiens had not been telling stories and gossiping for thousands of years before any such ‘revolution’.47 47 Agustín Fuentes, The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional (New York: Dutton, 2017), pp. 204-5. Artefacts that are considered possible indicators of language and intellect can be found in the sapiens archaeological record far earlier, if more sparsely.48 48 Ibid., pp. 202-3 S. McBrearty and A. S. Brooks, ‘The revolution that wasn't: a new interpretation of the origin of modern human behavior’, Journal of Human Evolution 39 (2000), pp. 453-563. The fact that the whole sapiens population across the world eventually manifests this level of capability suggests to some that the beginning of human language lies back prior to the dispersal of the original sapiens population around and out of Africa.49 49 Cf. Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here, p. 17. From a theological point of view, this would make sense, because the appearance of the immaterial soul before the dispersal of sapiens would fittingly guarantee the fundamental unity of all subsequent sapiens, a unity to be perfected in Christ. But this leads us to ask why we should not count Neanderthals in this unity too. After all, when the archaeological record of Neanderthals and earlier sapiens is compared, it is not startlingly different.50 50 Finlayson, The Smart Neanderthal, p. 10 Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here, p. 26.

What has perhaps been most startling was the announcement in 2018 that cave paintings had been found in Spain, dated to before 60,000 years ago.51 51 D. L. Hoffman et al., ‘U-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave art’, Science 359 (2018), pp. 912-15. Large red and black squares were painted like frames, and in one frame there is an outline of an animal's hind legs, in another the head of an animal, as well as geometric shapes. But since sapiens were not yet found in Europe, the Neanderthals are currently the only candidates we have for the artists. If that identification is correct, it would surely suggest that Neanderthals had capacities not wildly different from those found among sapiens some 20,000 years later in their ‘cognitive revolution’. There are also other examples of art, not dissimilar from what we find among sapiens: paint from red iron oxide, presumably to paint themselves, each other, or something else a necklace of eagle talons in Croatia about 130,000 years ago and beads of punctured shell and animal teeth, found in France and Germany. The way that they treated the bones of some birds they caught, indicates they were not butchering them for food but for their feathers, presumably for self-adornment.52 52 Wynn and Coolidge, How to think like a Neandertal Finlayson, The Smart Neanderthal. Again, such clothing and jewellery suggest a certain symbolic value to what they were doing. And none of this suggests a significantly different material culture from sapiens of roughly the same periods.

Another significant way in which Neanderthals and earlier sapiens were similar was in their stone technology.53 53 Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here, p. 26. The first archaic human species in Africa, two million years ago or more, inherited from their hominid ancestors the making of tools by hammering stone to produce flakes, blades which could cut or chop. An expanded set of tools, including hand axes, produced by a more complex process is found after 1.5 or so million years ago, with upgrades some 600,000 and 300,000 years ago.54 54 Fuentes, The Creative Spark, pp. 59-65 Ian Tattersall, Palaeontology: A Brief History of Life (Conshohocken PA: Templeton, 2010), pp. 170-87. Their makers surely worked according to a mental image of the blade that lay within the stone. At some point, though, stone technology must have been the eventual fruit of the elevation of the animal capacity for tools by the intellectual soul. Longer, more complex preparation of the stone material to produce a better blade, requiring more carefully directed blows as well as rotation and inspection of the stone, indicates a more complex advance grasp by the toolmakers of the end product and of the stages involved, and the whole process is something any of us would find a massive challenge to accomplish. Complex tools were also made by fixing parts together, say a stone spearhead to a wooden shaft. Neanderthals, as well as sapiens, employed all this technology, and perhaps language helped in its successful transmission. But if we suppose the sapiens who used this technology were employing immaterial intellect, we have to wonder whether the Neanderthals were too.

How though does any of this make a difference to theology in the tradition of Aquinas? If Neanderthals were created in God's image and saved by Christ, this must expand our understanding of Christ's ark of salvation and raise questions about how his saving grace was made available to them. Because the Church teaches that God offers salvation through Christ to every person in some way,55 55 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 22 Lumen Gentium 16. theologians have often asked in recent times how this offer is made to those who have not heard the Gospel, members of other religions, and even atheists. It seems to me that, just as modern science has enlarged our sense of the physical universe, the inclusion of Neanderthals in theological humanity must somehow expand our sense of human salvation, given that it was effected in the kind of life Neanderthals lived. Moreover, in what we can find of Neanderthal life, if it is truly human, we should be able to see ourselves as in a partial mirror, suggesting the importance to our own salvation, say, of a spirituality of work and technology, and the importance of Christian art, and of beauty in the liturgy. None of these things are discovered because of the discovery of Neanderthals, and yet the discovery that something is truly ancient to humanity can influence our theological focus today. But even if Neanderthal inclusion does not pay immediate theological dividends, at least for apologetic reasons it seems necessary for theology to take account of their discovery. Unless theologians do, they risk the appearance of leaving faith and science in separately sealed worlds, as though our faith cannot cope with advancing human knowledge, leaving it culturally marooned and seemingly irrelevant to many. That is exactly the opposite of the attitude of Aquinas, who, confident that all truth comes from God, in his own day confirmed Christian wisdom by integrating into it what he knew of human science.

Ancient societies

Music and dancing

In Africa, music and dancing is mostly tied to rites, that are performed in certain social contexts, and they are exclusively aimed at social activities 40 . This is also evident in black music in America, where social relations are the main theme, while complex music and instruments are typical of non-African music. In Africa, the main instruments are drums and the human voice, while outside of Africa, there is a variety of complex instruments, dances and music, that are more aimed at entertainment, creativity and perfection. Interestingly, both the phalange whistles and flutes seems to have been evolving gradually up until recent times. In traditional pastoral cultures the primary use of musical instruments wasn't for entertainment, rather as a way to herd and call upon animals. This tradition is still seen in today's herding societies.

Special populations

Matriarchal societies are mainly found in Europe, Near East and the Arctic, and usually disappear with agriculture 41 .

These people's are often believed to be some of the original Africans, but many of their traits speaks against this idea. They resemble, to European eyes at least, east Asians. They have yellowish rather than black skin, epicanthic folds, shovel-shaped incisors, and many newborns have "Mongoloid spots" at the base of the spine. The Asian appearance is not just a perception of Europeans. In the !Kung language there are three kinds of mammals: !a is an edible animal like a warthog or a giraffe, !oma is an inedible animal like a jackal, hyena, black African, or European, and zhu is a person. Vietnamese in Botswana were immediately identifed as zhu by Bushmen. In other words, their perception of their similarity to Asians is the same as ours (i.e. Europeans'). Genetics group Bushmen with Asians 42 and Bushmen lack the signal of expansion present in other African populations 43 . Bushmen are thought to have introduced live stock into South Africa 44 .

Many of the Basque-unique alleles are 10,000 to 34,000 years old. The center of this interval matches the bottleneck in Iberia during the ice-age maximum. Basque alleles are also found in Celt, Scandinavians and in North African Berbers 45 . In Isturitz in Basque country there is an very old flute. This flute is similar to both the older Neanderthal flute, and the later Basque txistu flute. The Basque language is distinct from all other languages. Their language is also special since it originally didn't contain any abstract words. Basque has also for a long time been leading in musical and other creative activities in Europe. The Basque words for dog, sheep, cow, bull, horse and hen seems unrelated to other Indo-European languages, while cat, pig and duck looks like loan-words. This indicates the first group of animals already were domesticated before the end of the last ice-age.

Berbers most likely originate from Iberia during the ice-age maximum. Mitochondria-DNA evidence shows that Berbers have U5, U6, pre-V and V haplotypes 46 . U5, pre-V and V is believed to be of European origin, and U6 is found in Iberia 47 48 .

Guanchos came to the Canaries a long time ago. When first encountered, they used stone-age tools, lived in cave-shelters, and lacked many Neolithic inventions. However, they had dogs, sheep, pig, goat, wheat, barley, pea and bean. They also display many features of Northern Europeans / Celts. It also looks like their language is closely related to the Berber language. Women had high status.

Etruscans according to most sources have lived long in Italy. Probably several thousand years, since their language is not related to other indo-European languages. Women had higher status and were better treated 49 50 . This is in conformance with matriarchy. Their sexual activities are quite similar to bonoboo's 51 . Many gods were female, and many of the goddesses were not continued by the Romans, while many male gods were The moon is part of their deities The number 13 of the original moon culture had been replaced by 12. Music and dancing is a fundamental part of their life, just as theatre.

The Minoan culture flourished on Crete until 1450 BCE when the volcano Santorini erupted. It seems to have been a relatively peaceful culture, and nowhere do we find evidence of warefare 52 . It also seems quite likely women occupied important positions in the society. The Minoan culture also seems to have developed a highly accurate calendar, and advanced mathematics 53 . They had a non-indoeuropean language, that nobody yet has been able to decipher.

Palaeo Eskimo (the Dorset people)

The Palaeo-Eskimo was the population living in the Canadian arctic between 2000 BC and 1000 AD. They seemed to be a genuinely cold-adapted population 54 . They were probably related to other Eskimo population like Tlingits and Saami. Their area of origin might very well be somewhere in Caucasus or Central Asia. The most interesting issue is how these Palaeo-Eskimos survived the winter. This is very relevant to Neanderthals as well. Since these people lived in an area with no trees, and hadn't invented sea mammal fuels, it's unconceivable they could keep themselves warm without some genetic adaptations. In fact, torpor, hibernation or at least months of inactivity must have been their way of surviving. Considering outside temperatures could easily drop to -30 degrees Celsius, with frequent blizzards, and months of total darkness, they would simply die of cold and starvation very fast if they didn't have special adaptations. Indeed, it seems likely they got those special adaptations from Neanderthals. Their region of origin is quite right. As soon as they started to live under extreme conditions in the arctic, individuals lacking those special adaptations would quickly be selected against. The Dorset people's demise is also quite telling, and might in fact be a parallel to what happened to Neanderthals. The large, war-oriented Inuit groups obviously drove out the peaceful Dorset people to less favorable hunting-grounds, and they become extinct after a couple of centuries. There are several indications that the Palaeo Eskimos were matriarchal.

Animal domestication

All domestication of animals took place in Eurasia and America, and none in Africa. Of 14 domestic species, 13 originates in Eurasia, and one in America. All of the mitochondria DNA lineages also go back more than 100,000 years.

There is no evidence for a special dog phenotype older than 14,000 years, and analysis of American historical dogs claim they have an Eurasian origin. They must then have been brought with the settlers that crossed the Bering strait at least 15,000 years ago. It's also unlikely that the common dog psychological traits can have evolved in just a few thousands years. It's quite interesting that dogs are sensitive to human cues 55 .

  1. The primary breed is found in Sumeria. This represent the original East European breed.
  2. In Southern Portugal as well as in North Africa there is another breed. This represents the original Iberian breed.
  3. The British extinct Bos primigenius.

The lineages diverged during the Neanderthal era, and similar to the cattle scenario, diverged in a North African, Sumerian and European breed.

The lineages diverged during the Neanderthal era. European horses were taken to North Africa where they formed Barbs. They couldn't have been introduced from Middle East with agriculture, since this mitochondiral DNA variant is rare in Arabs.

Timeline: Human Evolution

Five skulls belonging to some ancestors and relatives of modern humans. From left to right, the skulls are: Australopithecus africanus (3-1.8 mya) Homo habilis (or H. rudolfensis, 2.1-1.6 mya) Homo erectus (or H. ergaster, 1.8-0.3 mya, although the ergaster classification is generally recognised to mean the earlier part of this period) a modern human (Homo sapiens sapiens) from the Qafzeh site in Israel, which is around 92,000 years old and a French Cro-Magnon human from around 22,000 years ago

(Image: Pascal Goetcheluck / SPL)

The Neanderthal-Sapiens Connection - History

(this is a sore point and several Indians, Africans and others shut their ears and eyes about this. all the more reason to discuss african connections).

"African" is a geographical term. The crude classification into African "types" include ancient australoid, bushmanoid, pygmy and negrito peoples, etc besides the recently evolved "negro" type. 'NEGROID' is a crude term applied mostly to west african folks. Obscure classification used as crude rule of thumb adds things like east african Hamitic, ethiopian, etc. But in african excavations , in the earliest levels, the human remains found are australoid, pygmoid and bushmanoid. NOT negroid. meaning they are evolutionally quite advanced actually.

On the other hand, Old EUROPEAN remains, cave skeletons, are ALL neanderthaloid and show a change to negrito /african , 'cromanyon' etc. The distinctly 'negrito' remains are seen at Grotte des infants at Grimaldi and the various paintings and carvings --all these being the remote ancestors of europeans. Then the neanderthal connection---east european remains which have been conveniently destroyed also show transition from neanderthals to modern. There is a feeble hunch the mixed neanderthal- sapiens people were sterile like mules. why not take the simpler solution. In any case no amount of chanting 'cromanyon' can change the real facts. Almost all the paleolithic venuses have sticking out backsides and heads of plaited/pattern shaved frizzy hair. (There are also few cave paintings / sculptures where humans are depicted : the pictures of these published in books generally are cropped at strategic places so that the characteristic ethnic features are obscured. Also, many of the great caves are closed to the public due to "humidity problems". Possible, but the humidity problem includes sweat running down the face of bigots when they recognize with a jolt the great artists really had "soul"


1n 1856, laborers working in a limestone quarry in the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf, Germany, dug up some unusual-looking bones. Subsequent study revealed that they belonged to a previously unknown species of humans, similar to, but distinct from our own species, Homo sapiens. The newly discovered hominid was named Neanderthal—thal is Old German for valley—and has fascinated anthropologists ever since.

It was first thought that Neanderthals may have resembled apes—with stooped posture and bent knees—more closely than modern humans. Then, in the 1950s, Smithsonian anthropologist Ralph Solecki, a team from Columbia University and Kurdish workers unearthed the fossilized bones of eight adult and two infant Neanderthal skeletons—spanning burials from 65,000 to 35,000 years ago—at a site known as the Shanidar cave, in the Kurdistan area of northern Iraq. The discovery changed our understanding of Neanderthals.

The early hominids walked upright and possessed a more sophisticated culture than had previously been assumed. One of the skeletons, excavated in 1957, is known simply as Shanidar 3. The male Neanderthal lived 35,000 to 45,000 years ago, was 40 to 50 years old and stood about 5-foot-6. Shanidar 3 now resides at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, showcased inside a highly secure glass enclosure that Rick Potts, director of the museum’s Human Origins Program, describes as a “fossil treasure case.” Shanidar 3, Potts adds, “is the Hope Diamond of the Human Origins collection, and we treat it accordingly.”

Solecki’s pioneering studies of the Shanidar skeletons and their burials suggested complex socialization skills. From pollen found in one of the Shanidar graves, Solecki hypothesized that flowers had been buried with the Neanderthal dead—until then, such burials had been associated only with Cro-Magnons, the earliest known H. sapiens in Europe. “Someone in the last Ice Age,” Solecki wrote, “must have ranged the mountainside in the mournful task of collecting flowers for the dead.” Furthermore, Solecki continued, “It seems logical to us today that pretty things like flowers should be placed with the cherished dead, but to find flowers in a Neanderthal burial that took place about 60,000 years ago is another matter.” Skeletons showed evidence of injuries tended and healed—indications that the sick and wounded had been cared for. Solecki’s attitude toward them was encapsulated in the title of his 1971 book, Shanidar: The First Flower People.

Drawing on Solecki’s research, writer Jean Auel mixed fiction and archaeology in her novel, The Clan of the Cave Bear, a 1980 bestseller that humanized, if not glamorized, Neanderthals. In the book, the clan members adopt an orphaned Cro-Magnon child, who comprehends things beyond their ken, foreshadowing the Neanderthals’ fate. Out-competed by the Cro-Magnon, Neanderthals would become extinct.

According to Potts, climate change was the instrument of their demise. Around 33,000 years ago, the Neanderthal, who migrated south from their northernmost range in Central Europe as glaciers advanced, settled in the wooded regions of Iberia (present-day Spain and Portugal) and Gibraltar. There, they flourished, possibly until 28,000 years ago, when they were supplanted by a supremely adaptable competitor—the resilient Cro-Magnon.

Cro-Magnon groups, says Potts, who were “aided by their ability to make warmer, more form-fitting clothing, had already moved into the Neanderthals’ former territories.” Thus, Potts adds, “Modern humans gained a foothold they never relinquished.” The Neanderthals lived in ever smaller and more isolated areas—suffering what we now call loss of habitat—eventually vanishing from the earth.

“The Neanderthals were smart,” Potts says. “They had brains the same size as Cro-Magnon and were very clever at using local resources. They lacked the ability to expand their thinking and adapt to changing conditions.”

Shanidar 3’s own story, however, is grounded not in large evolutionary forces but in particular circumstances. “There is quite a severe and deep cut to a rib on [Shanidar 3’s] left side,” says Potts. “This cut would have been deep enough to collapse his lung, so Shanidar 3 is the oldest known individual who could have been murdered.”

Owen Edwards is a freelance writer and author of the book Elegant Solutions.


However, analysis of a collection of the 430,000-year-old bones discovered in the Sima de los Huesos, or pit of bones, in the Atapuerca Mountains in Burgos, Spain, show they belong to Neanderthals.


55 million years ago - First primates evolve

15 million years ago - Hominidae (great apes) evolve from the ancestors of the gibbon

8 million years ago - First gorillas evolve. Later, chimp and human lineages diverge

5.5 million years ago - Ardipithecus, early 'proto-human' shares traits with chimps and gorillas

4 million years ago - Australopithecines appeared. They had brains no larger than a chimpanzee's

2.8 million years ago - LD 350-1 appeared and may be the first of the Homo family

2.7 million years ago - Paranthropus, lived in woods and had massive jaws for chewing

2.3 million years ago - Homo habalis first thought to have appeared in Africa

1.85 million years ago - First 'modern' hand emerges

1.8 million years ago - Homo ergaster begins to appear in fossil record

1.6 million years ago - Hand axes become the first major technological innovation

800,000 years ago - Early humans control fire and create hearths. Brain size increases

760,000 years ago - New DNA analysis shows the first Neanderthals emerging

400,000 years ago - Neanderthals begin to spread across Europe and Asia

200,000 years ago - Homo sapiens - modern humans - appear in Africa

40,0000 years ago - Modern humans reach Europe

And the DNA analysis, say the researchers, suggests Neanderthals must have emerged well before this time.

According to the journal Science, Dr Matthias Meyer, a palaeogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany who led the work, suggests Neanderthals, and their relatives the Denisovans, could have split from their common ancestor with modern humans up to 765,000 years ago.

Mutations and differences in the DNA can provide scientists clues about how old a species may be compared to modern humans.

Speaking at the conference of the European Society for the Study of Human Evolution, he said: 'Our results place the Sima de los Huesos hominins on the Neanderthal evolutionary lineage.

'In congruence with previous morphological analysis, they show that the Neanderthal/Denisovan population split predates 430,000 years ago, the geological age of the Sima remains.

The findings could lead to a dramatic shake up of the current shape of the human family tree.

Modern humans – Homo sapiens - were only thought to have emerged in Africa around 200,000 years ago before rapidly spreading around the world.

Their close relatives Homo neanderthalensis were thought to have then evolved in Eurasia from a common ancestor.

The new study suggests these two species may have diverged far earlier than previously thought.

The fossils found at Sima de los Huesos have been controversial for some time after researchers couldn't agree whether they should be classified as Neanderthal or Homo heidelbergensis.

However mitrochondrial DNA from one of the bones suggest they were more closely related to Denisovans, an extinct type of early human found in Siberia.

Researchers have spent decades studying the remains found in the 'Pit of Bones', reconstructing the skull shown in the GIF above, which revealed it had suffered a heavy blow to the head before death


The findings come just days after anthropologists announced the discovery of a new species of early human called Homo naledi, which was found in a cave in South Africa's Gauteng province.

The species was found to have both human and ape-like qualities. It had a brain the size of a gorilla and distinctive ape-like fingers, but may have stood upright on two legs.

Most intriguingly, scientists believe the extinct human species may have buried its dead as the remains of up to 12 individuals were found in tiny inaccessible cave.

New techniques are finally allowing scientists to extract and sequence nuclear DNA – the genetic material found in the centre of all cells in the body – in ancient fossils

For the recent study, Dr Meyer and his team were able to obtain 1 to 2 million base pairs of ancient nuclear DNA from a tooth and leg bone from Sima de los Huesos.

These were then scanned for unique markers found only in Neanderthals, Denisovans or Homo sapiens.

The Sima fossils were additionally found to have far more of these unique markers for Neanderthals than the other species.

Professor Chris Stinger, a palaeoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London, told Mail Online the results had implications for the origins of our own species too.

He said: 'There has been a lot of debate about how deep in time the Neanderthal-sapiens split was, with estimates ranging from about 800,000 to 300,000 years ago.

'I've recently favoured a split time of about 400ka, and have argued for many years that the widespread species Homo heidelbergensis at about 500 ka was probably the last common ancestor of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

'As Matthias Meyer explained, when the new data is used to recalibrate divergences you arrive at older split times both between the Neas and Denisovans (around 450,000 years ago) and for their lineage and ours (650,000 years ago).

'This suggests that if Homo heidelbergensis fossils do lie on the ancestry of the later species, this group must already have split by 500,000 years ago into a proto-Neanderthal/Denisovan line and a proto-sapiens line.

'Alternatively, we might have to consider that many or all of the "heidelbergensis" fossils are not on the direct lines of descent after all, and they are an off-shoot.'

The fossils found at the Sima de los Huesos site in Spain's Atapuerca Mountains (shown on map) have been highly controversial but are now the oldest human remains to have had genetic information sequenced

Scientists previously claimed the bones (skull pictured) were either Neanderthal or an older species of human called Homo heidelbergensis. The DNA has settled the debate by identifying them as Neanderthal

The findings come just days after anthropologists announced the discovery of a new species of early human called Homo naledi, which was found in a cave in South Africa's Gauteng province.

The species was found to have both human and ape-like qualities. It had a brain the size of a gorilla and distinctive ape-like fingers, but may have stood upright on two legs.

Most intriguingly, scientists believe the extinct human species may have buried its dead as the remains of up to 12 individuals were found in tiny inaccessible cave.


Neanderthals and modern humans are thought to have co-existed for thousands of years and interbred.

These 'legacy' genes have been linked to an increased risk from cancer and diabetes by new studies looking at our evolutionary history.

However, it is not all bad news, as other genes we inherited from our species' early life could have improved our immunity to diseases which were common at the time, helping humans to survive.

Speaking to MailOnline, professor Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said: 'We got a quick fix to our own immune system by breeding with Neanderthals which helped us to survive.

'Studies have also already been published which show that humans outside of Africa are more vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes, and that is because we bred with Neanderthals, while those who stayed inside Africa didn't.'

Last year researchers from Oxford and Plymouth universities announced that genes thought to be risk factors in cancer had been discovered in the Neanderthal genome, and in January Nature magazine published a paper from Harvard Medical School suggesting that a gene which can cause diabetes in Latin Americans came from Neanderthals.

Watch the video: Denisovan - Ancient Human


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