We, the Neanderthals
Of all the stories I missed while attending a research conference in Denver, the most amazing is the sudden wave of evidence that modern humans are an admixed population between ancient humans and Neanderthals. In other words, an us-versus-them (or them-versus-us, as in The Inheritors and “The Ugly Little Boy“) model of Ancient Humans and Neanderthals should be replaced by an “us and them” model. In the same way that the English are both Norman and Saxon, the Turks are Turkic and Greek, and American Blacks are African and European, we are both Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal.
Blog posts are all over the place, so instead of trying to synthesize them, I will simply link to a number of these, highlighting the most interesting lines of each
- I, for one, welcome my Neandertal ancestry.
- I assume by now that everyone has read A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome. It’s free to all, so you should
- Neandertals were of the same species as we moderns, at least using the biological species concept. There were fertile hybrids.
- Neanderthals were the first race to bury their dead, and had more advanced stone tools.
- Now, does this mean that it’s time to do the Neanderthal victory dance (to quote Hawks) and to begin re-imagining the caves of Late Pleistocene Europe throbbing to the sweet rhythms of Barry White and Marvin Gaye? Well yes and no
- Question: what other human evolution story is of the same order of magnitude in terms of significance? I think the last one of this magnitude was the Cann, et. al. “mitochondrial Eve” narrative of the mid-80s. Before that Lucy?
- So the NY Times admits to a significant genetic difference between blacks and whites/Asians. The latter races receive the benefit (whatever that may be) of 1 percent to 4 percent Neanderthal genes
- The fact that non-Africans as a whole, including Papuans, have Neandertal admixture, presumably from interactions in the Middle East, seem close to falsifying the “two-wave” model of expansion “Out of Africa” which came to prominence in the early aughts.
- The Neandertal sequences have a high number of cases with complete sequence identity with the human reference, considering only those human-chimpanzee SNPs. Indeed, in the low percentage categories, the Neandertals are closer to the human reference sequence than the San [African Bushman] individual.
- The Neanderthals were way stronger than us, and a Neanderthal female would kill a Homo sapien male who tried to rape her, and literally eat him for lunch.
- The power of data to overwhelm human prejudice is sometimes very awesome.
- There is evidence of a genocidal race war between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, which we won because our bodies were anatomically better suited for throwing projectile weapons.
Read these links. They are fascinating.