Neanderthals: not thugs

I’m a Neanderthal woman
Reconstruction: National Archaeological Museum, Madrid

People should stop using ‘neanderthal’ as a putdown. Recent finds show that Neanderthals were cultured and sensitive, not knuckle-dragging thugs. (Though the knuckle-dragging part has some truth.)

For instance, they buried their dead with food, hunting weapons, charcoal and prized items such as tools, bear skulls, goat horns and medicinal flowers: blue hyacinth, yellow groundsel, knapweed and yarrow. One grave in Shanidar in Iraq contained the remains of eight different flowers. The dead there were smeared with ochre, something Australian aboriginal people still do today.

The thugs were the Cro-Magnons who wiped them out – supposedly our ancestors.  Although according to Stan Gooch, we homo sapiens are part-Neanderthal.

A recent theory confirms Gooch’s idea. As well as killing Neanderthals, Cro-Magnons – more correctly known as early humans, apparently – absorbed them by interbreeding. Most Europeans and Asians have 1-4% Neanderthal DNA.

So if a male human is behaving thuggishly, he’s not being Neanderthal – he’s being early human. It doesn’t have the same ring, though.

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