Differences between the Neanderthal and the modern human morphology have been extensively documented and include both archaic and presumed derived characters. Evolutionists have long advocated that the Neanderthal man is supposed to have been a primitive man who lived in a pre-civilized culture and used crude implements. He is popularly portrayed as having stooped posture, carrying a club and dragging a woman by her hair. How accurate is this portrayal? Recent discoveries have shown that Neanderthal man and Cro-Magnon man were not primitive at all, but simply “de-cultured” men. These cave dwellers were actually quite capable intellectually, but they had suffered cultural loss and as a result were improperly identified as primitive or aboriginal by those who believed that man had evolved from animals; their sophisticated “life-like” cave art is just one hint of their extensive mental capabilities.
With most heated controversies surrounding the human evolution, there is some fundamental relationship between the Neanderthals and the modern man. Some studies hold that modern humans are simply more clever and sophisticated than the Neanderthals until recent archeologist studies have created differing views. This research shows that Neanderthals were not in any way inferior to modern man.
Relationship between Neanderthals and Modern man
The modern man gradually developed increasingly complex and symbolic social behaviors that improved the flow of information among the members of large groups that exploited large home ranges. A morphology and way of life that had become increasingly complex and had been successful across the mid-latitude belt of western and Central Eurasia for close to half-a-million years disappeared because it was not designed to cope with the speed and direction of change that hit Eurasia at the end of the Pleistocene. “After the Neanderthals had been exposed to the social and ecological pressures, they developed alternative behaviors to cope with the environmental changes” (Larsen 342).
The Neanderthals morphology was adapted to those features that were most stable in the mid-latitude belt that stretched from Portugal to the central Asian mountains, the heterogeneous, species rich, landscapes of the lower parts of the mountain ranges that dominated this vast territory and large mammalian herbivores that they consumed. Their intelligence permitted a degree of behavioral flexibility that enabled them to survive through harsh as well as mild climatic conditions.
“Neanderthal man possessed larger cranial capabilities than modern man, once again contradicting the evolutionary model that suggests that the brain becomes larger as man evolves” (Callan 354). Interestingly, the fossil records indicate that the man’s brain has actually been degenerating since “caveman” times, causing some to believe that primitive man may have had greater intellectual capacity than modern man. Neanderthals had bodies of knowledge and types of thought processes equivalent to those of modern humans in the domains of social, technical and natural history intelligence but lacked the capability to integrate these to create novel ideas. Evolution psychologist played a critical role in developing the argument on mental modularity and multiple intelligences, although Vendramini (2009) indicates, “These developments did not appear to appreciate the extent of cross-modal thinking by modern humans” (565).
However, according to Vendramini (2009), the Neanderthals has a limited degree of working memory that constrained their ability at maintaining multiple ideas in their mind at the same time that is in effect another description of an absence of cognitive fluidity. In the later work by Vendramini, he acknowledges that their limited working memory for the Neanderthals provided the mechanism for the domain-specific thought that “an extension of working memory enables cognitive fluidity.”
Traditional cranial characters that are commonly cited as typical of Neanderthals are numerous and include: double-arched supraorbital ridges whose surfaces roll smoothly upward from the orbital roofs and onto the frontal squama; orbits that are obliquely truncated inferomedially; a narrow lower face and a sharply retreating midface; medical projections emerging above a spinoturbinal crest that delineates a presasal fossa lying just within the very nasal aperture and a very long and typically thin zygomatic arches.
One could logically ask, then, in what ways, if any, the Neanderthals do differ from modern men. In general, they convey the impression of skeletal rugosity including the wide epiphyses of the long bones, the relative thickness of the hand and foot bones, and the relative stoutness of the ribs, but primarily their distinctiveness occurs in the size of the face involving gross tooth dimensions and supporting architecture. No one of these differences is outside the range of variation of the modern man, but taken together, the face dimensions, especially, indicate a population noticeably distinct from any populations existing today, yet there is no good reason why such a population could not be ancestral related to the modern man. In fact, given the aggregate human fossil material from the Australopithecines through the Pithecanthropines and presumably on up, it would be most extraordinary if something like Neanderthal phase had not occurred just prior to the development of more modern forms.
Moreover, if these differences are true across hominion species, then one might expect two lines of evidence: first, that the relationship between the hyoid bone might be more human-like or more ape like; second, that the relationship between the cranium and the hyoid was either more like a human or more like that of an ape. It would be relatively straightforward to test if good fossil records exist.
One possible method to evaluate the reliability of evolution theories is to determine the relationship between the Hyoid bones and crania of humans and chimpanzees. Different studies have shown that this analysis has produced different sets of regressions equations for humans and chimpanzees. The Kebara hyoid followed the human pattern, and when a variety of Neanderthal crania were used in the regression equations, only the human equation predicted a hyoid bone similar to the Kebara hyoid bone. Other early hominins, including A.africanus, Homo erectus, and an archaic Homo sapiens, were also tested to see the type of crania Neanderthal hyoid bone might be associated with.
Pääbo (2014) suggested thatNeanderthals used the black pigment for body decoration, demonstrating that they were fully capable of achieving “behavioral modernity” all on their own. At the time of biological transition, Larsen (2010) says, “The basic behavior of the Neanderthals and the modern man is pretty much the same, and the differences are likely to have been subtle” (277).
While some genetic evidence appears to confirm that Neanderthals were a separate species from the modern man, it also suggests that they may have possessed human language and were successful over a far larger sweep of Eurasia that previously thought. Some of the primitive features retained in Neanderthal mandibles include overall robusticity and a receding symphysis that resulted in the absence of the mental eminence or chin.
Callan, Hilary, Brian Street, and Simon Underdown. Introductory Readings in Anthropology.
New York: Berghahn Books in association with the Royal Anthropological Institute,
Larsen, Clark S. A Companion to Biological Anthropology. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons,
- Internet resource.
Pääbo, Svante. Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes. , 2014. Print.
Vendramini, Danny. Them and Us: How Neanderthal Predation Created Modern Humans.
Armidale, N.S.W: Kardoorair Press, 2009. Print.