A Spark of Insight into Neanderthal Behavior


42 points | by diodorus 150 days ago


  • netcan 148 days ago

    One of the most mind bending realizations (to me) from human history is how unremarkable sapiens were, relative to other humans, for most of our history as a distinct species.

    YNH proposes a fascinating theory about sapiens' ability to break "dunbar number" social limitations and form larger tribal groups... but he proposes a relatively recent date for this. For 250 out of the 300ky we existed, we did not have this distinction.

    Meanwhile, the number of species that co-existed with sapiens is a tentative 7 or 8. At least 3 species are very different. Small brained, semi-arboreal. Homo Naledi represents the (arguable, but I don't see another option) first known mortuary practice... previously thought to be a Sapien invention. Another species may have crossed a sea, somehow.

    Earlier generations of paleoarchaeology had encountered similar weirdness with neanderthals. It seems that neanderthals and sapiens shared a lot of culture. Material culture (tools, art..) cross species barriers and spread just like it does between sapien populations.

    The memetic origins of modern sapiens isn't just inherited from our sapien ancestors. Memes jumped species barriers. Prometheus may have been a hobbit.

    • saiya-jin 148 days ago

      > Another species may have crossed a sea

      Imagine the probable racism if ie Americas were inhabited by truly different sub-species. Unless they would be able to defend themselves of course (and probably not die from new diseases)

      • netcan 148 days ago

        I don't really think it would have been a very different response.

        Racism is a form of our tribal xenophobia. The fact that racism came with a pseudoscientific logic is besides the point. European fascism managed to be fundamentally racist, even though Jews were culturally and physically similar.

        Early colonial racism in the americas was more of a religious bigotry than later forms, which were explicitly racist. It evolved It evolved into formal racism once conversion made religious bigotry unavailable.

        My point is, xenophobia is not really based on points of difference. Those are post facto.

        Also, I'm not sure to an Armenian sapien in the deal past, a neanderthal would have been more foreign than an Indonesian sapien. They would have both just seemed like foreigners. Maybe neighboring Neanderthals dressed or behaved more similarly than far-away sapiens.


        • cyberbanjo 148 days ago

          Do you imagine horrors worse than the extremes of 'mundane' human on human racism?

          I think Homo Otherus wouldn't be desirable as food, so they might escape the fate of industrial scale culling.

      • mtron_ 149 days ago

        They used a very cool way to analyze the Bones. Instead of chopping off samples the bones were put in a plasic Box and a tiny static upbild was enough to kick some molecules out of them which they analyzed and identified the species.

        • INTPenis 149 days ago

          Yes, and this lead to the assumption that neanderthals thought ahead about which bones to use for various tasks.

          That's about the gist of this article. Cool new bone sampling tech and an obvious assumption.

          Sorry but that was a bit anti-climactic to me. :)

          • pedrovhb 148 days ago

            Well, it's obvious if we assume that neanderthals have close mental faculties to our own, but we don't really know that. Abstract thinking and forethought are things that we take for granted but can't just blindly assume other species have the same capabilities. In this sense, I'd say the discovery is meaningful in the sense that it gives us a bit more certainty that they did have a significant forethought capability.

            I'm not sure I would jump to the same conclusions, though. Although reindeer bone tools weren't found, maybe that doesn't mean that they weren't made, just that the artifacts didn't survive as well.

        • wdb 149 days ago

          Thank you for posting this article, looks really interesting and I wasn't aware of this site.