Were humans superior to Neanderthals? Or just luckier?

1-28-2019 cq dam web
Image credit: Natural History Museum

Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, explains why some old assumptions about the intellectual capabilities of our evolutionary relatives, the Neanderthals persist today. But a body of evidence is increasingly forcing us to re-visit these old ideas.

We know from a long time back that, although Neanderthals had large brains that may have even exceeded our own in size, their skulls were a different shape from ours. A key element of that difference was that our skulls were indeed more globular.

The important question of course, and one which genetics is unlikely to resolve, is to what degree these differences between Neanderthals and ourselves actually had an effect and impact on the ground. In recent years, we have seen how differences in anatomy seem not to have mattered.

Related article:  Gods of genetic engineering: With the end of 'Homo sapiens naturalis' approaching, what is our place in nature?

In the Pleistocene world of rapidly changing ecological scenarios luck had everything to do with success or failure. It was all about being in the right place at the right time, something that natural selection – with its restriction of acting in the present on templates from the past – could not respond to fast enough.

And so we have consistently mistaken survival and extinction with biological superiority or inferiority.

Read full, original post: Viewpoint: Why we still underestimate the Neanderthals

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