The Washington Post: Evidence increases that Neanderthals more closely linked to humans

The Washington Post has noted the Neanderthal research of SMU archaeology graduate student Metin I. Eren in a new article “Neanderthals reimagined” that looks out the changing scientific interpretation of humans ancestors.

Reporter Marc Kaufman in the Oct. 5 article Neanderthals reimagined cites Eren’s 2007 research as some of the scientific evidence showing Neanderthals were smarter than once thought, and more like sisters and brothers to modern humans, rather than cousins, as previously perceived.

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EXCERPT:
By Marc Kaufman
The Washington Post
Scientists are broadly rethinking the nature, skills and demise of the Neanderthals of Europe and Asia, steadily finding more ways that they were substantially like us and quite different from the limited, unchanging and ultimately doomed inferiors most commonly described in the past.

The latest revision involves Neanderthals who lived in southern Italy from about 42,000 to 35,000 years ago, a group that had to face fast-changing climate conditions that required them to adapt.

And that, says anthropologist Julien Riel-Salvatore, is precisely what they did: fashioning new hunting tools, targeting more-elusive prey and even wearing identifying ornaments and body painting.

Traditional Neanderthal theory has it that they changed their survival strategies only when they came into contact with more-modern early humans. But Riel-Salvatore, a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver writing in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, says that was not the case in southern Italy.

“What we know is that the more-modern humans lived in northern Italy, more-traditional Neanderthals lived in middle Italy, and this group that adapted to a changing world was in the south — out of touch with the northern group,” he said. …

Research debunking the position that Neanderthals were “cognitively inferior” comes from Daniel Adler of the University of Connecticut and Metin Eren of Southern Methodist University.

In 2006, Adler described evidence that Neanderthals hunted just as well as Homo sapiens, even if their weapons were less sophisticated. In 2007, Eren replicated the making of Neanderthal disc-shaped tools, or “flakes,” and found they were in some ways more efficient than Homo sapiens’ blade-based tools. Both researchers said that while the Neanderthals did not make the transition to more advanced tools — which generations of researchers saw as proof of Homo sapiens’ superiority — they were nonetheless well adapted to their environment.

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