Friday, April 28, 2017

Xenos: The Neanderthal Man

We, humans, are the only "intelligent" species on the planet. We do treat other animals unfairly. It seems like we have this monopoly over the planet and its resources that we don't tend to share with our fellow earthlings. Sometimes I like to think about other possible scenarios that could have been. What if it was not like this? What if the Neanderthals had survived? 



We left our native land of Africa around 50000 years ago. Not to mention we spread like wildfire all over the glove. Neanderthals, our closest cousins, had left the native land 230000 years ago. They settled in Europe, Middle East and central Asia. They survived until, well, we reached there. We were quite same, yet quite different. That pretty much would have been like Bonobos meeting Chimpanzees. Man, the Homo sapiens and homo Neanderthals shared 99.7% of the DNA. We are from the same genus: meaning we are the descendant of same species Hominins (the great ape). 



Fun fact: The name Neanderthals was given to them because their bones were first discovered in the caves of Neander valley. We called ourselves Homo (Man) sapiens (wise), the wise man. Not quite humble of us eh?  Ernst Haeckel proposed taxonomic name Neanderthal as Homo Stupidus. That name is obsolete now. As the matter of fact, The Neanderthals were not stupid. They had the same brain to body mass ratio as us. They were physically stronger than us. It is now believed that they had pretty refined societies too. To read more about the Neanderthals click here.

So what happened to the Neanderthals? It is a mystery! There are a few theories. Moreover, there is an indication that all of the factors may have had a combined effect in the extinction of Neanderthals.


Climate change: There was a super volcano, around 40000 years ago, in a location that is now in Italy. This volcano had blanketed the area with lava and ash. This may have led to the lowering of temperature that led to endangerment/extinction of the species

Sapiens invasion: Humans and Neanderthals coexisted for a millennial. There might have been competition for resources amongst Neanderthals bands and sapiens bands. They were bigger and good at hunting and humans were innovative and formed larger bands. One can only imagine how the dynamics of society would have worked in those days. It is believed that the domestication of Dogs was advantageous to human over the Neanderthals. We might have starved them with our better skills on calling dibs on the resources or we may have slaughtered them because it could have been threatening. It is difficult to tell for sure.


According to recent understanding, the Neanderthal and sapiens often interbred. Many of the modern humans have 2-4% of shared DNA. You can read more about Sapiens and Neanderthals interbreeding here. Now we can even sequence our DNAs with services that will tell us about our personal ancestry and likelihood of diseases. I am quite curious to sequence my DNA as I have bright red hair which is very rare in my location. Also, red hair indicates the presence of Neanderthal DNA. Find out other traits that are associated with the presence of Neanderthal DNA here.

Now the interbreeding side of anything related to humans just spirals down and the ugly alley of eugenics. The Nazi's romanticizing the Aryan race had made this discussion tarnished with genocide. So much so that experts have lost interest in exploring that side. Well, it is all very fresh in human conscious and we cannot walk past it just yet. Maybe someday in future, when the political and emotional wounds of the racial scars will be filled and the world is ready to walk past the petty inclination claiming to be superior in one way or the other ... Until then, we should just heal the old wounds and learn to live in peace with our differences.




The fact is there are no more Neanderthals. Had they survived, Wonder how the co-existing societies of modern human and modern Neanderthals would have been like. How would we have formed the governments and divided the resources? Would we have worked out on integrated society with them or would it have been a divided state of constant wars and the arms race between us? 

What are your ideas on how would we have been with an equally intelligent species co-existing? Let me know in the comment section below. 



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16 comments:

  1. That is some details! I think it wouldn't have been peaceful integration. If they could interbred with a fertile offspring, may have had a chance of being better or worse! like there are so many cases & possibilities that come to mind on thinking about how would have our society been. Societies are complicated right?

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    1. Haha, See I told you! It is quite complicated to know unless we run some parallel simulations. :P
      Thanks for reading!

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  2. Surely it is presumptive of us to claim that man is the only intelligent inhabitant of the earth. Other animals (dogs, chimps) can show intelligence - it just different to ours.

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    1. Agree Bob, still on a subjective level we often ostracize the fellow earthlings from a lot of resources. So much so, that we exploit them for our benefit ... Dairy industries, Deforestation and climate change are just a few of those.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. We all come from a common ancestor as shown in the phylogenetic tree. There is structural difference in the skeletons of homo sapiens and Neanderthals. From the readings I have done, I do believe it was competition that made the Neanderthals die out. There was a bit of interbreeding, so the species isn't completely dead. But like you said, the interbreeding conversation can get you into trouble.

    Also, if hominoids are so "intelligent" why do we only have one species left? This is very unusual in evolutionary terms.

    Thank you for the in-depth post.

    Once Upon a Time

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    1. Indeed, Morgan. I agree Competition was a major player in Neanderthal's extinction. Pulse sapiens population was flourishing as larger bands of sapiens were more protective than smaller Neanderthal bands.
      The "intelligence" doesn't help much in evolution, after all it is based on natural selection. flourishing population and breading needs favorable natural resources so, I think, intelligence alone can't help species need nature to on their side.
      Thanks for stopping by :)

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  4. Hmmm...if we are so intelligent then how come the planet's the state it is in? and how come we are killing each other by the millions in genocides and wars, which other species does that? Why can't we find a cure for half a dozen killer diseases? It seems beyond stupid...we would have found a way to exist peaceably had we been truly intelligent and evolved...

    Comprehensive post - can't imagine the volume of research this must have taken, kudos!

    Nilanjana
    Madly-in-Verse

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    1. Unfortunately, that sorts of intelligence doesn't assure the happy integration. Sigh! In many ways human are the intelligent super villains. There is a theory that Sapiens race exterminated the Neanderthal in genocides. The same was still seen in the Aryan race love of Nazis. The narrative of us vs them is to blame ... sadly, many of things that Sapiens value (culture and religion) reinforces it.
      Thanks for stopping by :)

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  5. Wow that was a lot of information. Considering how we fight with each other, I think we'd be fighting with the Neanderthals too. That whole peace thing seems to elude us "sapiens."

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    1. I agree! it would nave been a constant war-zone or a delicate sociopolitical balance. Maybe, it was exactly that! until the Neanderthals were extinct.
      Glad to see you stop by.
      Thanks for visiting. :)

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  6. Wow, that is fascinating and so much information. I often wonder about my Neanderthal ancestors. I don't have any proof but I think that I have quite a few of them!

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    1. I have a few of those too! I am so psyched to get my DNA sequenced ... Perhaps, some day in the near future.
      Thanks for stopping by :)

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  7. Interesting post.
    I agree with Nilanjana Bose. Is it 'wise' or 'smart' to breed your species to increase your population to the point of killing off the rest of the planet? I think we're really pretty stupid in more ways than we're smart.
    On another note, I'm just about finished reading the "Land of Painted Caves" again. Its the last book in Jean Auel's "Earth's Children" series. I'm assuming she's writing about the Neanderthals (Clan) and Homo Sapiens (Others) in her stories. They're very good books regardless. I read them all years ago, figured I'd clear out my library and now re-reading. Worth it!

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    1. Indeed, It is a sad state!
      Good to know about the series on Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens. Sounds like an interesting story line. I should see if I could get my hands on one.
      Thanks for stopping by :)
      Cheers!

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