“It seems we have all been guilty of defaming Neanderthal man” declared a recent editorial in The Guardian. This comment was triggered by a report documenting evidence for the use of pigments and decorative shells by Neanderthals. This is claimed to have occurred many years before any direct contact with modern humans, thereby undermining any thought that the artifacts did not really represent Neanderthal culture. Personal adornment, using a variety of colours, implies an aesthetic sense and an appreciation of symbolism. Since Neanderthals have often been presented as lacking these “modern” traits, the new research demands a reappraisal.
We have had a long-sustained exposure to the idea that Neanderthals were sub-human. They have been presented as slow, lumbering, dim-witted and brutish! Most people are likely to think that Neanderthals could not use words to speak. Will the new research change perceptions?
“It’s very difficult to dislodge the brutish image from popular thinking,” Professor Stringer told BBC News.
The situation we find ourselves in has come about because the Darwinist explanation of human origins has been adopted by our culture. The Darwin origins myth requires a gradual evolution of both anatomy and culture – from ape to man. Neanderthal Man has been part of this story – he is the archetypal intermediary. Despite many evidences to the contrary, little has been done to remove the myth. Indications of cultural sophistication were interpreted as Neanderthals trading artifacts with modern humans, or imitating without understanding.



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