Can We Please Just Admit the Neanderthals Were People?

Here is a cool recent article about Neanderthals. Turns out they were more widespread than we used to think. This article does refer to them as humans. But it also distinguishes them from “modern humans.” And some articles refer to them as different “species.”

But they have tools at their sites, and the reconstructions of their faces look like people we might meet anywhere. (I know that’s an old joke, but it’s also a truism.)

And now, accompanied by a creepy speculative picture, we are told Neanderthals and modern humans were “lovers, not fighters.”

Here’s my take. They were just people, OK?

5 thoughts on “Can We Please Just Admit the Neanderthals Were People?

  1. Jen,

    I’ll call them Klingons if you want, I don’t care. They certainly seem human-like. Why is the distinction important to you? Obviously it doesn’t even get near my radar.

    These days, if you want them to be called people, make sure they can register and vote!

    Tom

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tom,

      Avoiding calling them humans supports an evolutionary narrative.

      If we can identify several human “species,” especially if we can make some of them look slightly ape-like, we can support the narrative that humans evolved independently, from different species of “hominid,” in different parts of the world.

      When I was a kid, Neanderthals were portrayed as much shorter, uglier, hairier, and stronger than modern humans. There was even speculation that they were unable to speak because of the shape of their jaw etc. This was feeding in to the narrative that humans started out as basically animals and didn’t until later “develop” language, art, or religion. This, in turn, supports the idea that we modern humans are smarter and more advanced than any of the ancient peoples, and that we are the only ones who have any science or know anything about anything. That whole set of assumptions is a pet peeve of mine, as I think there is plenty of evidence against this picture of how human culture came about … both in the Bible and elsewhere. It also conveniently allows anyone who wishes to do so, to dismiss ancient history and mythology without really looking at it.

      Then, later, the Neanderthals got sucked in to the Noble Savage myth. Fiction started to be produced where they were gentle, environmentally sensitive, and even telepathic.

      Now, as you can see, we are making art about them where they are no longer hairy and ugly but instead and look like a Calvin Klein ad. It looks to me like the attempt to portray them as sub-human has been given up, but we are still trying to hang on to the romantic noble savage idea that their name evokes.

      Sorry for the rant.

      Like

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