This week I focused on Neanderthals and their discovery. Neanderthals are our closest anscestors. Neanderthals have helped scientists think about fossil records and human evolution. The discovery of Neanderthals have pushed scientist to find and compare early ancestor. Fossils have showed that not only did we evolve from Neanderthals- we also share a percentage of our DNA with them. Many sources even say that Neanderthals were the first pre-human bones found! The study and linkage to modern day humans has been so important to the study of human life.
By studying Neanderthals fossils has showed an incredible amount of similarities, which are not quite the same as modern day humans, but also not too far off. As we studied different types of Neanderthals, each one became more and more similar to that of modern day humans. For example, H. Heidelbergenis culture and behavior often mirrors that of human, especially the creatures which are so archaic to today’s humans. Behavior of Neanderthals has showed Acheulean culture, making rocks into tools- which many early humans and chimpanzee have been attributed with. Hunting behavior is also studied by scientist as large game kill sites which suggest coordinated hunting behavior have been found. Even technology had a part in early life, as in a cave in Germany; wooden javelins have been found along with the remains of hundreds of horse bones. Even diet has been shown to process as diversity of food patterns is shown through fruit, vegetables, and even fishes (a new resource).
These early groups also show a lot of regional variance. Found in Southern Siberia, a tooth and finger bone were found showing that they were not human or Neanderthal. The last common ancestors between humans and Neanderthals were about 500,000 years ago, making it an earlier split than had originally thought. I really enjoyed the video titled “The Neanderthal in Us”. The study of the Neanderthal genome was extremely interesting. The large mosaic where the scientists explained that my DNA could be more closely related to a Neanderthal than a human really shocked me. The study of genomes has made it so evident that humans and Neanderthals mixed. It was super interesting to see that Africans were missing the certain Neanderthals genes, while Asian and European had links to the genes. It is a hard concept to grasp that ancestors mixed and reproduced with old Neanderthals in the Middle East. Hearing about the process of the genetic decoding and tracing the gene linage was shocking to me. The comparison of humans to Neanderthals is important, as we shared ancestors only three hundred to four hundred thousand years ago.
One of the very coolest things in our readings was the fact that Neanderthals produced art. Though speech, communication, diet, and other social behaviors were very cool to learn about, the fact that they made art was astounding to me and signifies a higher intelligence than I had previously thought. This lesson has opened my eyes and made me excited to hear about other finding in the Neanderthal world. It has once again surprised me that it seems everything is so connected.