I thought that this weeks lecture about neanderthals was particularly fascinating, because of how genetically similar they are to humans today, considering they are our closest human relative. The discovery of neanderthals fossils in 1829 was such an important one. Neanderthal fossils can answer a lot of questions about human evolution and human diversity. One feature that really stood out to me was the large brain size and capacity and the abilities of neanderthals to do tasks that seem to involve complex thinking. There are a lot of similarities between the culture of neanderthals and the culture of humans today. For example, the lecture talked about that it is quite likely that neanderthals engaged in burying their dead, something we obviously do today. Neanderthals also were able to take care of others who were wounded, which scientists were able to discern from old, healed injuries. They also used stone tools that became increasingly complex.
The sophistication of neanderthal behavior is so fascinating. This complex behavior helps us to see how very similar we are to neanderthals, our close ancestors. I think that these behaviors have a lot to do with the evolution of the human brain. Before neanderthals, brain size in primate was pretty small across the board. Therefore, they were not capable of doing things like caring for the sick, so serious injury probably always resulted in death. But, then, we see this evolution of being able to maintain life even after injury because of the evolution in brain capacity. It makes perfect sense to me that brain capacity would have to evolve in order to adapt and survive.
I also found it interesting that there was recently a gene discovery in relation to speech in humans that was found in neanderthals as well. This was able to help scientists figure out that neanderthals probably had some ability to speak. This is helpful in understanding human evolution and our language capabilities today.
Overall, I really just found brain capacity to be most interesting, because it explains so much about the culture, behavior, and intelligence of neanderthals and how humans today embody a lot of similar characteristics. At the same time, though, it is important to notice the big differences as well. Take, for example, the physical features of neanderthals such as their large noses and big faces. This is because neanderthals lived in a very cold climate, much colder than our climate today. Neanderthals were also shorter and stockier than anatomically modern humans, and children developed faster.
Scientists still are not quite sure about the exact way and time in which neanderthals became extinct. I did a little research and found a lot of different theories out there as to whether neanderthals interbred with humans, whether they were extinct before humans existed, or whether humans killed them all off. I think it will be interesting to see if more evidence is ever brought in to help scientists sort that out. I would be curious to know more about the extinction of Neanderthals.