Blog 6: Neanderthals

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.

11 thoughts on “Blog 6: Neanderthals

  1. Hi,
    I really enjoyed your post. And I agree the fact the Neanderthals are a close ancestor provides enormous insight into our human biology. Interestingly to me, like you, the human brain is still so complex and because it is not exactly like the Neanderthals the differences between the actions and things we do compared to them relate to the brain. But we can also work backwards by using what we know about our brains and comparing it to theirs we can deduce what sort of things they could do. Like your example with the speech. Lastly you discussed how scientists are trying to discover how they went extinct, by figuring out what happened to them it could help us prevent other species from going extinct. Overall good post!

  2. Hi,
    I too found the brain sizes and capacity to be the most interesting part of this weeks lectures. Its hard to believe we are all related with such vast differences between each group. Until now whenever I looked at the concept of evolution I was taught off of the basis of their physical features like their noses, eyebrows and etc. While these features are important to study it seems so odd to me that no one else mentioned the difference n brain size. Our brains tell us so much about how the body functions, it’s the command center for everything. I believe that by studying these brains and remains we will be able to better determine the cause of their extinction and potentially prevent us from making similar mistakes.

  3. Hello! Good job on your post, I chose to write about Neanderthals too! I can tell that you went through the lecture and materials very carefully because you pointed out all the features of Neanderthals and explained them as well. It’s very interesting to study Neanderthals as the closest relatives of modern human beings. You mentioned that they had a much bigger brain size comparing to other homos. Isn’t it surprising that they weren’t any smarter, even Neanderthals have bigger brain capacity? They probably developed bigger brain size because of the brugmen’s rule-animals tend to develop bigger body sizes and shorter limbs to keep heat. But it surprised me that they wasn’t any smarter even with the bigger brain. Overall, I like your post, and I like your choice of the topic, too! Good job.

  4. Hi,
    I definitely agree that this week’s lesson on Neanderthals was interesting as well. I learned about Neanderthals a few times in middle school and a little bit in high school. However, after taking this course I am a lot more knowledgeable about Neanderthals, and the earlier species that walked the Earth. The appearance of Neanderthals caught my interest. Their physical qualities were so closely related to humans that it is definitely understandable how they were a huge aspect in human evolution. Also, their emotional and mental characteristics are highly similar to humans as well. Neanderthals were nurturing to those around them, and were able to assist in an injured being’s healing. I think that this week’s lesson was one of the most informative, yet interesting.

  5. I agree completely that the neanderthals are rather similar to humans and they are an extremely close ancestor to us as it is. As to your question at the end of when the neanderthals became extinct, I would like to know as well. It seems as though there may have been a time where they could have bred with humans and even become mates at some point. This is a huge insight to them as it explains that they could have been that close to humans. They could have even mated with them and as such become intellectual just as humans have become. Aside from this it was rather odd that they were shorter than we were since, they were bulkier and had to adapt to the ice age.

  6. Hey!

    I also wrote about the Neanderthals for my own blog post this week and had a lot of the same thoughts as you! I have really enjoyed reading this post!

    Foremost, I also found it really fascinating that Neanderthals are so genetically similar to humans! I didn’t actually realize that they are our closest human relative prior to taking this course. Likewise, I also thought it was really interesting that their behavior was so sophisticated. The discovery of their fossils was definitely something very important for the scientific community. I think the information we can learn from their genes is also really important because it tells us a lot about our own biology and evolution. It’s really quite fascinating that the Neanderthals had some ability to speak, too! I’m also very interested in knowing more about their extinction and why they are extinct.

  7. Nice work with this post. You did a really great job breaking things down and making them easy to read and formulate coherent thoughts. I’m glad you chose Neanderthals. I also think that Neanderthals are particularly interesting as I feel a good majority of the class did as well. I found them to be particularly interesting for pretty much the same reasons you did. I think the most interesting aspect, which you also mentioned, is that Neanderthals seemed to have buried their dead. They also apparently worked together to take care of their sick and injured. I’ve found this really cool. I mean, it’s almost as if this species knew empathy and compassion and shared these feelings and emotions with others.

  8. I completely agree that this weeks lesson was incredible I never realized how alike we are. It was definitely a great point that you made when you say that the discovery was important because they help explain our life so well. It was another good point when you say that Neanderthals had bigger brains and were able to do complex tasks which crazy because one would never think that. Neanderthal funerals were another great fact I learned think wee that is fascinating I neverknew that a tradition of that sort could go back that far. I don’t understand how they knew how to help others with wounds and injuries/ I mean how would they have taught themselves? It would have to be trial and error am I right?

  9. Hello, I first wanted to say I thought you did a great job highlighting the key and most interesting points covered in the material from this week. For my blog post, I actually had focused on the recent discovery of Homo floresiensis and the resulting scientific theories affected by it, so reading a synopsis about the information about neanderthals was a good refresher. I agree that learning about our most similar ancestor is very fascinating. For me, I’d say the most interesting aspect of the information is the analyzation of the behavior and culture of neanderthals. I think it’s astonishing that scientists can even make such specific predictions in regards to the culture of these neanderthals from only the remains found in the ground. For example, it’s very interesting to know that they probably buried their dead and also probably had the ability to speak and understand complex language. I know that modern humans and neanderthals had interbred a fair amount back in the day, so I wonder if the aspects of their culture more similar to ours was actually learned from Homo sapiens or if they had developed similar cultural traditions independent of modern humans. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that because of the heavy amount of interbreeding that occurred neanderthals probably would have had to have at least a fairly similar mental capacity to Homo sapiens or I think it’s unlikely they would have been able to connect with each other very well.

  10. I enjoyed really enjoyed your post! Your right, 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. It’s weird that the neanderthals and humans today share some of the same culture, such as burying their dead. To think that neanderthals were doing this centuries ago is mind blowing. I agree that it makes sense that brain capacity would have to evolve. If it didn’t we wouldn’t be living in the world that we live in today. There would be no technology, no cars or means of transportation and certainly not as much diversity as there is today. How could their be the diversity that there is today if we didn’t have means of transportation? People wouldn’t be able to migrate to other countries without it.

  11. I also found this lecture on Neanderthals to be a fascinating one. It is very crazy to me all the similarities we share with them and how Neanderthals are supposedly one of humans closest relatives. Their large brain size and capacity is a feature that really stood out to me and I wrote about in my post. Just like your post I took note of now Neanderthals buried their dead and helped heal wounds of other in their group. I found it interesting how you brought together past lectures of primates brain size and compared it to Neanderthals in this lecture, I think that was very important because it shows the development of brains overtime. The discovery of speech is also another point I brought up in my response and thought it to be very helpful for understanding the evolution of language through out our evolution.

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