The Ancient Struggle for Homo Sapiens to Rule the Earth
Addendum: What if the mythic "thunderbolt" wielded by gods like Zeus against the Titans is a memory of the invention of the bow? Is this why the most ancient Hindu heroes are depicted fighting with bow?
This was the thesis of Crichton's novel "Eaters of the Dead" - pockets of Neanderthals lived isolated in parts of Northern Europe periodically terrorizing, and being terrorized by, the locals. An excellent read, the movie wasn't bad either.
Europeans never defeated other people's by superior numbers. This has been a repeated them throughout history. The won by technology and tactics. The 300 at the Battle of Thermopylae is a paradigmatic example of this.
The face is so disturbing. Physiognomy is real!
I agree that Neanderthals, just like humans are today, were most likely apex predators, and while I find the thesis interesting, I must disagree on some key points:
To start with the fur assertion. Neanderthals are more closely related to Denisovans than they are to anatomically modern humans. Needles have been discovered in Denisova cave, which WAS occupied by both Denisovans and Neanderthals (and cross breeds). This suggests that Denisovans, at least, were tailoring clothes, and probably didn't have fur. Given that Denisovans are more distantly related to anatomically modern humans than Neanderthals are, when we apply phylogenetic bracketing, it is more likely than not that Neanderthals were themselves furless, and we just haven't yet had the good luck to find one of those particular needles in the haystack of Neanderthal dig sites.
Then the vertical slit pupil... This assertion is quite unlikely. No other great ape has vertical slit pupils, and my own personal suspicion is that, if their eyes were sufficiently sensitive that they needed something to keep themselves from getting snow blindness, something conceptually similar to Inuit snow goggles, albeit probably cruder, would have been more likely.
Next, the "Neanderthal snout". It's probably not for scent hunting. One of the key features of apes is a reduced olfactory ability. Neanderthals getting greater olfactory ability would make them the odd apes out.
Next, the cannibalism. It is absolutely true that early humans - Neanderthals included - engaged in cannibalism. But I doubt it would have set the Neanderthals apart, given that anatomically modern humans were just as willing to go full Donner party as the Neanderthals were.
Neanderthals certainly would have been a terrifying sight, and one could certainly make a good argument for them being the basis for some mythological creatures, but the chances that they were as alien as Vendramini supposes are quite small indeed.
I also disagree that it was Neanderthals that caused the Human genetic bottleneck. Neanderthals never got into Africa... the cradle of anatomically modern humans. The closest they get is the Levant.
There is no evidence of Neanderthal or Denisovan genetics in sub-Saharan African populations, but European and Asian populations both have significant amounts of both. Whatever the cause of the Human genetic bottleneck, it probably wasn't Neanderthals.
Our tendency to "fear and hate the other" still remains to this day. We easily create an "othergroup" and then discriminate, hate and fear them. And if we eliminate them (which we are very capable of), then we create another "othergroup" and the cycle starts again. Unfortunately this means that we are not very good at cooperating with those that we perceive as "different from us", and that makes us ill equipped for resolving truly global issues, like climate change. If we don't overcome this primal urge, our tribe will die, once the ecosystem sustaining us collapses.
It's ironic. We might have won the war, but the Neanderthal could still have the last laugh.
An interesting and plausible hypothesis.
The comments on this article I'm linking below go on for ten years. This is not a new theory, and it is not widely accepted in part because we know a lot more about neanderthals than we did in 2010. They were very much human like us. https://blog.waikato.ac.nz/bioblog/2010/10/killer-neandertals-does-this-o/
Hi tree of woe.
This is an incredible essay. Would you mind if I translate it into Spanish?
The Neanderthals interbred with Homo Sapiens sapiens. About 1-4% of the genome of modern Eurasians, North African, Melanesians, and Native Americans comes from Neanderthals. They assimilated rather than go truly extinct. The gene associated with red hair, for example, is a Neanderthal gene. Considering a four generation separation from interbreeding would leave a 7.5% homology, the interbreeding had to be fairly widespread.
Contrary to the heterodox opinion, they certainly had speech - the known social complexity observed from Neanderthal sites pretty much proves that. Archeological evidence of several types (dental tarter, site remains of meals, preserved feces) shows that while they were more predatory than modern humans, they did have a significant plant component to their diet - figs, legumes, acorns, pine nuts, mushrooms, etc. One site in Israel provided clear evidence that they cooked this food. A fossil from Spain shows a dental abscess being treated with aspirin-containing poplar bark and penicillium mold, a treatment more advanced than Homo sapiens used until the 1940s.
To those who haven't figured it out yet, K i l l e r B e a n is most likely a bot.
Can you cite your sources? Please tell me where you found - Dr. David Reich of Harvard Medical School calculated that the population of humans dropped to as few as 50 individuals. which papers found this - "A number of teams have analyzed mutation rates to find out. The mutation rate in our Y chromosomes suggests the bottleneck occurred 37,000 to 49,000 years ago. The mutation rate of single-nucleotide polymorphisms suggests 48,000 years ago. Dr. Reich’s study claims 27,000 to 53,000 years ago."
If neanderthals looked so different and spooky, would they want to mate with homo sapiens?
Today, do Gorillas, Chimps, Bonobos or Orangutans try to mate with humans -- in the wild or in zoos among keepers? Also, do today's non-human great apes try to mate with each other?
If neanderthals were so different from coeval humans, I doubt male neanderthals or humans would be interested in each others' females by force or seduction.
On an appearance scale of 1 to 100, with 1 representing human appearance 40,000 years ago and 100 representing this article's rendition of neanderthal appearance, I tend toward neanderthals looking enough like humans to trigger lust, so maybe 20-40.
I base my views on extensive deep ignorance.
I don't personally find Vendramini's neanderthal reconstructions especially compelling. (The hunched posture doesn't match the position of the foramen magnum, and humans and neanderthals would have had to be reasonably genetically similar in order for interbreeding to occur at all.)
This doesn't rule out the possibility that human-neanderthal competition was extremely brutal, of course- our own species has been savage enough in dealing with close relations, so it would be naive to assume neanderthals were any more pacifist, and one can easily imagine that murder, rape and cannibalism were not-uncommon occurrences. But that's just par-for-the-course prehistory.
A problem I see with the near-extinction hypothesis is that modern humans seem to have been widespread throughout Africa for around 200,000 years, indeed the Khoi-San in South Africa may have been in pretty much the same area for that long. It certainly seems likely that Neanderthals drove modern humans back from the Levant into Africa, but there is no evidence of Neanderthals in Africa. I've also read that humans are not really all that genetically bottlenecked, depending on the source, much less than eg cheetahs. The Toba eruption seems to be a popular candidate for a bottleneck ca 75,000-70,000 ya https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toba_catastrophe_theory
Leaving aside that though, the general idea that Neanderthals were powerful hostile eaters-of-humans certainly seems plausible.
If such a monster existed there would be loads of cave paintings of them. As far as I know there are few if any
If so called neanderthals are hairy, slit-eyed, nocturnal, absurdly robust, and do not possess language, then they're not humanoid and clearly not capable of breeding with humans. How on earth does a human female give birth to a robust foreign species during an ice age? Moreover, the 'population bottleneck' of 50 people? Such fairy tales. I mean come on, just go to church already.