Neanderthal Man Was An Innovator, Study Says

Jun 19, 2007

Neanderthal man was not as stupid as has been made out says a new study published by a University of Leicester archaeologist.

In fact Neanderthals were far removed from their stereotypical image and were innovators, says Dr Terry Hopkinson of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History in a paper published in Antiquity.

Neanderthals were the sister species of Homo sapiens, our own species, and inhabited Europe in the Middle Palaeolithic period which began some 300,000 years ago. This period has widely been thought to have been unremarkable and undramatic in cultural or evolutionary terms.

Now Dr Hopkinson has challenged this notion and shown that it does not fit the archaeological evidence. He says early Neanderthals were devising new stone tool technologies and also coming to terms with ecological challenges that defeated their immediate ancestors, Homo heidelbergensis.

Conventional theories focus on tool innovation much later on leading up to the period when modern humans replaced Neanderthals some 40,000 years ago.

Dr Hopkinson said: "There has been a consensus that the modern human mind turned on like a light switch about 50,000 years ago, only in Africa. But many ‘modern’ traits like the use of grind stones or big game hunting began to accumulate in Africa 300,000 years ago.

"It was the same in Europe with Neanderthals, there was a gradual accumulation of technology."

Not only did the Neanderthals combine old stone tool technologies in innovative ways to create new ways of working stone, says Dr Hopkinson. They also spread from western Europe into areas of central and eastern Europe their forbears had been unable to settle.

"The eastern expansion shows that the Neanderthals became capable of managing their lives and their landscapes in strongly seasonal environments,” said Dr Hopkinson.

Dr Hopkinson concludes:” Neanderthals have typically been thought of as incapable of innovation, as it was assumed to be something unique to Homo sapiens. With this evidence of innovation it becomes difficult to exclude Neanderthals from the concept of humanity."

Source: University of Leicester

Explore further: Changing dinosaur tracks spurs novel approach

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

21 hours ago

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

21 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PeterROwen
not rated yet Sep 06, 2009
You bet! Neandertals ARE intelligent people, just like us.

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

White House updating online privacy policy

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...