IS STUPIDITY A SAPIENS THING?
Why did Neanderthals disappear? This fascinating question brought other questions, that have blossomed ever more. Such as: “In light of the fact Neanderthals were obviously a superior human race, why do people think it’s so cool to demean Neanderthals?”
Just because they disappeared? Did they? Wait…
Indeed the original question, why did Neanderthals go extinct? is itself in the process of going extinct. As I tried to explain in “Mathematics “Extinguished” Neanderthals”, Neanderthals probably did not go extinct. They were too superior, to just disappear. Instead they genetically consolidated in a more economic format… The one they came from!
My reasoning in “Maths “Extinguished…”rests mainly on two ideas: a) the advancement of technology made most of Neanderthals’ cold adapted mutations irrelevant, and a burden. And: b) a subtle thinning-out from periodic near-extinctions of genetic traits related to more bulky individuals. So it’s not just tech, but a very varying climate, that thinned out Neanderthalian traits.
Thanks to genetic studies spearheaded by Herr Doktor Professor Svante Paabo, an evolutionary geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (author of “Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes”), it turns out that, as he writes in the New York Times (April 25, 2014):
…”these past few years, my research group and I have worked to sequence the genome of a Neanderthal, the closest evolutionary relative of all present-day humans. We have also sequenced a genome from a small bone excavated in a Russian cave close to the border with China; this genome came from a previously unknown Asian relative of the Neanderthals — a group that we call the Denisovans.
These ancient genomes show that the Neanderthals were genetically very similar to us. In fact, for most of the genome, some people living today are closer to the Neanderthals than to other people. Comparing their genome with that of modern people, we identified a total of 31,389 genetic mutations that have come to be carried by all humans today.”
Please meditate this, the conclusion of genetics studies: “…some people living today are closer to the Neanderthals than to other people.” What a shattering notion!
Paabo’s work as been confirmed independently by other research groups. There are too many surprises to list them all. Some researchers found that the highest density of Neanderthals mutations in… North Africa.
North Africans are a type of Europeans, genetically speaking; in 2014 Neanderthal mutations were found all the way to ancient South African population!… And the whole situation became extremely complicated. For example Denisovans’ genetics were found in Spain. However, so far absolutely no Denisovan skeleton has been found: they constitute a genome in search of a body!
Then Paabo, unfortunately, slips into age-old racist prejudice:
“Among these mutations may lurk some subtle yet consequential differences between them and us that further research may eventually explain. For example, although Neanderthals, who became extinct about 30,000 years ago, produced stone tools and controlled fire, they never developed the technology and culture to multiply and spread across the planet as modern humans did.”
Paabo should know better than writing this. Some of the first genomic studies on Neanderthals found them quite far, genetically from modern humans. Then more recent Homo Sapiens Sapiens’ genomes were analyzed and found… just as far.
I appreciate the professor’s work. However the sentence: “although Neanderthals… controlled fire, they never developed the technology and culture to multiply and spread across the planet as modern humans did,” struck me as unwarranted, if not downright racist to the point of complete stupidity. With all due respect, of course: Paabo himself gave us some of the weapons to squash his prejudice! “Modern humans” of today have a different genome from “modern humans” of yesterday: whoever “spread across the planet”, why and how, is not too clear.
WHY NEANDERTHALS ARE A SUPERIOR RACE:
Neanderthals were adapted to a very cold climate. So they thrived in North Africa, but it’s not surprising that they did not get south. Meanwhile, as Neanderthals had invented pants, African Sapiens could spread into Europe (supposing that technology was transferred to them).
Paleontologist Zilhão found evidence demonstrating that Neanderthals in Europe were neither cognitively inferior nor less creative than Homo SS in Africa.
In 2010, he reported that a cache of painted marine shells on the Iberian Peninsula was made by Neanderthals (the photography at the top of the essay is of some of these shells; the hole indicates that they were worn as jewelry; thread had been invented by Neanderthals at least 30,000 years prior).
These shells were dated to 50,000 years ago, about 10,000 years before Cro-Magnon (viewed as Homo SS) appeared in Europe. These 50,000 year old shells were used by Neanderthals to produce body paint. To do so, preceding 19C chemistry by a full 50,000 years, Neanderthals used chemical reactions.
The shells contain mineral pigment makeup that required some skill and know-how to produce. (The makeup was composed of fool’s gold, aka pyrite, and ground hematite, which can be red and black, all mixed in to a base of the rust-colored mineral, lepidocrocite.)
Neanderthals were chemists who painted themselves and wore jewelry. Fashion shows in the Paris basin are at least 50,000 years old (so the degeneracy there is an atavism). Neanderthals invented many technologies. They had mastered hafting, more than 150,000 years ago. That allows to attach wood to warheads and tools. As I noticed in the Tasmanian Effect:
“Amazingly, the Tasmanians had lost hafted tool technology (it allows to fix a hard head such as a stone or a piece of antler to a wooden object such as a spear, arrow, or ax). Hafting was independently evolved in Europe by Neanderthals…”
Previously unknown Neanderthal technologies are found every year. Neanderthals invented needle and thread, way back (80,000 years ago, at least; probably much older). Necessity was the mother of invention: Europeans (aka Neanderthals) needed clothing more than Africans did, as the later wore none. Moreover, appropriate fibers are more easily found in the temperate zone (everything rots quickly in the very warm, wet tropics, including DNA).
NEANDERTHALS INVENTED DOGS, COAL BURNING, SHELL FISH DINING:
Some of the arguments against Neanderthals have been outright ridiculous: not only we were told, without any evidence, that they could not talk, but that the superiority of Africans came from eating shell fish, about 70,000 years ago (along the East Coast of Africa).
However, it has since been discovered that Neanderthal cavemen supped on shellfish on the Costa del Sol 150,000 years ago, punching another torpedo hole in the theory that only Africans ate (supposedly) brain-boosting seafood.
Neanderthals also used coal, as long ago as 73,000 years. Once again, making a fire in present day France, then suffering from a pretty bad glaciation, made more sense than trying to stay warm in the Congo.
Earlier and earlier prehistoric art has been found. It’s getting ever harder to claim that Neanderthals had nothing to do with it. This is from the enormous Chauvet cave in France, at least 32,000 years old:
(42,000 year old art was also found in Spain.)
Neanderthals also domesticated, and genetically engineered dogs, from European wolves. That’s very clear.
How do I know this? Simple. The Goyet dog, pictured below was dated around 32,000 years. In 2010, and an even older dog was found in the Altai mountains. Both dogs were derived from Canis Lupus Familiaris, the European wolf, but were quite distant from it, genetically, they had been evolved probably on a time scale of more than 10,000 years, thus well before any arrival of Sapiens Sapiens from Africa.
Those dogs were completely compatible with people, just as contemporary dogs are. Proof? Ancient, 26,000-year-old footprints made by a child and a dog deep in the Chauvet Cave, France. (OK, by then Neanderthals have been just deemed “extinct” by some… However, these are still the same dogs Neanderthals invented.)
It is perplexing that other human groups did not domesticate the local canids. There are (still!) wolves in Africa and India. And also Lycaons (“African Wild Dogs”). Those are supremely intelligent, and sort of domesticate readily in the wild (I tried this myself as a child).
The argument that Africans would have moved to Europe to domesticate European wolves, when they had a similar fauna, including wolves, to domesticate in Africa, is simply extravagant.
The only group in Europe at the right time and place to have made the jewelry and tools attributed to early Aurignacian culture is the Neanderthals. It would seem that the oldest cave paintings, dated at 41,000 years or more, were made by Neanderthals (they are in Spain, a Neanderthal fortress, and, at the time, Sapiens Sapiens were just entering Europe, far away).
Equipped with advanced weapons, Neanderthals started modifying the environment (for example extinguishing Cave Bears). At that point, the advancement of technology made their cold adapted mutations irrelevant, and a burden.
The argument is always made that the technological explosion in the Aurignacian happened because of the invasion by Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Why? Because Homo SS was superiorly intelligent. How do we know that? Because as it came in, there was a technological and artistic explosion.
Some scientists ought to be taught elementary logic.
In my train of explanation, all these phenomena, tech explosion, Homo SS invasion and Homo Neandertalensis transmogrification are related. Related by what? The tech explosion.
As I pointed out, the Tasmanians, who were as much Homo Sapiens Sapiens as their relatives in Australia, degenerated to technological level that would have driven them to extinction pretty much anywhere else, especially in Europe (Europe was crawling with megafauna: super lions (Cave Lions), Cave Bears, Mammoths, Rhinoceroses, ton and a half Aurochs, hyenas, etc. Bulk may have put them at a disadvantage relative to more frail forms of Homo Sapiens (Homo Heidelbergis, ancestor to Neanderthals was massive: 100 kilograms). Presto, especially in a varying climate, they may have reverted to their common inheritance.
Want one more proof of my little theory? The race that replaced the Neanderthals were the Cro-Magnon (“Big Cave” in the local, pre-Celtic Basque language). The Cro-Magnons did not look particularly “human”: they had rectangular orbits. But then they were less massive than Neanderthals (thus allowing part of my reproductive argument against Neanderthal physiology to come into play!).
The lighter form of being of Homo SS is an important point of my Neanderthals-traits out-breeding theory. But there are other points, including that the genetic adaptation of Neanderthals that were not advantageous anymore (thanks to technology) would tend to disappear… Whereas those that are still advantageous would thrive. This exactly what the geneticists such as Paabo are finding.
Examples: Neanderthal adaptations tend to dominate for skin. Paabo and others found some Neanderthal adaptations are still gaining, whereas others are still regressing. We are far from having a complete picture of the situation.
However, whereas Paabo expects the Neanderthal to be inferior from the epistemological point of view, I expect the exact opposite. Not just because of what they did, but because they had to do it (to live where they did). I even expect a strong cultural hereditability of paying attention to the essence of man. A cultural heredity of the metaprinciple that the supremacy of culture is essential to man, thriving to this day, coming straight from Neanderthals.
How did I explain the Tasmanian devolution? As a cultural phenomenon. At some point, Tasmanians got possessed by the wrong metaprinciples. They drove their culture into the ground. Anti-intellectualism got a life of its own (remember Turkey, outlawing the printing press: same idea).
The opposite can happen: intellectualism, the essence of Homo, can be revered. Superior principles can help create, in turn a succession of superior cultures (as observed in Western Europe, something Putin ought to meditate, if he could meditate).
Arguably all the way up to the late Neolithic Europe had kept some tech edge: the frozen solid individual found at the border of Austria and Italy was carrying antibiotics. The argument of Jared Diamond that Eurasians became as superior as they became because they had all these nice plants and animals is another circular argument: these plants and animals, all of them, had been invented by said Eurasians, from almond trees, to wheat, beans, and even cats (to kill grain eating rodents).
Later, when the Romans confronted the Celts, the latter had arguably the world’s best ocean faring ships, and the best metallurgy (the Celts equipped the Roman army, from early on!)
Thus it is entirely possible that the habit of maximal tech superiority, after allowing Neanderthals to thrive for hundreds of thousands of years, carry in to this day. The International Thermonuclear Experimental reactor is fully close to where Neanderthals experimented with coal at least 73,000 years ago. It’s a tradition, to invent ways of making nature serve Homo, probably revered there, more than anywhere else.
It was just found out that, generations (of deer!) after the triple lethal electric fence system of the “Iron Curtain” was removed, local deer still teach their young to respect the border between Germany and the Czech Republic (although as both are in Schengen, the physical border has been gone for generations. So if culture is that strong among rather stupid deer, imagine what it is among men!
Paradoxically, culture allows men to become more stupid than even deer, and for much longer (see Putin and his followers getting their minds from Ivan IV, the Terrible).
In the USA, apparently correct descriptions of the Crater Lake volcano explosion, in which the upper mile of the Mazama volcano blew up, leaving a deep caldera, were still made by the local inhabitants. 7,700 years later.
Culture has a life of its own, an evolution of its own. In a way, it’s reassuring to know that creative intellectuals can leave so much behind…
Even if they were simple Neanderthals.