Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nifty Neanderthals

In a story on physorg.com today, called "Neanderthals were nifty at controlling fire: study", we learn that Neanderthals weren't dumb creatures. This goes against the incessant, traditional depiction of them as brutes who were "sub-human". Not so.

Apparently they used fire continuously from at least 400,000 years ago through the date of their extinction, only 30,000 years ago. I'm so happy to hear this. I've always thought it was a terrible loss when they went extinct, not only for them, but for us. Just think what it might be like to live alongside a similar but different population of beings, as intelligent as us (more intelligent?), but a different species. I find this inviting.

Alas, this never came to pass but I am delighted to learn that we have a bit of Neanderthal DNA in us -- not much, but some. We interbred at some point in our histories, and perhaps a small part of what "makes us human" actually comes from our Neanderthal DNA. Highly doubtful, but it's a fun idea. 

Aside: It drives me nuts that I can't recall the name or author of a sci-fi book that contained a Neanderthal character and was one of the most panoramic, time-spanning, mind-expanding adventures I've ever read. I'll post the title and author as an update here, if and when I remember this information. Grrrrr! (Maybe that's the Neanderthal in me, huh?)