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1 June 2014
Neanderthals were not inferior to modern humans

It has been a long held belief that Neanderthals were inferior to 'anatomically modern humans'. This inferiority led to their demise, decline and eventual extinction, but now it would appear that different theories will need to be formulated.
     A team of archaeologists from the University of Colorado Boulder (USA) and Leiden University (Netherlands) have conducted extensive research into Neanderthal behaviour. They have uncovered considerable evidence to show that Neanderthals hunted in groups, which needed a high degree of forward planning, communication, coordination and a good knowledge of the landscape and animal behaviour. These are not the traits of an inferior species!
     The team have backed up their research findings with evidence from sites including the UK Channel Islands and South-western France. On both of these sites there is evidence to show that Neanderthals herded bison, mammoths and even woolly rhinoceroses into sink holes and over cliff faces, a feat requiring all of the intelligent traits listed above.
     Paola Villa, from the University of Colorado Boulder, is quoted as saying "The evidence for cognitive inferiority is simply not there. What we are saying is that the conventional view of Neanderthals is not true". She went on to say "Researchers were comparing Neanderthals not to their contemporaries on other continents but to their successors. It would be like comparing the performance of Model T Fords, widely used in America and Europe in the early part of the last century, to the performance of a modern day Ferrari and conclude that Henry ford was cognitively inferior to Enzo Ferrari".

Edited from EurekAlert!, The Guardian (30 April 2014)

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