January 10, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Neanderthals Admired Beauty

This may be the last evidence needed to debunk the image of Neanderthals as dim-witted brutes: they wore make-up.  The BBC News reported the discovery of their cosmetics containers: seashells with pigments kept for the purpose of improving their self-image.  If that is not a human characteristic, what else is?
    The shells contained complex recipes of pigments.  There were also painted shells apparently used as jewelry.  “The team says its find buries ‘the view of Neanderthals as half-wits’ and shows they were capable of symbolic thinking,” the article said.  What’s more, according to the dating scheme, this evidence existed 10,000 years before contact with modern humans.  Study leader Joao Zilhao [Bristol U, UK] said, “The association of these findings with Neanderthals is rock-solid and people have to draw the associations and bury this view of Neanderthals as half-wits.”
    Chris Stringer of London’s National History Museum agreed that this evidence appears to disprove the Neanderthal = Dimwit equation – but it just adds to growing evidence over the last decade.  “It’s very difficult to dislodge the brutish image from popular thinking,” he lamented.
    PhysOrg reported more on this story, describing the pigments and the shells that were found, and evidence why they could not be attributed to other modern humans.  It seems that the final distinction between Neanderthal and modern human behavior has been falsified: “This is significant because until now the practice of body ornamentation has been widely accepted by archaeologists as evidence for modern behaviour and symbolic thinking in early modern humans and not Neanderthals.”  New Scientist commented, “Add this to other recent evidence that Neanderthals hunted, painted and perhaps even spoke like anatomically modern humans, and the dumb caveman hypothesis becomes even more untenable.

So why does the BBC News include an artist rendition of a brutish-looking Neanderthal with the article?  Talk about perpetuating a myth.  They should have posted a Neanderthal version of Paris Hilton in the Cave Beauty Pageant.  You can put lipstick on a Neanderthal, but it’s still a human being.
    This shows the damage that visualization can do with the power of suggestion.  Once an image gets implanted in the public consciousness, and the name associated with it becomes associated with less-evolved, it’s very difficult to dislodge, as Stringer said.  This myth has gone on for decades – for over a hundred years!  Think of all the damage this myth has done.  Students have been misled in textbook portrayals of our Neanderthal brethren, presenting them as less than human.  It’s historical racism.  If Neanderthals were with us today, boy would they be mad.  Undoubtedly they would form an Association for the Advancement of Neanderthal People and seek court injunctions against discrimination.
    We need to pay reparations.  We should rehabilitate our Neanderthal brethren by promoting good looks, strength and intelligence in our portrayals of them, much like Polish were rehabilitated through their Solidarity Movement after years of being the butt of Polack jokes.  What can you do to help the Neanderthal Wannabee movement?  If nothing else, help stop the evolutionary paleontologists from committing this sin again the next time they try foisting a sub-human transitional form on the media.

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Categories: Early Man

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