August 14, 2013 | David F. Coppedge

Meet Your New Teacher, Prof. Neanderthal

Far from being dumb brutes stuck in caves, Neanderthals may have taught modern people techniques that are still used today.

Researchers reported in PNAS the discovery of finessed bone tools at a Neanderthal site that previously were only known to have been used by modern humans.  The tools, called lissoir (slickers and burnishers) were probably used “to obtain supple, lustrous, and more impermeable hides.”  The site predates the assumed arrival of modern humans in Europe.  “As such, they are either a demonstration of independent invention by Neandertals or an indication that modern humans started influencing European Neandertals much earlier than previously believed,” the authors say in the open-access paper. “Because these finds clearly predate the oldest known age for the use of similar objects in Europe by anatomically modern humans, they could also be evidence for cultural diffusion from Neandertals to modern humans.”

And why not?  Earlier reports indicated interbreeding between the two groups – suggesting that living people have remnant Neanderthal DNA.  Cultural diffusion among people of the same species (capable of interbreeding, that is) is to be expected.  And if Neanderthals invented the bone tools on their own, it’s more indication of the collapse of the myth of the dumb Neanderthal brute.  The statement indicates the cultureal diffusion in this case went from Neanderthal to modern human.

The headlines from popular reporters show that we have shortchanged our brethren – that is, our teachers:

  • “First bone tools suggest Neanderthals taught us skills” (New Scientist)
  • “Neandertals Made the First Specialized Bone Tools in Europe” (Science Daily)
  • Did Neanderthals Teach Modern Humans How to Make Tools?” (Live Science)

The last article includes a portrait of a wise-looking Neanderthal resembling nothing less than a mountain man at rendezvous.  Even the big two journals, Nature and Science, joined the new paradigm:

  • Neanderthals made leather-working tools like those in use today: Archaic humans may have invented bone implements still used to make expensive handbags. (Nature News)
  • Neandertals Were No Copycats (Science Now)

The articles hedge on the possibility that the Neanderthals learned the skill from modern humans, not the other way around.  Even so, the ability to learn and copy a skill like that would be strong evidence of mental equality.  Science Now quipped, “The finds may represent the best sign yet that Neandertals were no boneheads when it came to technological innovation.”

The bone tools were estimated to be 41,000 to 51,000 years old, “well before our current best evidence for moderns in Europe,” one paleoanthropologist said (Science Daily).  They look “like those we find in later, modern human sites or even in leather workshops today.”

New Scientist began with an imaginary day in Cave School:

Two Stone Age humans watch intently as their teacher works on a fragment of rib. With a final flourish the tool is complete, and one student moves in for a closer look. Communication is difficult in the absence of a common language. “Now you try,” gestures the Neanderthal teacher.

The scene may not be as far-fetched as it might seem.

Science Now continued to find an evolutionary progression in the story, claiming that Neanderthal technology got better over time since they lived 135,000 years ago (New Scientist says 200,000 years ago).  There were previous indications that Neanderthals were quite skilled about the time modern humans entered Europe.  The debate has been who was the teacher, and who was the learner.

Now that these lissoir have been found, some paleoanthropologists expect to find more evidence of technological innovation at Neanderthal sites even earlier, New Scientist reported.  Fred Coolidge (U of Colorado) said, “It is just about possible that over tens of thousands of years Neanderthals thought up a way of doing one thing – making these tools – that humans hadn’t thought of before.”

In other caveman news, the Dmanisi skulls have been pushed back another 9 million years to the evolutionary date of 1.85 million years.  “These discoveries show that the southern Caucasus was occupied repeatedly before Dmanisi’s hominin fossil assemblage accumulated, strengthening the probability that this was part of a core area for the colonization of Eurasia,” a paper in PNAS states.  “The secure age for Dmanisi’s first occupations reveals that Eurasia was probably occupied before Homo erectus appears in the East African fossil record.”  In another PNAS paper, Bernard Wood is asking if the genus Homo migrated out of Africa or into it.

Two comments.  (1) The secular dates strain credibility beyond the breaking point.  Fred Coolidge just mentioned these highly intelligent, upright walking, robust hunters required “tens of thousands of years” before they “thought up a way” of making these tools.  Thank about that.  That is multiple times all recorded modern history, and it required tens of millennia before any of them had a thought like that?  Who can believe such a tall tale?  Don’t fall for the radiometric dates; they are mere props to support the Darwinian tale that requires millions of years between apes and men on their timeline.  Common sense should tell you that the story is unbelievable.

(2) Secondly, the great Neanderthal myth, now debunked, should make you angry.  Think of all the impressionable school children, looking at brutish, stooped over cavemen in their textbooks throughout the 20th century, told by authoritative teachers that they were missing links on the way up to modern man.  This is historical racism.  Neanderthals were our equals, if not superiors.  They could teach evolutionists a thing or two.



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