October 5, 2022 | Jerry Bergman

What Did Neanderthals Think About?

The Neanderthal Mind Explored: Research shows that
Neanderthals were our physical and mental brothers and sisters



by Jerry Bergman, PhD

Neanderthal man is an embarrassment for evolutionists today and has been a thorn in the side of Darwinists for several decades now. A new article in New Scientist published a few weeks ago rubs more salt in the wound.[1]

The cover of the October 2008 National Geographic showing that Neanderthals were simply ‘other humans’ and not a missing link as taught for over a century. This National Geographic issue was published 14 years ago!

Neanderthal Man has been used as ‘Exhibit A’ for human evolution for over a century. The flow of discoveries uprooting his former place in human evolution has accelerated in the last decade. One measure of the Darwinian importance for his role in indoctrinating the general population to accept human evolution is its place in the progression of monkey-to-man illustrations in high school and college textbooks. Several examples are shown below, many from leading biology textbooks used in hundreds of American schools.

Cognitive archaeologists (those who study the thought process of extinct peoples based on clues from their artifacts) include Rebecca Wragg Sykes. She has researched the minds of Neanderthals by analyzing their material objects, including painted shells and stalagmite circles. A new research program asked:

Did Neanderthals think like us? We used to assume that our closest ancient human relatives, who lived in Europe and Asia for hundreds of thousands of years, were concerned only with survival. But in the past few decades we have discovered various things they made that had no clear practical purpose: a shell colored with red pigment, a deer bone engraved with chevrons, and a ring of stalagmites assembled deep inside a cave.[2]

As Sykes explained, although no Neanderthal writings exist, they left behind a large number of physical artifacts called “realia”. One way to study their technology is by meticulously excavating relevant objects, including the tiniest flakes removed from stones as part of the process used to make the tools they used in their daily life. Then the cognitive archaeologist attempts to reassemble the fragments. This process requires hundreds of hours, but it can help tell us how objects were made and used. For example, a Neanderthal may have encountered a natural flaw such as a crack in the cobble stone they were flaking and used it to improve their stone creation.

By reassembling the chips, cognitive archaeologists can “look over the Neanderthal’s shoulder”, as it were, in an attempt to retrace the mental steps that the Neanderthals used to produce their final product. Cognitive archaeologists now know that core flaking methods were commonly understood and utilized by Neanderthals throughout Europe, albeit with some regional differences.

Other Discoveries Related to Neanderthals

Neanderthals invented the first known synthetic substance, birch tar, to use as a glue in making tools. New research reveals the complex manufacturing techniques they used, and thus the cognitive complexity that was required to make the birch tar. One recent excavation discovered a hyena bone from a site in France that was marked with tally-like notches, likely to keep track of some numerical count. These findings add to the accumulation of the evidence supporting the conclusion that

Neanderthals not only had bigger brains than sapiens, but also ….  were skilled toolmakers and big-game hunters who lived in large social groups, built shelters, traded jewelry, wore clothing, ate plants and cooked them, and made sticky pitch to secure their spear points by heating birch bark. Evidence is mounting that Neanderthals had a complex language and even, given the care with which they buried their dead, some form of spirituality. And as the cave art in Spain demonstrates, these early settlers had the chutzpah to enter an unwelcoming underground environment, using fire to light the way.[3]

Wooden objects have also been discovered which likely served as digging sticks. They show the Neanderthal’s understanding of the traits of various wood materials, including those used for making spears. They also used fire to soften harder wood types to make them easier to shape.

Piltdown Man and less-known hoaxes are described in this book.

Sykes recognizes that cognitive archaeologists must look for different possibilities to explain the artifacts they found. After all, evolutionists have made many embarrassing mistakes. The Piltdown man, Java Man, and Hesperopithecus (Nebraska Man) fiascoes come to mind.[4]

One of the most interesting Neanderthal artifacts the archaeologists have unearthed was a shell from Grotta Fumane in Italy. The interest in the fact that Neanderthals had rubbed this shell with a red mineral pigment. The shell has no obvious functional use, indicating that Neanderthals were motivated by more than mere survival. Quite likely they were interested in its aesthetics, as shown by their applying color to the surface.[5]

Of note is that many red-colored shells have also been found in a single site occupied by Homo sapiens. This indicates that H. sapiens and Neanderthals occupied that same general area at different times, or even possibly at the same time. Furthermore, “we know modern humans and Neanderthals interbred successfully on many occasions”, supporting the view that they lived near each other and at the same general time.[6]

It also raises the possibility that some of the artifacts attributed to Neanderthals were made by Homo sapiens. Some believe that H. sapiens were differentiated primarily because H. sapiens displayed greater repetition and coherence in their material culture than did the Neanderthals. This may be true only because H sapiens left more artifacts behind. Furthermore, an object that may have been meaningful to one Neanderthal group might have puzzled another group.

In one French cave, discovered in 2016, Neanderthals (possibly H. sapiens) snapped hundreds of stalagmites off the cave floor and arranged them into rings several meters across. It looked like very purposeful activity, but what purpose this activity actually served is very difficult to discern. Is this behavior any different than the aesthetic objects made by early Homo sapiens?

When asked “Do these findings bring us any closer to solving the mystery of the Neanderthal extinction?” professor Sykes answered:

It’s clear that Neanderthals were good at being hunter-gatherers, and they survived all sorts of dramatic climate change.…  But, yes, there are these differences with H. sapiens that have been highlighted more and more as we have developed a better understanding of the archaeology and the genetics. So far, every early H. sapiens genome we have looks like it comes from a well-connected population, unlike a lot of the Neanderthal genomes.… I find it hard to accept the argument that Neanderthals were heading for extinction anyway. I think we would very much like there to be a reason for our survival that makes us sound great. But maybe we were just lucky.[7]


The takeaway from the Sykes interview is that the differences between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens may be more due to culture than genetics. Evidence is accumulating that neither group were primitive “ape men” on their way to evolving into modern humans, but both had many of the same mental abilities that we humans have today. The research reviewed above is one small step away from moving from the primitive ape-like brute to a people group, who, with the proper instruction, would be able to take their place in modern society. Although this review illustrates that the gap between Neanderthals and modern humans is slowly being closed, it also shows how little we actually know about Neanderthals and their culture.


An early picture of a Neanderthal. All of the drawings shown below, including this one, were used in many different textbooks and also in various editions of the same text.


From a 1920 textbook. Neanderthal is the drawing in the center.


Another textbook example that uses Neanderthals to prove human evolution.


Evolutionary philogeny of man From a 1925 textbook. Note Neanderthal, the third picture up from the bottom on the left. The White man is at the apex. Also note how primitive the Australian is shown to be.


An early textbook placed Neanderthals between so-called Java Man and modern man. From Benjamin Gruenberg, Elementary Biology, Ginn & Company, Boston, MA, 1924, p. 493. Neanderthal Man is drawing #2. Notice the mention of the fraudulent Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man.



[1] Barras, Colin,  Rebecca Wragg Sykes on the objects that reveal the Neanderthal mind. New Scientist, 7 September 2022.

[2] Barras, 2022.

[3] Lidz, Franz, “What Do We Really Know About Neanderthals? The Smithsonian Magazine 50(2):24-35,  86, May 2019.

[4] Bergman, Jerry, Evolution’s Blunders, Frauds and Forgeries. Atlanta, GA: CMI Publishing, 2017.

[5]  Peresani, Marco, An Ochered Fossil Marine Shell From the Mousterian of Fumane Cave. PLoS One 8(7): e68572Italyhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3707824/, 2013.

[6] Marshall, Michael, “More tangles in our human story.” Two newly unveiled human fossil discoveries suggest we still haven’t unraveled  all the twists and turns in our family tree. New Scientist 250(3341):10-11, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S02624079210112223 July 2021, .

[7] Barras, 2022.

Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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  • Roccop777 says:

    Thank you for this article. Just a few days ago Svante Pääbo, a researcher at the Max-Planck-Institute in Leipzig,Germany, received a Nobel prize for his research sequencing the genome of the Neanderthal man and in so doing, “proving” the evolution of humans to primates. I live in Germany — and my daughter lives with her family in Leipzig– and could therefore read the results of his research in German. Although trumpeting how this confirms human evolution, after carefully reading through the article, I found nothing of the sort to confirm this. Jerry Bergman’s article lays out the verifable facts that Neandertaler Man was fully human and not merely a link on the way to becoming human.

    • Thank you for your comment. Dr Bergman may write again about Pääbo, who was influential in discovering “ancient DNA” in Neanderthal bones, and proving that modern humans have Neanderthal DNA in their genomes. This demonstrates that we are all one species.

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