Before Farming

Rehabilitating Neandertals

anthropological constructions of Neandertals in the process of ‘othering’

Before Farming (2010), 2010, (4), 1–11.

Abstract

In the literature, both popular and scientific, there prevails a view that Neandertals were a separate, early species of humans whose body, mind and culture were inferior when compared with those of our direct ancestors, ‘anatomically modern’ people. We argue here that the logic of scientific methodology provides no grounds to separate Neandertals as a distinct species from ourselves, and that their mental and cultural abilities overlapped with those of other humans alive at their times. Such arguments have appeared in the literature before, but were usually limited to certain aspects – biological or archaeological only – of Neandertals. Here we provide a synthetic, though not exhaustive, discussion of the problem, arguing that the ‘otherness’ of Neandertals is a phenomenon reflecting our cultural biases. We conclude that Neandertals were people like us, at best to be considered a ‘separate race’ and that they directly contributed to our present day biological form and to our culture.

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Saniotis, Arthur

Henneberg, Maciej