Neanderthal Tools as Complex as Those of Modern Humans

on August 30, 2008

BBC News: “‘Complexity’ of Neanderthal Tools” To our Neanderthal readers: on behalf of all Homo sapiens, pardon our past arrogance and TV commercials about cavemen—not to mention other incorrect portrayals of you!

A US–British team honed in on stone tools known that were used by Neanderthals and “early modern humans” (as BBC News describes our Homo sapiens ancestors). The work was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Human Evolution.

The stone tools developed by our Homo sapiens ancestors were “no more sophisticated” than those devised by Neanderthals.

To put it bluntly, the stone tools developed by our Homo sapiens ancestors were “no more sophisticated” than those devised by Neanderthals. Thus, in the BBC’s words, “The findings cast doubt on suggestions that more advanced stone technologies gave modern humans a competitive edge over the Neanderthals.”

The researchers recreated the stone tools, both wide ones known as “flakes”—used by both early modern humans and Neanderthals—and narrower “blades,” thought to have only been used by Homo sapiens.

Based on the idea that the later blades were superior, “[s]ome archaeologists often use the development of stone blades . . . as evidence for the superior intellect of our species,” continues the BBC report.

But the researchers, led by the University of Exeter’s Metin Eren, analyzed their recreation of the tools—determining how many were produced, how much cutting edge was created, how efficient the tools were, and how long the tools lasted. The surprising result? The team found that neither type of tool was more useful than the other, and the flakes were, in some ways, even more efficient than the blades. Thus, blades were not a technological advance representing modern humans’ superiority.

“When we think of Neanderthals, we need to stop thinking in terms of ‘stupid’ or ‘less advanced’ and more in terms of ‘different,’” cautioned Eren. “Our research disputes a major pillar holding up the long-held assumption that Homo sapiens was more advanced than Neanderthals.”

The research also reinforces the idea that our ancestors did not edge out Neanderthals thanks to our superiority, but rather Neanderthals disappeared for other, unknown reasons.

Neanderthals ... were fully intelligent, “modern” humans.

Commenting on the news, the London Natural History Museum’s Chris Stringer, head of human origins, notes that Homo sapiens tools have been found with greater specialization. Nonetheless, he explained, “There are now very few paleoanthropologists who consider the Neanderthals to have been ‘stupid’ . . . we know that the Neanderthals were very capable technicians, and that their tools would have been excellent for activities such as butchery, working skins or wood.”

Eren’s study confirms what young-earth creationists have long taught: Neanderthals, based on their physical similarity and archaeological evidence of their lifestyle, were fully intelligent, “modern” humans. It is likely that the genes coding for at least some of their skeletal differences survived on the Ark, and after Babel, groups that have become known as Neanderthals migrated into Europe. Likely exacerbating their skeletal “differences” was rickets. But what’s certainly clear is the humans who are now called Neanderthals were intelligent, capable humans, made in God’s image and descended from Adam, just as are the myriad of other people groups, despite our physical differences, that live on the world today.


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