Neanderthals were not as stupid as previously believed

August 26th, 2008 - 12:19 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, August 26 (ANI): New evidence has surfaced that debunks an earlier theory propounded by archaeologists, which stated that Neanderthals became extinct because they were less intelligent than our ancestors.

The research team that has rejected the earlier theory is from the University of Exeter, Southern Methodist University, Texas State University, and the Think Computer Corporation, which spent three years producing stone tools.

Eventually, they have shown that early stone tool technologies developed by our species, Homo sapiens, were no more efficient than those used by Neanderthals.

They recreated stone tools known as flakes, which were wider tools originally used by both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, and blades, a narrower stone tool later adopted by Homo sapiens.

Archaeologists often use the development of stone blades and their assumed efficiency as proof of Homo sapiens superior intellect.

To test this, the team analyzed the data to compare the number of tools produced, how much cutting-edge was created, the efficiency in consuming raw material and how long tools lasted.

Homo sapiens first produced blades during their colonization of Europe from Africa approximately 40,000 years ago.

This has traditionally been thought to be a dramatic technological advance, helping Homo sapiens out-compete, and eventually eradicate, their Stone Age cousins.

Yet, when the research team analyzed their data, there was no statistical difference between the efficiency of the two technologies. In fact, their findings showed that in some respects, the flakes favoured by Neanderthals were more efficient than the blades adopted by Homo sapiens.

According to Metin Eren, an MA Experimental Archaeology student at the University of Exeter and lead author on the research paper, Our research disputes a major pillar holding up the long-held assumption that Homo sapiens were more advanced than Neanderthals. It is time for archaeologists to start searching for other reasons why Neanderthals became extinct while our ancestors survived.

Technologically speaking, there is no clear advantage of one tool over the other. When we think of Neanderthals, we need to stop thinking in terms of stupid or less advanced and more in terms of different, he added.

The Neanderthals, believed to be a different species from Homo sapiens, evolved in Ice Age Europe, while the latter evolved in Africa before spreading out to the rest of the world around 50-40,000 years ago.

Neanderthals are thought to have died out around 28,000 years ago, suggesting at least 10,000 years of overlap and possible interaction between the two species in Europe. (ANI)

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