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Did Neanderthals have the intellectual capacity to read?

  1. Jan 10, 2018 #1
    I recently received the results from my DNA tests at 23andme. I found out that I have more Neanderthal DNA than 80% of customers at 23andme. This has got me pondering the Neanderthals.

    My impression is that most anthropologists believe that the homo sapiens deliberately caused the Neanderthals to go extinct. I recently read the book Sapiens, and the author of that book says that the homo sapiens prevailed against the Neanderthals because the homo sapiens worked together in far larger groups than Neanderthals ever would. The Neanderthals did not make art that last to this day in caves, while homo sapiens did. Because of these facts, I think that most anthropologists believe that homo sapiens were/are more intelligent than the Neanderthals were. I believe that the Neanderthals had larger skulls than homo sapiens, which would suggest that the Neanderthals had larger brains than homo sapiens. But I think that most anthropologists think that the balance of the evidence favors the idea that homo sapiens were/are more intelligent than Neanderthals.

    I know that there were no written languages anywhere in the world before the Neanderthals went extinct around 30,000 years ago. I'm curious as to how history would have played out if Neanderthals never went extinct. I mean, there has been all types of racism and drama about racism in human history with just different races of one species of humans: homo sapiens. Imagine the political implications and other implications of two different species of humans co-existing in the modern world! It could have happened. If Neanderthals never went extinct, would Neanderthals have the intelligence to read and write? What do you base your answer on?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 11, 2018 #2
    Last year, I think most anthropologists changed their minds.

    I can't find a link to the original research, but here's a news article:

    The gist of this is that there wasn't a single contact with Neanderthals and Africans where the Neanderthals were defeated.
    Instead, it was a continual interbreeding of Neanderthals with Africans as wave on wave of Africans moved north - eventually diluting the Neanderthal gene contribution to what we see today.

    So were the Neanderthals were smart enough to read and write? Since reading and writing first became prevalent where the Neanderthals originated, it would certainly seem that they had some of the most critical talents. More broadly, given the lack of a strong dividing line between Caucasians and Neanderthals, almost any Caucasian could claim to Neanderthal - and most people are willing to concede that Caucasians have the talents you are asking about.

    Here's another article:

    Apparently, from that article, the work was published in the journal Science.
  4. Jan 11, 2018 #3
  5. Jan 11, 2018 #4


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    Others have argued that geographic factors, not genetic factors, are responsible to the faster development of written language and other innovations in Eurasia rather than elsewhere. See the argument put forth in Guns, Germs and Steel.

    There is also some genetic evidence suggesting Neanderthals lacked certain critical genes for language:
  6. Jan 14, 2018 #5

    Fervent Freyja

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    I would say that they had the capacity to understand symbolism. Just as we can now teach some animals to understand symbols. Had there been an animal around to teach them, then they probably would have been able to understand and use symbols to communicate.
  7. Jan 14, 2018 #6
    Nobody really answered the question, IMO.
  8. Jan 14, 2018 #7

    Fervent Freyja

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    What did you expect? Nobody can give you a clear yes or no on it.
  9. Jan 14, 2018 #8
    You could speculate and make an educated guess.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 15, 2018
  10. Jan 14, 2018 #9

    Fervent Freyja

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    I did... :)
  11. Jan 15, 2018 #10
    Except this is a science forum and we have rules on speculation. This thread has gone as far as it can.
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