Investigating Neanderthal Intelligence Through Artifacts

In summary: I think it's worth trying. After all, if we're trying to figure out how intelligent Neanderthals were, it's important to take into account as many factors as possible. I would...agree that the noise in the system makes it difficult to draw a definitive conclusion, but I think it's worth trying. After all, if we're trying to figure out how intelligent Neanderthals were, it's important to take into account as many factors as possible.
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fluidistic
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I am wondering how reliable it is to gauge the intelligence of say homo neanderthalensis by looking at whether they were "artists", and by the object they used. I understand that the fact that they used Levallois technique to cut flint indicates some sort of intelligence. But the lack of, say, pyramids or writings, does not mean they were not intelligent enough to do these things.

Homo sapiens (our species) exists since many decades of thousands of years. However if we had been extinguished about 10,000 years ago and some other intelligent species would have found what we had done till then, they would not have found most of civilization, no writing whatsoever, no abstract mathematics, etc. However these humans living 10,000 years ago were not much different from the ones of today (evolution within this species occurs but isn't that fast either), so even though they did not display these features, these humans would have been fully capable to endure our modern world if they were born today. Their brains had the capacity to learn topology, even though the objects they used were (seemingly) extremely basics.

The point is that I wonder how intelligent would neanderthaliens fare in today's world. If we cannot rely on judging what they displayed to be capable of in their time, how else can we judge? Physical evidence pointed towards a larger brain volume than our species, although the frontal cortex seems to be smaller, etc. But is that any better than looking at their vestiges?
 
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  • #2
I agree that modern techniques, similar to archeology, are going to be missing huge amounts of data dealing with intelligence.
Much more recent old textiles for example are not often found.

fluidistic said:
how else can we judge?

Genetically recreate the Neanderthals from published DNA sequences.
Study their intelligence.
However, not something that will happen soon.
 
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  • #3
fluidistic said:
I am wondering how reliable it is to gauge the intelligence of say homo neanderthalensis by looking at whether they were "artists", and by the object they used.
Can one determine "intelligence" through examination of culture and/or technology?
A biased opinion can lead to incompleteness.

Recent Example- who would be considered more intelligent? - the South American Incas or the Europeans who brought turmoil to their society.
 
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  • #4
256bits said:
Can one determine "intelligence" through examination of culture and/or technology?
A biased opinion can lead to incompleteness.

Recent Example- who would be considered more intelligent? - the South American Incas or the Europeans who brought turmoil to their society.

Questions about "intelligence" among different species is always a tricky matter. This is especially compounded when we are referring to species that are extinct, because any information we gather will always be indirect. That being said, I think looking at the fossils of say, artwork, tools, etc. that can be conclusively linked to Neanderthals can give us a clue as to the cognitive capacities that Neanderthals possessed. (Note I used the word "conclusively" -- I am curious as to how tools and artwork can be linked in any conclusive matter to Neanderthals as opposed to other hominid species).

Now in terms of your hypothetical example -- since both the Incas and Europeans are from the same species (homo sapiens), they would thus possesses the same intelligence, as do all other humans in the world. The specific technological advancements possessed were obviously different, but that is as much a matter of historical accident as anything else.
 
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StatGuy2000 said:
. The specific technological advancements possessed were obviously different, but that is as much a matter of historical accident as anything else.

I agree. The problem with Neandertals is that we have only their artifacts by which to judge - "specific technological advancements". I think your argument implies there is too much noise in the system to draw any conclusion.
 
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  • #6
StatGuy2000 said:
That being said, I think looking at the fossils of say, artwork, tools, etc. that can be conclusively linked to Neanderthals can give us a clue as to the cognitive capacities that Neanderthals possessed. (Note I used the word "conclusively" -- I am curious as to how tools and artwork can be linked in any conclusive matter to Neanderthals as opposed to other hominid species).
I looked up the Wiki on Neanderthal, and it very encompassing in the their(Neanderthal ) description.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neanderthal
 
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its also tied in with to capacity with language, and its unknown whether they anatomically could speak
 
  • #8
Not reliable at all. There are many, many humans alive today that they could still surpass in intelligence.

They would pass just fine. We have many mentally disabled humans that are able to survive independently nowadays. We can even teach apes how to communicate with us- I imagine it’d be at least slightly more teachable to neanderthals.
 
  • #9
Vanadium 50 said:
I agree. The problem with Neandertals is that we have only their artifacts by which to judge - "specific technological advancements". I think your argument implies there is too much noise in the system to draw any conclusion.

I would largely agree with you -- there is certainly too much noise in the system to draw any definitive conclusions on the "intelligence" (or more specifically cognitive capacities) of Neandertals.

I would also add that inferences based on indirect artifacts could quite possibly lead to multiple hypotheses with respect to cognitive capacities of Neandertals, and it may be hard put to decide which hypotheses are better supported by the data.
 
  • #10
There is also the issue of what it means to be "intelligent". Suppose it was known that Neandertals were better at mental arithmetic than modern humans, but worse with language ability. What would that mean? More intelligent? Less? The same?

Do we mean that they would score better on an SAT test? How would one make sure it wasn't culturally biased?

The "Thagomizer" is a part of which animal?
A. Triceratops
B. Stegosaurus
C. Dimetrodon
D. Ptreodactyl
E. Tyrannosaurus Rex
 
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Related to Investigating Neanderthal Intelligence Through Artifacts

What is the purpose of investigating Neanderthal intelligence through artifacts?

The purpose of this investigation is to gain a better understanding of the cognitive abilities of Neanderthals and how they used tools and created art. By analyzing artifacts left behind by Neanderthals, we can learn more about their intelligence and problem-solving skills.

What types of artifacts are typically used in this type of investigation?

The artifacts used in this type of investigation include tools, such as hand axes and scrapers, as well as art objects like cave paintings and engravings. These artifacts can provide insight into the technological and artistic capabilities of Neanderthals.

How do scientists determine the intelligence of Neanderthals from artifacts?

Scientists use a combination of methods to determine the intelligence of Neanderthals from artifacts. This includes analyzing the complexity and functionality of tools, as well as the level of skill and creativity demonstrated in art objects. They also compare these artifacts to those created by modern humans to understand the similarities and differences in intelligence.

What have scientists discovered about Neanderthal intelligence through this type of investigation?

Through this type of investigation, scientists have discovered that Neanderthals were capable of creating sophisticated tools and artwork. They also had a complex social structure and were able to adapt to changing environments. However, there is still ongoing debate and research about the extent of their intelligence compared to modern humans.

How does this research impact our understanding of human evolution?

Studying Neanderthal intelligence through artifacts can provide valuable insights into human evolution. It helps us understand the capabilities and behaviors of our ancient human ancestors and how they may have influenced the development of modern humans. It also challenges the traditional view that Neanderthals were less intelligent than modern humans and highlights the unique abilities of this species.

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