Most of us think of the word “neandertal” as an insult. We use it to describe someone who’s backward or not so smart. And why wouldn’t we? After all, our ancestral caveman cousins lacked intelligence and managed to go extinct while we, the modern humans, survived and thrived.
At least, that’s what we’ve always told ourselves. But maybe we’ve been wrong.
Recent research on neandertals suggests that, despite our beliefs that we were superior to them, we may, in fact, be them - at least in part. One study concludes that some of us are 4 percent neandertal, and that the rest of us probably have traces of neandertal in us. And two archaeological sites in Spain indicate that neandertals wore face paint and jewelry and likely had language - just like us.
Kate Wong explains the new findings, and shares her thoughts on bringing neandertals back from extinction (yes, this is actually being considered by the scientific community). An editor and writer at Scientific American, she’s also the co-author of “Lucy’s Legacy,” with Donald Johanson.