The Well-Tailored Neanderthal; Or, They Walk Among Us!

GNC

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I listened to the audio commentary on the Quest For Fire DVD many moons ago, and Ron Perlman was on it, very good company he was too. He said the makeup man on the film was delighted when he saw Ron, because he didn't have to do very much to his features to make him fit in with the actors playing Neanderthals in the film, who needed more work. He also described himself as "the first Jewish caveman" (!).
 

Mikefule

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Lovely article. I particularly liked the series of single word captions for the photos: "lumpen" and "hirsute" etc. Someone had fun with that.

The thrust of the article is that the way we depict Neanderthals says more about our attitudes than it says about the Neanderthals themselves. This is certainly the case: many of the females are depicted with bare breasts but all of the males' penises are discretely concealed! That is a modern attitude applied perhaps unthinkingly to the reconstructions.
 

Mikefule

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"were literally decimated "

Pedantry demands I point out that decimate literally means to reduce by 10%.
I am not aware of any term for a 90% reduction, but it's not far off genocide.
Pedantry demands that I point out that "decimate" was specifically a form of punishment in which 1/10 of a Roman military unit was selected to be killed by the other 90%.

It was only later that it came to mean losing 10%, or a more substantial proportion, by other means.

There has been a reversal in the public perception, with many people thinking it means something nearer to only 10% being left.

Etymology is fun, but is often uninstructive. Try looking at a distant object through some telescopic motorcycle forks.

People make connections and assign or assume new meanings for words. I suspect that many people are referring to the "epicentre" of the "epidemic" because the two words start with "epi", and think that a "pandemic" is the name we give to an epidemic that causes "pandemonium" or "panic".

Back to the Neanderthals: no doubt the point has been made before, but it is insulting to assume that Neanderthals were stupid or clumsy. In their heyday, they were as highly evolved for their own niche as any other species is today, from shark or tiger to slug or jellyfish. I'm sure a Neanderthal would outlast me in almost any survival situation.

I'm also a bit uncomfortable using "Neanderthal" to refer to any named individual as a "Neanderthal" merely because of their supposedly brutish appearance. That picture of Valuev with his wife is lovely in its tenderness.
 

Ogdred Weary

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To be pedantic myself (who's the real pedant, the pedant, or the pedant who pedants the pedant?), is there such a thing as "highly evolved"? I mean things evolve and they stop if there's no further need or pressure to do so, or so goes the theory. I mean there are plenty of archaic life forms that have changed seemingly little in millions or occasionally billions of years.

I take and agree with your point though, our somewhat chauvinistic attitude to Neanderthals is misplaced.
 

PeniG

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Jargon often uses words that are value-laden in everyday speech in a neutral way. In evolutionary science, the term "primitive," which laymen tend to hear as pejorative, means "hasn't changed much over time." The term "advanced" means "has undergone a lot of adaptations." The human eye is an advanced organ because it has undergone numerous adaptations and is now radically different from the first batch of light sensitive cells, but it is in no way an elegant or well-engineered organ. Neanderthals were every bit as advanced and highly-evolved as modern humans. They had a slightly different suite of adaptations, but the number of adaptations was comparable between the two species. That we have proven to be more successful over the last 40K years or so is as much due to contingent circumstances as evolutionary adaptation, and nothing about our advanced set of adaptations guarantees our survival or ability to adapt to the next set of evolutionary pressures and contingencies. Sharks are a highly successful primitive set of species; their original set of adaptations has proven adequate to millions of years of changes in their environment, so they haven't made radical adaptations.
 

Naughty_Felid

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Jargon often uses words that are value-laden in everyday speech in a neutral way. In evolutionary science, the term "primitive," which laymen tend to hear as pejorative, means "hasn't changed much over time." The term "advanced" means "has undergone a lot of adaptations." The human eye is an advanced organ because it has undergone numerous adaptations and is now radically different from the first batch of light sensitive cells, but it is in no way an elegant or well-engineered organ. Neanderthals were every bit as advanced and highly-evolved as modern humans. They had a slightly different suite of adaptations, but the number of adaptations was comparable between the two species. That we have proven to be more successful over the last 40K years or so is as much due to contingent circumstances as evolutionary adaptation, and nothing about our advanced set of adaptations guarantees our survival or ability to adapt to the next set of evolutionary pressures and contingencies. Sharks are a highly successful primitive set of species; their original set of adaptations has proven adequate to millions of years of changes in their environment, so they haven't made radical adaptations.
I would add the unquantifiable nature of "luck" to our success - good to see you back.
 

staticgirl

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Also quite a lot of the old hybrid vigour. We appear to have shagged every hominid in sight.
 
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