In Entangled, Graham Hancock’s debut novel, an essential part of the story involves the so-called “Neanderthal Enigma,” a raging academic debate over what caused Homo neanderthalensis to die out some 35,000 years ago. Hancock’s Neanderthals, called the “Uglies,” play an important role in Entangled. They are depicted as gentle, sensitive, telepathic, creative: They did not make cave paintings but they did use makeup.
Shocking new scientific research suggests that Hancock’s depiction of Neanderthals may be far closer to the truth than even he may have thought. Jennifer Viegas reports for Discovery News via MSNBC:
Neanderthals are often depicted as brutish club wielders, but a new book suggests Neanderthals had a sensitive side, displaying “a deep seated sense of compassion.”
The findings, also published in the journal Time & Mind, are part of a larger study charting how empathy and other related feelings evolved in early humans.
Researchers Penny Spikins, Andy Needham and Holly Rutherford from the University of York Archaeology Department examined archaeological evidence for the way emotions began to emerge in our ancestors six million years ago and then developed through more recent times.
Based on fossils, artifacts and other evidence, the scientists propose a four stage model for the development of human compassion…
[continues at Discovery News via MSNBC]
But that’s not all! Marc Kaufman reports in the Washington Post that there’s a wholesale re-evaluation of how Neanderthals relate to us, saying that
…these often disparaged humans are actually “more like our brothers and sisters than even our cousins.”
and apparently “recent finds suggest quite a few in central Europe were handsome redheads.” So if there’s a ginger in your life…
The Washington Post story is well worth reading if you are interested in the topic — there are many more fascinating items about Neanderthals.