What’d he say? Fred Flintstone had lots to say and so did the comics and other cartoons which attempted to mock the lowly Neanderthal. But that was before we knew; apparently we were the fools, not the Neanderthals. A report picked up by ScienceDaily said that modern language and speech can be traced back to the last common ancestor we shared with the Neanderthals roughly half a million years ago.
Two questions arise. First, what did we say and, second, are there any remnants of Neanderthal-ic in any modern language today? ‘Huh? might be one extant word. More importantly, what did each species have to say to each other? Better yet, what did each species say to their own people at the end of the conversation? Did prejudices arise? Fear? Mistrust? What did each group learn from the other?
In that the ‘common ancestor’ lived a half-million years ago as both species diverged, there was a long separation of the species- ample time to not only produce an insular, parochial vocabulary but also a set of specific knowledge and a unique culture. When did they first meet? What were the specifics of that first encounter?
For a long time anthropologists suspected that we, homo sapiens, killed off the Neanderthal because it appeared that they came to an abrupt end. Rather, recent evidence suggests that rather than genocide, we and they intermarried and homo sapiens came out the ‘winner.’ Note: this is true of non-Africans only. How much Neanderthal do you have in your DNA?
The website 23andme will analyze your DNA and tell you your percentage of Neanderthal for $99. Interested?
For me, another question arises: did God/god create Neanderthals separate from and distinct from homo sapiens? If so, did THEY too disobey God/god? Did Neanderthals eat the ‘forbidden fruit?’ Finally, was he named Adam and she, Eve? Funny stuff, to be sure.
The next time you let out a grunt, think of your possible cousin, Mr. Neanderthal.