I always loved Neandertals, and now I know why. I’m one of them.
Neandertals were of course the people who evolved in Eurasia from several groups of hominids that migrated out of Africa beginning around two million years ago. They’re named after the place their bones were first found, the Neander Valley in present Germany.
Compared to modern humans, Neandertals were stockier with heavier facial features. Primitive anthropologists early in the last century stereotyped them as primitive cavemen.
But later research revealed that they used fire, made tools, navigated boats, created art, practiced religion and ceremonially buried their dead. They could speak as well as we can. They were typically fair-skinned with reddish hair.
Dressed appropriately, a Neandertal could pass for a modern person, albeit one with coarse features.
Most intriguing, their brains on average were a little bigger than modern brains.
That should be no surprise. Stupid people are not able to find, kill and butcher a wild six-ton elephant-like animal with eight-foot tusks and a quarter-inch hide, transport it back to their home, cook it, and make tools and jewelry out of the bones and tusks. Could you and your tribe do that?
Fast forward a few hundred thousand years. Long after the migrations of Neandertal’s ancestors, another large migration occurred from Africa to Eurasia. This time it was modern humans. It’s often said that those modern humans are our common ancestors.
That’s true, but misleading. All of us are indeed descended from those modern humans in the sense that all of us have at least one ancestor among them. But most of us are also descended from the pre-existing people in Eurasia – the Neandertals.
Think about it and do the math. You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents and so on. If you go back just ten generations – roughly 300 years – you have a number of great great great great great great great great grandparents that equals 2 raised to the 9th power. That’s 512.
Now 100,000 years is at least 3,000 generations. Your number of great great great etc grandparents from 100,000 years ago is equal to 2 raised to the 2,999 power. That’s an incomprehensibly large number – we’re in the realm of grains of sand on the beach or stars in the Milky Way.
In actuality, the number is not nearly that big, because there are many duplications. There was a lot of inbreeding among distantly related ancestors. (Sorry)
But still, the point is that a large proportion of the total human population were your and my direct ancestors a couple of hundred thousand years ago. Some but not all of those ancestors were those modern humans who most recently migrated out of Africa to Eurasia. Others, however, were the Neandertals who were already in Eurasia after having evolved there from ancient hominids that left Africa a million years earlier.
Anthropologist debated this for a long time. In their cloistered ivory towers, most were sure that migrating modern man did not breed with Neandertals they encountered in Eurasia. Clever modern man simply killed the brutes, was the thinking. Who would want to make love to a stinky stupid Neandertal with red hair?
I knew all along that the anthropologists were wrong. Animals will breed with anything that can’t outrun them. I once saw a dog try to breed with an ottoman. Men are just as bad. They’ll try to breed with farm animals, vegetables and home appliances.
Geneticists recently proved I was right. Modern humans outside Africa have about 2% Neandertal genes.
(Native Africans have a much smaller percentage of Neandertal genes, and even that small percentage might be due to recent rather than ancient back-migration of modern Europeans and Asians to Africa. There’s no fossil evidence that Neandertals were ever in Africa.)
In view of this genetic research, Neandertals did not really “go extinct.” Some were certainly killed by migrating modern humans, and vice versa. That’s what humans do. But large numbers of Neandertals were simply bred into the hordes of incoming modern humans.
So, I’m about 2% Neandertal. And proud of it.
The figure of 2% doesn’t sound like much, but it’s about as much of the genetic makeup that I have from a direct ancestor of five generations ago, or about 200 years ago. Stated another way, I have about as much Neandertal in me as if my great, great, great grandfather had been 100% pureblood Neandertal. In fact, I’m way more Neandertal than Liz Warren is Cherokee.
So Neandertals live on.
But modern man is not off the hook for a genocide of them. Modern man did breed with them, but also killed and ate them.
Modern man got into Neandertals’ jeans and stole their genes, and have been wearing both ever since.
It’s time for this wrong be righted. It’s time for payback. It’s time for reparations.
What’s that you say? You say all this happened a long time ago and the statute of limitations has expired? And, besides, it wasn’t you who committed the wrong and it wasn’t me against whom the wrong was committed?
I don’t care. I’m a victim. Because I want money. And an apology too, but mostly the money.
So cough it up. It might make you feel good about yourself, and I know it will make me feel good about myself. Gimme that Rolex too.
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