Neanderthals: so close and yet so far

chasing sabretooths

For me, Neanderthals are a little bit like sabertooth cats: an example of a powerful, superbly adapted organism, from which we could learn a lot, but which disappeared from the Earth just a moment too early (geologically speaking). Like the sabertooths, Neanderthals were considered for many years (by both scientists and the general public) like brutish, inferior creatures which almost deserved to become extinct, their place to be taken by faster, cleverer species (modern cats in the case of the sabertooth, modern humans in the case of Neanderthals). But now as we humans get an ever more acute sense of loss in the face of the vanishing natural world, there is a perception that newer is not always better, and also that sometimes there is as much to learn from the loser as there is from the winner. After all, in the long term all species are destined to extinction…

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