Re: DISCOVER/Neanderthal/Homo Sap.

Clifford T. Brown (
4 Sep 1995 19:05:03 GMT (Peggy Hall) wrote:
> I just picked up the new Discover Magazine. There is a question posed on
> the cover regarding Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens living side by side
> for so long: How could we live side by side for 50,000 years and never
> have sex ?
> What do you think ?
> --
> ==========================================================================
> Peggy Hall
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------

First of all, the traditional view is, and largely remains,
that Neanderthals were Homo sapiens: Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.
It is only in the last few years that a handful af archaeologists have
started to argue, partly on taphonomic bases, that neanderthals were
human (i.e., Homo neanderthalensis). Now, by definition, if Homo sapiens
and neanderthals are not the same species, they cannot have fertile
offspring. That does not necessarily mean they could not have sex,
physically, but I have never heard of animals of different species
voluntarily having sex. Of course, if they were of the same species,
then I would merely be a question of interracial sex, which despite
our prejudices, is not at all uncommon and certainly not difficult.
Thus, if they were of the same species, then they probably did have sex,
at those times and places where the two groups had significant contact.
They just didn't have sex often enough to obliterate the racial differences
between the two groups. It is my personal view, although the debate lies
some distance outside of my archaeological specialty, that those who
argue that neandethals were not Homo sapiens have not made a sufficiently
convincing case to overthrow the entrenched traditional interpretation.
It is not irrelevant to note that those who have made the arguement
are either young iconoclasts or old iconoclasts.

Let me know if you're interested in more information. I could
probably dig some more up.