Neandertals’ inferiority to early humans questioned

Despite differences in the bone structures of early modern humans and Neandertals, the archeological record does not provide evidence that the extinct hominids were cognitively, technologically or socially inferior, a new study suggests.

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Early modern humans may not have been smarter or more technologically or socially savvy than their Neandertal neighbors.

Like early modern humans, Neandertals may have used specialized bone tools, decorated with ornaments, such as feathers, and innovated, an analysis of the archeological records suggests. The results do not support the idea that Neandertals went extinct because they were inferior to early modern humans. Instead, the extinct hominids may have disappeared as a result of interbreeding with and assimilation into early human communities, researchers argue April 30 in PLOS ONE.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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