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In the Neandertal Mind

Our evolutionary comrades celebrated vaunted intellects before meeting a memorable demise

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5:23pm, September 11, 2004

Call a person a Neandertal, and no one within earshot will mistake the statement for a compliment. It's a common, convenient way to cast someone as a stupid, brutish lout. From an evolutionary perspective, the invective has no basis in truth, say archaeologist Thomas Wynn and psychologist Frederick L. Coolidge. This interdisciplinary duo, based at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, has drawn on a range of scientific research and prehistoric finds to reconstruct how Neandertals thought and even what their personalities might have been like. Forget the stereotype of these extinct human predecessors, Wynn and Coolidge assert; for tens of thousands of years, Neandertals were as smart as the ancient humans that lived alongside them.

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