25 October 2010

Neanderthal lovin'

I never got around to posting this back in may, maybe you saw this (or this) back in May:
Neanderthals, Humans Interbred—First Solid DNA Evidence
Most of us have some Neanderthal genes, study finds.

Ker Than
for National Geographic News
Published May 6,2010

The next time you're tempted to call some oaf a Neanderthal, you might want to take a look in the mirror.

According to a new DNA study, most humans have a little Neanderthal in them—at least 1 to 4 percent of a person's genetic makeup. The study uncovered the first solid genetic evidence that "modern" humans—or Homo sapiens—interbred with their Neanderthal neighbors, who mysteriously died out about 30,000 years ago.

What's more, the Neanderthal-modern human mating apparently took place in the Middle East, shortly after modern humans had left Africa, not in Europe—as has long been suspected. "We can now say that, in all probability, there was gene flow from Neanderthals to modern humans," lead study author Ed Green of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a prepared statement.
It always seemed weird to me that the idea of these two kinds of humans interbreeding was always so taboo. Of course, Neanderthals were discovered in a time (1829) when Europe was in the grip of a deep interest in racial difference and classification, so it's not surprising that they were immediately consigned to absolute difference - and sex between slightly different shades of contemporary human was illegal in a lot of places only a generation ago. It never made sense on a gut level to me, though - Neanderthals were people, they could speak, make tools and jewelry, bury their dead, and lived along side Homo Sapiens Sapiens for millenia. The idea that at least a few of them wouldn't get it on at some point is ridiculous. (There's also an answer to this question here.) I kind of like the idea that I'm part Neanderthal.

Though maybe I just read Clan of the Cave Bear one too many times as a kid.

On the other hand, maybe it was the Neanderthals who were racist against us. Just sayin'.

1 comment:

  1. I've actually read before that despite us using the term neanderthal to mean stupid, many of their skills sets, like creating stone arrows, would be extremely difficult, not at all "primitive". kind of a tangent, but it super annoys me when people use the term "primitive living skills" to refer to totally sophisticated technologies that are pre-industrial, not primitive.