Omnivorous Neanderthals

The most recent missed Brian Thomas article was called Neandertals Apparently Knew Medicinal Plants. The primary subject was a Naturwissenschaften paper from August called Neanderthal medics? Evidence for food, cooking, and medicinal plants entrapped in dental calculus (available open-access, at least for the rest of the month), which examined hardened dental plaque (calculus) from Sidrón Cave Neanderthals and the microfossils and molecules embedded within it:

Our results provide the first molecular evidence for inhalation of wood-fire smoke and bitumen or oil shale and ingestion of a range of cooked plant foods. We also offer the first evidence for the use of medicinal plants by a Neanderthal individual.

The first conclusion that Thomas draws is the same as Jeff Tomkins did a couple of weeks ago, namely that Neanderthals were human. As such, the same response can be made as then: while it’s true that any reasonable definition of ‘human’ not arbitrarily restricted to what we currently call Homo sapiens would need to include Neanderthals, and even that a case can be made for the idea that the distinction between H. sapiens and Neanderthals in fact lies at the subspecies level, there are still differences (primarily morphological) between the two groups. The creationist narrative being pushed is that Neanderthals are just another group descended from Adam, and their claims that they were “fully human” and “identical” to modern humans – both true if you use certain definitions both of ‘human’ and ‘identical’ – are not so much contrary to the current scientific view as an attempt to undermine it. The appeal of saying ‘we’re right, the scientists were wrong’ to the creationists, no matter how accurate that really is, cannot be understated. Continue reading