Would You Let Your Daughter Date a Neanderthal?
A scientific inquiry by the Fringe
Earlier this summer a study concluded that most modern Eurasian humans have at least a 1-4% of Neanderthal genes. The question has existed for at least 46 years*, would humans interbreed with a Neanderthal?
Neanderthals ranged over much of Europe and Asia, arriving at their “completed” form over 100,000 years ago, and they didn’t disappear until about 25,000 years ago. Our homo sapiens sapiens ancestors lived for quite a long time along side Neanderthals much of that time. Not in the “line” of humans, Neanderthals are usually considered their own species. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that at least some Neanderthals invented tools and shared many other human traits; some evidence suggests they buried their dead with ceremony.
Neanderthal range; from Wiki, of course.
Heavier and stronger with slightly larger brains Neanderthals were often hunters of very large game. Their jaws were heavy for cracking food and so their speech was probably rudimentary. It is believed their hair was red, and perhaps the gene for red hair in humans is part of that 4%.
But, did humans ever breed with Neanderthals?
Having spent a great deal of time in bars as a young man, I’m going to say, hell yes. I’d give a Neandrathal gal until about 3:00 A.M. to get a date in a bar; if it’s a biker bar, figure midnight.
A Neanderthal Gal (artist’s conception).
It’s important to remember that Neanderthals were very nearly human, a dating criteria a lot of lonely guys lose sight of, if the stories of homesick solitary Basque shepherds and homophobic cowboys are to be believed. Why would we wonder if some of our ancestors fresh from the ‘hood would pause to grab a little furry Neanderthal booty in a cold cave on a rainy night.
Picture this: it’s 45,000 B.C.E.; three lonely modern human hunters are caught in a rainstorm. They have some dried fruit and some fermented yak milk, a kind of “hooch” in a gourd. They dash into a deep undercut to escape the rain only to find two young Neanderthal gals. The hunters are young, and shivering. Hunter one looks at his two companions. “Well, boys, we could put a skin over their heads, what do you think?” One of the companions says “how much fermented Yak’s milk do we have”. The second says “I’d rather spoon with you, Hank.” Knowing how guys can be when they’re out hunting, especially when they’ve been drinking mare’s milk, how can we assume anything else? Early humans in particular were not likely to say “yeah, but I love my gal back at the village” or worry if Jesus was looking on. Most likely they simply gave a fictitious name, swilled a little yak juice and went for it.
Neanderthal Child, Artist’s reconstruction, University of Zurich
If they had, there is every reason to believe that at least some coupling would have provided some “hybrid” homo sapiens.
We’re lucky there’s only a little Neanderthal blood coursing through our veins. We might all have wool instead of hair.
*My pals and I had stolen two beers and had already discussed all the local girls before we moved on to “would ya a Neanderthal chick?” We’d only just discussed Cro-Magnion Man and Neanderthals in school, proving the value of a public education. I assumed my friend’s sister Gwendolyn was a pretty close approximation of a Neanderthal, a resemblance that can only have grown as the years passed by.