View Full Version : Neanderthal Parodox
03-21-2012, 06:20 PM
Scenario: It's an alternate timeline of Earth. Due to a much harsher climate and a new mountain range; and the Mediterranean remains a unflooded, but is incredibly dry and hostile as well; thus making the massage between the Middle East and Europe inaccessible.
Humans never colonize Europe, and the Caucasian races never exist. Instead, Neanderthals continue on existing in Europe (going extinct elsewhere with other non-homo sapiens), not being the subject of interbreeding with or possible genocide by Homo sapiens in the Middle East and possibly Europe. During the 1200s, a voyage attempts to sail around the coast of Europe, but go missing when they hit Britain. Due to this incident and heavy superstition, no one dares try to cross the mountains or deserts to enter the continent.
Now flash forward to the modern day. You're part of a civilization roughly on the same technological level as Victorian era Britain and France. The gateway to Europe has finally become accessible with machinery help, and you and your party land in what is Romania in our world. While setting up camp one night, you feel like your being watched. Later that week, a party of white skinned, neanderthals come across your party; more curious then aggressive, however the men are physically imposing and are armed. A elderly Thal approaches you. Do you treat the neanderthal as a human, or not?
Part 2 of question:
When you and your party report your findings upon your return to Africa/Asia, what do you tell them about the 'natives'; and how do you think your kinsmen will react?
Things to note:
These Neanderthals would not look or act much like any peoples humanity has encountered yet. Skin tone, musculature, hair type, eye color; and vocal range would all be different (though no, they did not have an enormous brow ridge and protruding lips like Insurance commercials give them, they looked much more human then that).
They were about as advanced as the Cro-magnon humans, but for the sake of simplicity we'll say these surviving thals are still in the Paleolithic technology level. Neanderthals would have been physically imposing, being roughly the same height (if not occasionally taller) then early homo sapiens, and much stronger. They did carry out practices such as burying and grieving the dead, as well as cloth making and very primitive music. They also were able to speak their own language.
Conversely, there is some evidence that (like humans) they were occasionally cannibals; and their is no telling if they were any more aggressive or passive then Homo sapiens.
03-21-2012, 09:35 PM
Just as a small note about race/skin tone: The "caucasian race" is really the diaspora of central Asian peoples, including everyone from Swedes to Bengalis. Thus caucasian, light skinned people would likely still exist. Also the neanderthals did not only live in Europe, and the inter-breeding of neanderthals and early modern humans occurred in the middle east. They may or may not have contributed to light skin/hair/eye color. I will, however, assume in order to keep with your situation that for some reason Neanderthals became extinct in the middle east and the central asian people and their descendants never came to be, and that the only known eye color is brown and hair color black.
It's hard for me to step out of my american anthropological shoes on this one, but i'll try my best. My answer as me would be a definite "yes" to question one, but in your situation it's hard to say. I would suppose that, while probably holding some fear of the Neanderthal, visual clues of his/her humaness would lead me to, at least initially, treat him or her as a human. I would obviously be curious about the differences, however, as this would be an extreme different form of human. The closest parallell I can make with this in the real world is with the strange, tall, light-skinned, weirdly-talking, hairy, gun-wielding, metal armored spaniards arriving on Caribbean shores. The spaniards were considered human in this case (except by a minority following prophecy in the Mexica priesthood), but I don't think the differences were nearly as great as they would be meeting a neanderthal.
Probably feeling some superiority of my culture in this case, I would remark on the primitiveness of their tools and strange stoutness. I would probably remark on their ability to live in colder areas with less clothing, and their odd hunting styles. I would also say something about odd skin tone, hair color, and eye color. Just a basic description of their way of life and how they look, probably drawing pictures: much the way the Europeans did of native americans. Unsure of how to depict them properly, I would probably end up drawing them too much like us or too exaggerated for realism, similar to how europeans drew natives.
People would probably react with curiosity at first, and then send more expeditions. If the conditions were right (there was overpopulation in Asia, need for resources, etc) attempts at settlements would probably happen, and inevitable conflict arise.
Concerning more on neanderthals: they were about as advanced as humans, but don't take that to mean the same.
Just some differences, for other people:
Much slower running pace, poor endurance while running.
Very good endurance while walking.
Much poorer sense of smell than us.
Needed more food per individual to survive.
Stronger, more resistant to cold but heavier, more vulnerable to heat.
Initially had better tools than Homo s. s., but failed to improve on them while Homo s. s. improved rapidly.
Different communication skills - probably lacking in their ability to communicate abstract ideas and share concepts. Probably not as adept at group coordination.
Greater emphasis on music.
Grew at about an equal rate, but we reached mental maturity slower. However:
Very late reproductive capabilities compared to us.
Probably lived longer.
Despite strength, could not throw or pull as well as us.
Brain wired differently - as a result probably perceived the world differently.
Similar diet to stone age modern humans: mostly meat, with some vegetables and grains. Could cook and make fire.
Almost certainly had some form of religion/spirituality.
03-22-2012, 04:48 AM
^ I see, very interesting view my friend. I am aware Neanderthals did live in Central Asia, I just forgot to mention this population (as well as the Denisovan hominids) went extinct just after encountering early man some 30,000 years ago. And as for the 'Central Asian Caucasoids', the large mountain range and different climate made those area uninhabitable
03-22-2012, 12:18 PM
it would very much depend upon what kind of civilisation we are dealing with. If we assume that man only expanded to africa and the middle east (possibly the far east as well but that a minor point in this analysis) then advanaced civilisation would have developed in sub-saharan with its resources and semi-arable farming land but the long distances would lead to ah eavily decentralised state acting on consensus. Another possible hub is the middle east and north africa connected by ships sailing along the southern mediterranean, here due to limited territory states would be smaller city states who are in constant conflict with each other for terriory. Possibly a wider war between these two types of civilisation fought in the sahara or along the coast.
If we take the first option, heavily decentralised and operating on consenus we might be less aggressive, but on the other hand the long distances means that people are limited to their own kind. Reacting with hostility to out-siders.
The second option you have a people more open to differences but also more used to violence and conquest.
The ultimate answer is you treat them as beings, perhaps human. perhaps not but not as equals.
03-22-2012, 06:27 PM
I don't see how this is a paradox...
Neandethal scenario maybe.
Anyway I would like to think I would treat them as human but I have no way of knowing what human society would be like if things were that different.
18th century humans certainly would have considered them inferior.
03-22-2012, 09:44 PM
I don't see how this is a paradox...
1. Made for more interesting title
2. It is a minor paradox because it leads into the classic question of what we define as a human. If we defined humans as members of Homo sapien AND being with the 'unique' ability to form complex tools, language; and social bonds.
Then the discovery of Neanderthals would mean they were human by the latter regard, but not by the former; thus causing the statement to contradict itself.
With that contradiction, you then have to rewrite the boundary lines of 'what is human, and what is not'. And with the possibility of Neanderthals being as intelligent as humans, but 'thinking' and 'perceiving the world' in a way much more different then any of the races of humans have or did; you might end up turning the element of Racial Equality on its head. After all, if Neanderthals are labeled as fully human, but act differently mentally; would that broaden the perception of what is human, or shrink it to disclude them?
Alternately, you also have the option not to call Neanderthals humans. But then, due to Thals almost certainly being Sentient; the idea that sentience is a role reserved for 'humans' is again disrupted. And because of such the huge variance in human cultures across the world, in some regards the Thals might even act more like culture group A then Culture Group B does. Then are the Thals still not human? or does that make Culture B less human to compensate?
Another 'paradox' to note is the boundary of a species. If Neanderthals are truly a different species, why could they (or rather, did they) produce viable, fertile offspring with humans? By one widely used definition, a species is a group of similar individuals; genetically close enough to produce viable offspring. When Individual A can't make a viable, fertile offspring with Individual B, many state B and A are different species.
Yet is by classification and genetics, Thals and Humans are different species (disregarding the group that says Thals were a subspecies of human here); yet can reproduce healthy, viable; and fertile offspring; would not, by its own rules, Humanity have to accept Neanderthals as humans?
Basically its a paradox because no matter which way the argument goes, one side of the debate is going to have a theory or a very prized definition smashed