Were the Neanderthals Farming 125,000 Years Ago?

If this is correct, then it demonstrates that our Neanderthal ancestors were far more sophisticated than the Victorians thought, and millennia more advanced than the modern humans that replaced them In this video from the YouTube channel History With Kayleigh, the host, Kayleigh, discusses the recent excavation of Neanderthal activity at Neumark-Nord by a joint Dutch-German team of archaeologists from Leiden University in the Netherlands and the Johannes Gutenberg university in Germany. They found that the Neanderthals had been clearing the forest there, 125,000 years ago. This makes them the first hominid to do this. These generally To Kayleigh, this indicates that they were actually farming, although conventional archaeology considers that it only started 10,000 years ago. She is, however, careful to say that she isn’t saying the Neanderthals were definitely farming or engaged in other agricultural activities. But as this is the first step in the process of farming, she believes that the Neanderthals were the first farmers. The areas that weren’t occupied by Neanderthals were left covered with trees. Kayleigh points out that there considerable evidence indicated the Neanderthals were intelligent with their own culture. Far from being unintelligent apemen, the Neanderthals had death rituals and looked after their old and sick, as is shown by their skeletons. These generally have at least one fracture. They also used stalactites, which had they had broken off, to create six circulate structures in a cave in France. It’s believed that these also had walls before they collapsed. They also painted some of the Palaeolithic cave art.

Kayleigh considers that they were probably growing easy to cultivate plants and burning the wood for fuel as well as using it to build shelters. However, when this is usually done the remains of the rotted wood are left in the soil. She also suggests that the absence of such remains could be due to the immense age of the site, or to the Neanderthals simply using them for spears and as firewood. The archaeologists also found the remains of hundreds of slaughtered animals and a large amount of stone tools and charcoal. This included virtually complete skeletons of rhinos, straight-tusked elephants, fallow deer and aurochs, the huge primeval cattle. It was believed at one time that Neanderthals were simply and solely scavengers, but the finds from this site completely disprove that. They were the top predators, making spears, using fire to keep warm and perhaps cook their food, and lived in groups of about 10-20 people. She goes on to say that with more discoveries like this, the history books will have to be rewritten. Humans and Neanderthals existed for a considerably long time and interbred, so that there are a large number of northern Europeans with up to 4 per cent Neanderthal DNA. She believes that the Neanderthals taught humans everything they knew, including spear making and hunting skills and despite going extinct, the Neanderthal’s legacy continues in this genetic heritage. And she speculates that perhaps she’s one of them, and so is planning to take a DNA test. She intends to make further videos about Neanderthal intelligence and how their tools spread throughout the world. We therefore need to abandon our image of the Neanderthals as ‘ooga-booga’.

Kayleigh states that we can only know for sure if the Neanderthals were farming with further discoveries. I’m not sure that the deforestation necessarily means that the Neanderthals were growing plants. One of the commenters, Peter Schubert, wrote: ‘For the last 40K years, Australian Aborigines burnt the land to encourage grasslands that lured Kangaroos into graze and improve their chances of a successful hunt. They also cultivated a wide range of plants to make the ‘gathering’ part of their lifestyle a lot easier, too. I’m sure other indigenous groups around the globe would have done similarly. Still, Neanderthals be earlier.’ It’s possible that the Neanderthals were doing the same. I’ve also got a feeling that when modern humans started clearing the land before settling down to farm it, they cleared the areas around waterholes in order to hunt the animals that came there to drink better. I also don’t think the Neanderthals taught modern humans agriculture, as modern humanity, as Kayleigh says, only started farming about 10,000 years ago, which long after this period and the extinction of the Neanderthals themselves. But it does suggest to me that the Neanderthals may have been on the road to developing agriculture, and makes you wonder what more remains to be discovered about them.

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2 Responses to “Were the Neanderthals Farming 125,000 Years Ago?”

  1. Brian Burden Says:

    I think the notion that the Neanderthal’s were a distinctly separate species with only a coincidental resemblance to homo sapiens, promoted by H.G.Wells in The Grisly Folk and, I believe, in Golding’s The Inheritors (though I’ve not read this novel), has been discarded by modern geneticists, who argue that most, if not all, modern humans have Neanderthal genes in their make-up. Another racist stereotype?

    • beastrabban Says:

      I think the view now is that they’re a human subspecies, rather than a completely separate species. Both anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals were descended from an earlier hominid species, Homo Heidelbergensis. I think the idea that they were shambling monsters came from the fact that the first skeleton they found came from an individual with chronic rheumatism.
      As for racism, there was an excellent series, ‘Apeman’, on Channel 4 back in the ’90s which went through human evolution. They pointed out that in 19th century depictions of the Neanderthals they were portrayed as dark-skinned. Now it’s believed they may have had light skins and hair as an adaptation to the northern climate. And yes, modern people outside Africa do have a Neanderthal genetic inheritance that go up to 9 per cent in some people.

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