Neanderthals evolved greater intelligence independently

A rare find of Neanderthal fossils or subfossils shows that early Neanderthals were small-brained and developed larger brains independently of the line that led to us.

As best we can tell, humans and Neanderthals diverged from a common ancestor about 500,000 years ago, a species called Homo heidelbergenesis. Modern humans appeared in Africa some 300,000 years later, a time when Neanderthals were already romping around Europe and Asia.

These skulls are 430,000 years old. They have a small  braincase but in other respects have Neanderthal characteristics.

…the Neanderthal trait of an elongated and rounded brain case came later.

3 Responses to “Neanderthals evolved greater intelligence independently”

  1. JOEL COHEN Says:

    Unless northern Europe was tropical at that time, this post goes against common sense. Where, geographically is the common ancestor located during its existence? “Scientists” seem always to jump to conclusions without realizing that the evidence they/we have is partial at best and inadequate to draw the conclusions they do! Are you saying that the “common ancestor” appeared in Africa, some made their way to Europe to evolve into Neanderthal, while others stayed behind to evolve into modern man a few hundred thousand years later? What about Asia? I have to look up known time lines for Pithecanthropus Erectus skulls found in China.

  2. JOEL COHEN Says:

    MONADO! OK! Your timelines and information are imperfect at least! It’s ok.
    This article agrees that “modern humans” appeared approximately 200,000 years ago but the transition was under way as early as 400,000 years ago. More importantly, the article states that “humans” existed as early as 1.9 million years ago! So I don’t understand the implication that Neanderthals were more advanced. Human is human! Humans had fire and technology long before Neanderthals existed. They hunted and were well equipped for survival over more than a million years! Neanderthals have been surmised to be more intelligent, even existing among us today! Is there evidence that they were smarter than other humans, perhaps in China? The Chinese have a calendar more than 7000 years old, the oldest known calendar! And I believe their writing symbols precede that in the Middle East, where it was copied/exported! Greater brain size doesn’t necessarily equate to higher intelligence. In fact the larger brain size of Neanderthals compared with modern humans belies that implication. Einstein had bigger parietal lobes than a normal modern brain. But there are many factors determinative of intelligence. There are many different types of humans, historically and today. I still stand by my assertion that people, paleo-anthropologists included, tend to jump to unsupported conclusions.
    In addition, there is little discussion of human development in China!
    I believe humans can have developed independently in different regions. We don’t all necessarily come from the same common ancestor!

    A simple Google search turned up the following information:


    This is a reprint, but click the link for pictures and graphs, and full history of discovery. I don’t understand the distinction given to Neanderthals. They seem to have contributed to our genes. But modern humans out-survived and replaced them with smaller brains, and larger frontal lobes. Personally, I know some dogs are smarter than some humans! Then there are dolphins!
    Homo Erectus dates as far back as 1.9 million years! At least this article states that there is unknown information that may change theories and conclusions currently drawn! I fully support the awareness of lack of knowledge, the unknown, admitted in this article! Reprint of article:
    “By 1.9 million years ago, some of the early transitional humans had evolved into a new, fully human species in Africa.” Most paleoanthropologists refer to them as Homo erectus (literally “upright human”). However, a few researchers split them into two species–Homo ergaster (literally “working human”) and Homo erectus. The ergaster fossils were presumably somewhat earlier and have been found for the most part in Africa. The erectus discoveries have been found widespread in Africa, Asia, and Europe. In this tutorial, ergaster and erectus will be considered one species–Homo erectus.

    Homo erectus from Southeast Asia Homo ergaster from East Africa
    Homo erectus were very successful in creating cultural technologies that allowed them to adapt to new environmental opportunities. They were true pioneers in developing human culture and in expanding their geographic range beyond Africa to populate tropical and subtropical zones elsewhere in the Old World. This territorial expansion most likely began around 1.8-1.7 million years ago, coinciding with progressively cooler global temperatures. Surprisingly, however, Homo erectus remained little changed anatomically until about 800,000 years ago. After that time, there apparently were evolutionary developments in features of the head that would become characteristic of modern humans. By half a million years ago, some Homo erectus were able to move into the seasonally cold temperate zones of Asia and Europe. This migration was made possible by greater intelligence and new cultural technologies, probably including better hunting skills and the ability to create fire.

    Evolutionary Relationships

    The earliest Homo erectus were contemporaries of the late Homo habilis in East Africa for several hundred thousand years. This suggests that the immediate ancestor of Homo erectus was an early Homo habilis or possibly another yet to be discovered species of early humans. Homo erectus was a very successful human species, lasting at least 1.5 million years, though their numbers apparently remained relatively low. Some of them eventually evolved into our species, Homo sapiens . That evolutionary transition was well under way by 400,000 years ago but was not complete until 200,000-100,000 years ago and possibly even later in some regions.

    Later in article, HISTORICAL DATA:
    Three surprisingly early Homo erectus skulls were found during the 1990’s on the fringes of Eastern Europe at Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia. They date to 1.75 million years ago and look very much like the earliest Homo erectus from Africa–i.e., those that have been classified by some researchers as Homo ergaster. This discovery lends credence to the 1.8 and 1.6 million year old dates for Homo erectus from Java and to an early rather than late Homo erectus expansion out of Africa.

    Homo erectus-like bones were also discovered during the 1990’s from several other sites in Western Europe and Africa that date 800,000-400,000 years ago. It has been difficult to assign these fossils to specific species due to the fact that they have characteristics of both Homo erectus and more recent human species. Some paleoanthropologists consider them to be late transitional Homo erectus. Others now suggest that they are Homo heidelbergensis, a subsequent species that descended from Homo erectus and preceded Neandertals and other archaic humans. That is the approach taken in this tutorial series. This particular difference of species assignment is not particularly important and it does not detract from our growing understanding of the broad evolutionary trends. It is a result of our evolving conceptualization of the past as more data become available. It also partly reflects the fact that the picture of human evolution looks somewhat dissimilar in different regions of the World. It is now becoming clear that our evolution was not as straight forward as it once was commonly thought. Humans in some areas lagged behind. This was particularly true on some islands of Indonesia. At Ngandong on Java, for instance, Homo erectus may have survived to 53,000 years ago or even somewhat later.

  3. monado Says:

    It’s not that they became more intelligent than H. sap. sap. They became more intelligent than earlier Neanderthals.

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