“Heidelberg Man” has been a modern name imposed on certain fossil humans that have been unable to speak for themselves.  Now, their bones appear to overlap with Neanderthals.  But don’t modern humans have Neanderthal DNA?  Do the distinctions make any sense?

Constructive scientific debate?  According to PhysOrg, anthropologist Chris Stringer is now claiming that the largest cache of Heidelberg Man fossils were really Neanderthals.  The article reveals various forms of data manipulation to reformat the story of human evolution, such as recalculating the date of Sima fossils from Atapuerca, Spain (previously labeled Heidelberg) from 600,000 years old to 350,000 years old, so that they fit within the Neanderthal category.  That’s because the Sima fossils show some Neanderthal characteristics both from anatomical and genetic data.  Stringer put a positive spin on the reclassification, stating, “These new views on the dating and classification of the Sima material have led to a constructive scientific debate with the Atapuerca team, which will help to progress our understanding of the place of these important fossils in human evolution.”

Constructive artistic debate?  Cave paintings in from Spain have been re-dated as 40,800 years old, too old to be made by “modern” humans, and possibly made by Neanderthals.  Live Science reported one anthropologist claiming “It would not be surprising if the Neanderthals were indeed Europe’s first cave artists.”  That would have been very surprising not long ago.  “Neanderthals have been portrayed as brutish, animalistic cavemen,” reporter Stephanie Pappas wrote, “but the archaeological evidence suggests they weren’t dummies. They buried their dead, made complex tools, and used decorative pigments.”  So why not make art on the walls of their caves?  Another anthropologist is convinced it is Neanderthal art.

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