Flights of fancy

neandertals

Neandertals likely wore feathers for decoration

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Biblical creationists have long held that the Neandertals were just one more group of humans. They were post-Flood, post-Babel descendants of Adam, expressing the genetic variation possible within the human kind, as people do today. So-called ‘progressive creationism’,1 which rejects biological evolution but tries to marry literal Genesis with long-age thinking (geological and cosmological evolution), has long had a problem with the Neandertal people. By definition, being long-agers, proponents of progressive creationism accept the dating methods, and these assign up to hundreds of thousands of years for the bones of Neandertal individuals. Yet even the most tortuous exegesis can’t stretch the Genesis 5 and 11 chronogenealogies back that far. So, this school of thought must (and does) hold that Neandertals were some sort of soulless non-human pre-Adamic creatures, no matter how human they may have appeared to be.

The recent evidence from Neandertal DNA that indicates that ‘modern’ humans and Neandertals interbred has already demolished that notion.2 Even prior to that, however, the evidence for humanity in Neandertals, including abstract thought, had already been accumulating relentlessly. Things associated with their remains include musical instruments, cooking implements and spices, objects of artistic expression, jewellery, grave ornaments and more.3 These made it frankly ridiculous to claim that these were some sort of spiritless animal ‘prototype’ of humanity.

Now there is also evidence that suggests that these people hunted birds for their decorative feathers, such as adorned the head-dresses of some native American tribes.4 A team headed by a paleontologist from the Gibraltar Museum analyzed the remains of some 1,700 Pleistocene (‘Ice Age’) sites across Eurasia and North Africa. They found that Neandertal remains were strongly associated (and more so than non-Neandertal human remains) with the remains of raptors (eagles, etc.) and corvids (crows and the like).

People today don’t eat these types of birds, and in any case there were never any of the usual signs of butchery for meat on these bird bones; the only cut marks were on the wings, where there is not much meat. This suggests Neandertals hunted them not for food, but for their generally dark, resplendent flight feathers, i.e. for decorative purposes.

A 2011 find in Northern Italy had already suggested this conclusion, but it had been dismissed by some as an isolated practice. However, these later findings are widespread across Eurasia.

In addition to denying ‘long-age creation’ thinking about prehumans, it also baffles the evolutionary notion that these were some sort of dull-witted people with only basic survival instincts. As one researcher said: “A purely utilitarian kind of person does not put on a feathered head-dress.”

References and notes

  1. Associated mostly with the teachings of astronomer Hugh Ross. The most comprehensive refutation of this position is the classic Refuting Compromise by CMI’s Jonathan Sarfati, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA, 2011. Return to text
  2. Carter, R., Neandertal genome like ours, 1 June 2010; creation.com/neandergenes. The ‘answer’ by some progressive creationists is ‘bestiality’. However, even though humans do sometimes engage in such dreadful practices, these don’t result in offspring that have other offspring! Having Neandertals in our ancestry is a sure indication that we are the same created kind. Return to text
  3. For a fuller list see Wieland, C., One Human Family: The Bible, science, race and culture, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA, 2011. Return to text
  4. Wong, K., Caveman Couture, Scientific American, December 2012, p. 16. Return to text

Helpful Resources

One Human Family
by Dr Carl Wieland
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Readers’ comments

olufemi D.
It is simply not true that "all" progressive creationists are forced to conclude that Neanderthals are sub-human. I am a proud progressive creationist and I have written a book titled "Evolution: What Dawkins did not tell you." (Available on Amazon).

On page 16 of the book I wrote as follows:
"In addition to anatomical evidence, there is a growing body of cultural evidence for the fully human status of Neanderthals. They buried their dead and had elaborate funeral customs that included arranging the body and covering it with flowers. They made a variety of stone tools and worked with skins and leather. A wood flute was recently discovered among Neanderthal remains. There is even evidence that suggests that Neanderthals engaged in medical care. Some Neanderthal specimens show evidence of survival to old age despite numerous wounds, broken bones, blindness, and disease. This suggests that these individuals were cared for and nurtured by others who showed human compassion."
The acceptance of Neanderthals as fully human is not incompatible with progressive creationism. While I agree with most of your postulations on the Evolution/creation debate, I personally think it is counterproductive trying to shoehorn the whole of creation into 10,000 years of existence.
Don Batten
What you say about the humanity of Neandertals is 'spot on'. However, you need to think a bit more about the consistency of your view. As Dr Wieland wrote, "By definition, being long-agers, proponents of progressive creationism accept the dating methods, and these assign up to hundreds of thousands of years for the bones of Neandertal individuals. Yet even the most tortuous exegesis can’t stretch the Genesis 5 and 11 chronogenealogies back that far. So, this school of thought must (and does) hold that Neandertals were some sort of soulless non-human pre-Adamic creatures, no matter how human they may have appeared to be."
So, 'progressive creationists' have to say that Neandertals are not descendants of Adam; that is, they are not human (and Jesus did not die for them; 1 Cor. 15).
I guess we could have said, "All progressive creationists who have thought about all the implications of their view ...".

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