Neandertals were fully human in thinking: Symbolic items show human cognition and symbolic thinking



We have often showed that Neandertals were varieties of modern man. This comes from both morphology (body form), because their features are within the full range of living humans; and intelligence, because of their associated artefacts (their brains were even bigger than ours on average, for what it’s worth).

Thus biblical creationists regard them as post-Babel descendants of Noah. This is one point of disagreement with ‘progressive creationists’ (such as Hugh Ross)—their compromise on ages means that any human-like fossils before their ‘date’ of Adam are relegated to ‘soulless hominids’. See Related Articles for more information on these issues.

What was found

A recent paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) USA reports on more evidence that the Neandertals had genuine symbolic thought.1 This paper, by Neandertal expert João Zilhão of Bristol University and his coworkers, re-analyzed a well-known Neandertal culture known as the Châtelperronian. This is named after the cave called Grotte de Fées at Châtelperron in Central France. This cave was first excavated in the 1840s; similar culture is found in Spain and France, and is radiocarbon ‘dated’ to 44,000 evolutionary years old.

The artefacts include ornaments and decorated bone tools. But many had dismissed the Neandertal origin of these artefacts, because of the stratigraphy. That is, the rock layers were allegedly proof that modern humans had replaced the supposedly more primitive Neandertals at the site. But higher rock layers, above the undisputed modern human layers called the Aurignacian, were supposedly evidence that the Neandertals had returned. Thus they were accused of merely borrowing or imitating the cultural novelties from ‘modern’ humans.2

However, Zilhão’s team showed that the nice stratigraphic pattern was illusory. Indeed, some of the Neandertal levels overlying those belonging to the modern humans were just backdirt from nineteenth-century fossil hunting. And some of the Aurignacian artifacts were actually ‘isolated intrusions’ into the Châtelperronian, while bones were assembled by carnivores.

What it means

Zilhão concluded:

‘This discovery, along with research on the rock strata at other cave sites, has huge implications for how we view the European Neandertals and, more widely, human evolution. The differences between Neandertals and modern humans may be much less than had been previously thought, suggesting that human cognition and symbolic thinking may date back to before the two sub-species split around 400,000 years ago.’2

Removing the evolutionary interpretive lens from that, biblical creationists could conclude from the same data:

‘Neandertals and other varieties of humans show human cognition and symbolic thinking, which date back to before these varieties split at Babel. This is consistent with all humans, including Neandertals, being descended from Adam and Eve, whom God created in His image (Genesis 1:26–27, 3:20, 1 Corinthians 15:45).’

Related articles

Neandertals as humans:

Neandertals (and Homo erectus) were real humans, australopithecines (including the invalid taxon Homo habilis) were a distinct created kind:

How human fossil evidence contradicts creation compromisers

Published: 30 August 2006


  1. João Zilhão and 5 others, Analysis of Aurignacian interstratification at the Châtelperronian-type site and implications for the behavioral modernity of Neandertals, PNAS 103 (33):12643–12648, 15 August 2006; 10.1073/pnas.0605128103 (see abstract ). Return to text.
  2. How modern were European Neandertals?, Physorg.com Return to text.