By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood
Timeline Story

True Symbolic Thought Emerges: Human-Neanderthal Split

True Symbolic Thought Emerges: Human-Neanderthal Split

When: 400,000 BCE
Note: 400,000 BCE to 40,000 BCE
Absolute Years From Now: -400000
Story Reference Date: 06/27/2021
16,000 Generations Ago

Class: Mammal; Genus: Homo; Diet: Omninivore
Brain Size: 1,200 to 1,700 cm³ (humans=avg=1,350; 1,200 to 1,500 cm³)
Brain to Body EQ: 4.5 to 5.5, but maybe 6.2, or even 7.9? (humans=7.4 to 7.8)

True symbolic thought emerges before 400,000 BCE: The discovery in 2018 of Neanderthal art dating back to 68,000 years ago, proved symbolic thought in Neanderthals. It also indicates strongly that symbolic thought evolved in or before our common ancestor about 400,000 years ago. This must be true unless either they evolved it separately in an example of convergent evolution or we’re wrong about the art, meaning we’re wrong about our idea that humans were not in Spain until after that art. (see my Occam’s Razor article.) 

See Beyond the Brain: Reassessing Neanderthal Intelligence, for more information. Humans and Neanderthals had a common ancestor about 400,000 BCE (current estimates range from 320,000 to 800,000 BCE). Humans did not evolve from Neanderthals, but both are the current evolution of a common ancestor tentatively identified as Homo Heidelbergensis. After the split, Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals interbred up to and as recently as 40,000 BCE. Through DNA testing we can identify DNA that came from interbreeding with Neanderthals. Neanderthals became extinct about 40,000 BCE. They built shelters, wore clothes, used tools, and spoke. We know that about .03% to 4% of the genes in non-African modern humans is from Neanderthals. Neanderthal DNA in modern humans is the highest in East Asians, intermediate in Europeans, and lower in Southeast Asians. 

The common ancestor tentatively identified as Homo Heidelbergensis lived from about 600,000 to 200,000 BCE. The 400,000 BCE documented here is just a reasonable guess.

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