By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood

Were neanderthals artistic?

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Were the Neanderthals, the original artists? If so, how does that impact the soul debate.

Yes, Neanderthals were indeed artistic. Up to about 2018, the answer was a clear “No! They did not posses symbolic thought.” And, up to about 2010, they would add, “And they never bred with humans. They couldn’t.” However, despite human bias in the scientific community resisting clear empirical data, the tide has turned. In 2010, DNA analysis proved Neanderthals interbred with humans. Also, recent archaeological discoveries have dramatically shifted our understanding of Neanderthal capabilities and culture, revealing a side of these ancient hominins that showcases their ability for abstract thought and creativity. The most compelling evidence comes from cave art found in Spain, dated to at least 64,000 years ago—well before the arrival of modern humans to Europe.

Moreover, ornaments such as eagle talons fashioned into jewelry have been found at Neanderthal sites, suggesting they engaged in creating personal adornments, a behavior that points to complex social identities and perhaps even aesthetic appreciation.

These findings challenge the outdated stereotype of Neanderthals as brutish and unintelligent. For a deeper exploration, take the 8-minute deep dive: “Beyond Human Bias: Reassessing Neanderthal Intelligence.”

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