Sunday, January 30, 2011 - Dr. Jean-Jacques Hublin: Neanderthals Deciphered

Cool video, via We have not only had to rethink our relationship to our neanderthal cousins (apparently kissing cousins and a whole lot more), but we have also had to rethink who they were as a people - and they were people, complete with compassion.

Neanderthals are often depicted as brutish club wielders, but a new book suggests Neanderthals had a sensitive side, displaying "a deep seated sense of compassion."

The findings, also published in the journal Time & Mind, are part of a larger study charting how empathy and other related feelings evolved in early humans.

Researchers Penny Spikins, Andy Needham and Holly Rutherford from the University of York Archaeology Department examined archaeological evidence for the way emotions began to emerge in our ancestors six million years ago and then developed through more recent times.

Based on fossils, artifacts and other evidence, the scientists propose a four stage model for the development of human compassion.... (MSNBC)

Between 1-4% of modern human DNA comes from neanderthal DNA, so understanding them and their lives is part of understanding ourselves.

Jean-Jacques Hublin: Neanderthals Deciphered

Neandertals were the first fossil hominins discovered and, since then, have been the most studied. However, it is only in the last two decades that entirely new techniques have made new and fascinating insights into their biology and behavior possible.

Beyond their odd anatomy, we are now able to explore the mechanisms of their birth and growth, the way their brains developed, and the chemical signals left in their bones from their diet. The decoding of their genome has opened a new era in paleoanthropology.

Ultimately, understanding the rise and the fall of the Neandertals will help us to elucidate the unrivaled evolutionary success of our own species.

Jean-Jacques Hublin

Jean-Jacques Hublin, Ph.D., is currently a Professor at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany), where he serves as the Director of the Department of Human Evolution. He has also been an honorary Professor at the University of Leipzig since 2004. Initially his research focused on the origin and evolution of Neanderthals and he has proposed an accretion model for the emergence of the Neandertal lineage that roots it in time in the middle of the middle Pleistocene.

He also worked on the processes associated with the emergence of Homo sapiens and on the interactions between Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans in Europe. He developed the use of medical and virtual imaging in the reconstruction and study of fossil hominids and paid attention to growth and development issues. He has led field operations in North Africa, Spain and France.

In addition to his scientific papers, he has regularly published popular books (with translations in English, Italian, Spanish, and Chinese) and articles on the subjects of Neanderthal and early modern human evolution.

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