Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Neanthderthal Granddaddy

The other night I watched a two-hour National Geographic television presentation on the most recent developments in the study of Neanderthals. There is new evidence that Neanderthal genes might have entered the Cro-Magnon bloodline.

When the Cro-Magnons came out of Africa, they encountered several pockets of indigenous humanoids--mostly (or all) Neanderthals, apparently--in Europe and Asia. The previous supposition has been that either the Cro-Magnons annihilated the Neanderthals or that the Ice Age wiped them out, but recent discoveries have pointed to some degree of assimilation.

This is all well and good and interesting, and the results of the ongoing Neanderthal DNA studies should make another enthralling television presentation. But I was left with another question which had never occurred to me before--where did the Neanderthals come from? How was it they were scattered over Europe and Asia before the Cro-Magnons ever set foot out of the Dark Continent? Were the Neanderthals an earlier, hardier migration? Or did their evolution happen somewhere else, outside of Africa?

National Geographic, please appease my inquiring mind.

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