Almost everyone has heard about the Neanderthal people who once lived throughout Europe many thousand years ago. In fact, the popular perception of these people is one of a shambling, hairy, caveman type of individual, with little intelligence, dressed in animal skins and communicating with grunts. There is also a perception that some of these traits may be seen in some individuals today.
Well, most of these perceptions of Neanderthals are quite incorrect. In fact, apart from having a more robust body and facial features there is not that much difference between them and us. Moreover, recent genetic research has shown that modern humans and Neanderthals are 95% the same. And we humans share up to 5% of particular genes specific to the Neanderthals. In other words our relationship is very close. Closer than most of us would think; or in some cases would like to think. Also, recent archaeological research has also shown similarities in the artefacts each made.
While it is easy to accept a 95% similarity in our genes as we both belong to the genus Homo (Homo neanderthalenis and Homo sapiens) the presence of up to 5% Neanderthal specific genes in modern humans is somewhat controversial. The best scientific explanation for this is that the Neanderthals and modern humans existed at the same time, at the same place and interbred! We are then more alike than we think; and somewhere back in our family lineage there was a Neanderthal ancestor.
So, if you would like to meet one of these ancestors you should think about joining a tour, which the ACT National Trust will be conducting to Germany in May 2015. This unique tour will be experiencing the history and archaeology of the country and its people. The group will visit many of the UNESCO World Heritage places and sites dating back to the Stone Age. And one of the highlights of the tour will be meeting the first Neanderthal skeleton known to science and visiting the place where he was discovered.
Contact the ACT National Trust: