Old neighbors

If the work of archeologists sifting the soils of the Grotte Mandrin cave in France are to be believed, it would appear Neanderthals didn’t just fade away after the arrival of modern humans in Europe as long believed.

That our species interacted with an earlier offshoot of the hominid family tree has been known since scientists identified Neanderthal DNA lurking in modern humans a decade ago, but the contact between homo sapien and homo neanderthalensis was once thought to be brief.

French, British, Australian, Swiss, Spanish and U.S. researchers digging in the dirt of the Mandrin cave have, however,  concluded the human tools found in layers there tell a much different story.

“The results from Grotte Mandrin presented here show that instead of recording a single event of population replacement as often argued elsewhere in Europe, a much more complex process of modern human appearance and Neanderthal disappearance appears to have occurred in Western Europe,” We document at least four alternating phases of replacement,” spanning more than 10,000 years, they wrote in a peer-reviewed study published in Science Advances earlier this year.

Ten thousand years is a blip in time for a planet that is calculated to have been roaming the solar system for 4.54 billion years, and an only somewhat bigger blip in the history of our species which has been traced back an origin in Africa 200,000 years ago. 

But it is an amazingly long time in terms of how we as humans think of time today. As far as anyone knows today, the first of us to reach North America arrived her only 15,000 to maybe 25,000 years ago. 

Recorded history

There are no records of that immigration because humans only started recording history about 5,000 years ago. Those records paint a picture of a tumultuous and always changed world where life was hard, power regularly changed hands and everything was fought over.

The Roman Empire, which once controlled much of modern Europe, lasted but 1,000 years. The United States, now thought of as the most powerful nation on the globe, is less than 250 years old. 

Small as 10,000 years might be in geologic time, it is a big number, an especially big number, in the modern world where everything – everything – is in geologic terms so new. Less than 200 hundred years ago, Americans were still lighting their homes with candles and whale-oil lamps. It was only about 100 years ago that motor vehicles began to replace the horse and buggy.

The “big three” television networks – ABC, CBS and NBC – are less than 80 years old, and most of the technology we take for granted today – computers, smartphones, the internet, and so much more – is in its infancy.

Against this backdrop, 10,000 years is a damn long time for homo sapien and homo neanderthalensis to be loving and warring.

The archaeologists involved in the latest research draw no conclusions as to how early humans and Neanderthals interacted, but it’s not hard to draw the obvious conclusion from what they found in the lack “of cultural exchange in terms of technical traditions either between the different Neanderthal groups or between modern human and Neanderthal populations, a situation congruent with a scenario of rapid replacement processes with no major interactions.

“These data illustrate that the replacement of indigenous Neanderthal groups was not a straightforward single event but a complex historical process during which both populations replaced each other rapidly or even abruptly, at least twice, in the same territory.”

There is no reason to believe Neanderthals were any less or more warlike than we are or were, and we have proven ourselves a warlike species. There has barely been a time in recorded history when war wasn’t raging somewhere in Europe, Asia or Africa


The history of “civilized” Europe doesn’t look all that different from an embattled Africa.

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the warring in the Balkans spanned most of the 1990s. The 45 years between the end of World War II and the start of the Balkans battles might have spanned one of the longest periods of peace in European history.

Prior to 1945, there was almost always a war raging somewhere in Europe, or some European country was gearing up – as Germany was doing not long after World War I – to go to war.

“It is quite remarkable that a continent, which for much of its modern history was embroiled in internecine warfare, now seems to be one of the most stable regions of the world,”  Laust Schouenberg, a visiting fellow from the London School of Economics, observed in a commentary for the Stanford (University) Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education in Since the end of World War II, no wars have been fought in Europe. That is if one excludes the Balkan wars of the 1990s….”

Schouenberg’s essay speculated on whether war had become “obsolete” in Europe. Clearly, with war now raging in Ukraine, it has not.

Americans should consider themselves blessed that it has been more than 150 years since the Civil War, an American version of what Schouenberg called those “old conflicts between ethnic groups,” tore this country apart. And though the U.S. has been at war pretty regularly since then, it has not witnessed another war fought on American soil since the so-called “Indian Wars” ended 120 years ago. 

Humans have a sad penchant for killing each other when they’re not busy loving each other as my own genetic history would indicate:

  • 37.3 percent Eastern European
  • 24.7 percent Scandanavian
  • 23 percent British & Irish
  • 4.1 percent  Greek and Balkan
  • 1.2 percent Italian
  • 0.5 percent Nothern Indian & Pakistani
  • And 9.2 percent a mix of broadly European genes both south and northwest.

Or, as late President Harry S. Truman once described his ancestry, a cross between a mongrel and a black-and-white dog. And, yes, for better or worse the genetics testing group 23 & Me says I have 257 variants in my DNA that trace back to those Neanderthals, making me more Neanderthal than 76 percent of the nearly 12 million people who have had their DNA sequenced by the company.

I also share a paternal lineage with Mal’ta boy whose 24,000-year-old remains were found near Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia in the 1920s.  He turned out to be rather controversial after his DNA was linked to large numbers of Native Americans once thought to have originated in Asia.

“The Mal’ta boy genome showed that Upper Paleolithic West Eurasians had a more north-easterly distribution and were genetically related to modern-day Native Americans, contributing significantly to their ancestry,” Marc Haber and colleagues from England’s Wellcome Sanger Institute, a world leader in genomics research, observed in a peer-reviewed paper in 2016. (But) modern East Asians appear to have replaced this ancient Eurasian population and hence have obscured the origin of the Native Americans.”

Humans, as it turns out, have a lot of connections to each other under the skin, but somehow still manage to battle over their outward appearances and tribal connections. In that regard, little has changed since Neanderthal days.





6 replies »

  1. So when Humanity wipes itself out through a man made biological weapon or Artificial intelligence we develop destroys us or we obliterate ourselves with good old fashioned nuclear war, at least we can have solace that we got what we deserved for genociding the Neanderthals.

  2. Imo ,
    Any favoritism regarding false race division is racism.
    Government considering race in native corporation contracts, hunting, land acquisition ect is unethical racism. Just gross . For 20th century ethics.
    The whole – who was here first is kindergarten logic.

    The earth is fully connected.considering it separated in any way is false . Oceans are only surface separations. Under them the ground is connected the skies are connected.
    Especially important- America is one nation with an equalizing constitution. We are all one race under the intent of the greatest founding laws.
    The words “all men” was no accident.

    We are probably all natives of this planet.

    Government has a legal mandate to treat us all equally.

    Created equal.

    Treated equal Is the expectation of the law . Anything less is an aberration

    We all migrated from somewhere at some time.
    Unless we disolve America and everyone returns to their alleged shores ( impossible) then treated equal must rule .

    Racism/ favoritism via government needs abolished.

    10 cents inflation adjusted.

  3. Years after my experience at PAMC I realized they weren’t Neanderthals at all they were only workplace assassins.

  4. World’s oldest DNA is discovered in Greenland dating back two MILLION years – breaking the previous record by one million years
    Scientists have found two-million-year-old DNA fragments for the first time
    The microscopic fragments are each a few millionths of a millimetre long
    They were found in ice age sediment in northern Greenland and include DNA from reindeer, plants and even Mastodon


    PUBLISHED: 11:00 EST, 7 December 2022 | UPDATED: 11:00 EST, 7 December 2022

  5. Twin study links exercise to beneficial epigenetic changes

    December 6, 2022
    Washington State University

    Consistent exercise can change not just waistlines but the very molecules in the human body that influence how genes behave, a new study of twins indicates. The study found that the more physically active siblings in identical twin pairs had lower signs of metabolic disease, measured by waist size and body mass index. This also correlated with differences in their epigenomes, the molecular processes that are around DNA and independent of DNA sequence, but influence gene expression. The more active twins had epigenetic marks linked to lowered metabolic syndrome, a condition that can lead to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Since the identical twins have the same genetics, the study suggests that markers of metabolic disease are strongly influenced by how a person interacts with their environment as opposed to just their inherited genetics.

Leave a Reply