When you imagine a Neanderthal, what comes to mind? For many, the brain paints a picture of a primitive person; one often recognized for having ‘lesser’ intelligence than modern-day human beings. But was that true?
As it would seem, Neanderthals may have been a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Much of the misunderstandings surrounding Neanderthals comes from common stereotypes, some of which stem from a type of pseudoscience known as phrenology: the study of skill shape as indicative of character or mental ability.
Because Neanderthal skulls shared a lot of standard features with living indigenous populations that Anglo-Irish geologist William King already deemed to be lesser, Neanderthals received their unfortunate stereotype in 1864. This theory was further backed up by the signs of violence observed in subsequent Neanderthal skull discoveries.
But modern science paints a different picture, one that suggests how Neanderthals may have been capable of similar mental capacity and how rough sports could have caused the injuries observed in their skulls instead of violence.
Unfortunately, the stereotype about Neanderthals being of ‘lesser’ intelligence still runs rampant because we still don’t know enough about them to say otherwise. Further fueling the misconception is how the media conveys Neanderthals as ‘cavemen.’ As it would seem, scientists should have questioned the concept of Neanderthals much earlier to avoid this stereotype.
With science advancing with each passing day, perhaps we’ll develop a clearer picture of Neanderthals and what their lifestyle may have been like.