Neanderthal man cleans up real nice. we started this section called "Those Sophisticated Cave Men" for the purpose of showing the evidence that our ancestors were in fact not primitive, not virtually animals. We wanted to show that "Neanderthal" and "Cro-Magnon" were primitive only in the eyes of artists influenced by evolutionary theory. The advances in forensic recreations from skulls as well as artifacts of these people have served to prove them more and more to be "us".
Now mainstream science is finally coming around to what creationists have always been saying about them; they were/are fully human--there were no pre-humans. You're welcome, science!
Science now agrees that; they had a language, had speech, that they did bury their dead, were capable of symbolic thought, had larger brains, keener senses, could pass by today without much notice in a suit, and were way stronger than "we" are. (This is because the human genome has been becoming 1% to 2% "less fit" each generation due to the rampant deleterious, mutation in our genome.)
Evolutionists, for their own reasons (inconvenient for evolutionary theory) insisted that "modern man" and "Neanderthal" never met and that even if they had, they never would have intermixed. Now, they're saying that some of us living today have up to 5% "Neanderthal" genes. Welcome aboard the truth train, evolutionary science, unfortunately all we have available now are the window seats and the dining car is at the other end.
Their very name has become a byword for all that is brutish, stupid and crude. In the popular imagination, these were the violent, shambling, grunting apemen of legend. If you accuse someone of being a Neanderthal, you are not paying them a compliment.
But Neanderthal Man, who represented one of the oddest and most mysterious chapters in the history of humanity, has been undergoing something of a makeover in recent years.
We now know that these extinct cousins were not the brutes of legend but a sophisticated and intelligent species, capable of creating fire, fashioning delicate tools, burying their dead and perhaps even making music.
Their brains were actually larger than ours - although subtly different in structure. They communicated by language, and were fierce and efficient hunters. We know so much about them, from their fossil remains, their bones and their artefacts, but one great mystery remains: what happened to them?
We still don't know for sure, but this week a paper in Nature magazine shed a fascinating light on the last days of these enigmatic almost-men.
Deep in a cave in Gibraltar, at the very southern tip of the Neanderthals' home continent, Europe, stone tools and remains of wood fire hearths have been discovered by archaeologists, who date the remains to as recently as 24,000 years ago - several thousand years later than Neanderthals were previously supposed to have been extinct.
We do not know if these were the very last Neanderthals, but it is clear that by this time the species was in serious trouble. From their Gibraltarian redoubt, these last representatives of a proud race - whose bloodline stretched back perhaps 350,000 years - would have surveyed a scene of unspoiled splendour.
With sea levels 300ft lower than they are today, the Rock of Gibraltar would have abutted rolling grassland and dunes, leading down to the seashore possibly three miles away. This savanna would have been home to thousands of antelope and deer, which the Neanderthals would have hunted with their stone-tipped spears and roasted over fires.
The late date of the remains suggests that the Neanderthals and modern humans, Homo sapiens, coexisted in Europe for longer than was thought. The first modern humans colonised Europe and the near-East, from Africa, perhaps 50,000 years ago. Wherever Homo sapiens have gone, the results have usually not been good for the local wildlife.
So could we - or our ancestors - have been responsible for the Neanderthals' demise? It is a popular theory. Over the years, accounts of Neanderthal extinction have focused upon the arrival of the new, fierce, super-intelligent hunters from Africa (us).
Maybe the supposedly dim-witted Neanderthals were wiped out systematically, the planet's first example of deliberate genocide. Maybe we simply beat them in the competition for food and territory.
Or maybe - and most intriguingly - the Neanderthal gene pool was absorbed into ours. In 1998, a skeleton was found at Lagar Velho, an excavation site about 90 miles north of Lisbon in Portugal. The bones of a four-year-old child buried with decorative shells and ochre paint showed both recognisably Neanderthal and human characteristics, suggesting that interbreeding had occurred.
This idea is controversial, and many palaeontologists maintain that the human and Neanderthal gene pools were always separate. But if humans and Neanderthals did interbreed, this raises the possibility that many of us to this day, in Europe, have a dash of Neanderthal blood. Should we be ashamed of it?
Almost certainly not. The first Neanderthal skeletons were unearthed in Belgium in 1829. However, it wasn't until 1856 that the name was given to this species, after more remains were found in the Neander Valley, near Dusseldorf.
The popular and misguided view that the Neanderthals were short and stooped may have arisen because some of these skeletons probably came from individuals suffering from severe arthritis.
In fact, the average Neanderthal was robust and impressive. The males averaged 5ft 5in tall, stood fully upright, were heavily built and had powerful muscles - making them much, much stronger than modern humans.
We don't really know what they looked like, as no soft tissues or hair have been preserved. Yet it is likely that, with a wash, a shave and modern clothes, a Neanderthal could walk down the street today unnoticed.
These were the masters of the Ice Age, capable of hunting the huge mammals that prowled Europe at the time. They also had brains to go with all that brawn. The large size of Neanderthal brains suggests they may have had keener senses than Homo sapiens.
Until the 1980s, it was assumed that the Neanderthals lacked language, but then a Neanderthal hyoid bone was found in a cave in Israel. This is the bone that holds our tongue in place, a requirement for speech to take place.
We don't know anything of their language, but from the shape of their mouths and larynxes, and their large noses, we know that their voice was high-pitched and nasal. They would have sounded more like Ken Livingstone or Kenneth Williams than the grunting apeman of legend.
We know that the Neanderthals had mastered fire (even older prehuman species could do this). Like us, they cooked their food when they could, and spent a lot of time carefully butchering their meat and maybe even brewing alcohol (stores of seeds that are used in fermentation have been found at Neanderthal sites).
They made sophisticated stone flasks, hand axes and spears, and probably lived in complex, hierarchical societies similar to ours. But what were they really like? What kind of spiritual and social life did they have? Scientists have found a few tantalising clues.
For a start, they buried their dead - unlike all other nonhuman species. A series of excavations at Shanidar in Iraq, in the late 1950s, yielded four Neanderthal skeletons dating from 80,000 years ago. One was of an elderly man, aged perhaps 50, who had suffered terrible injuries when he was alive.
At one point, he had sustained a violent blow to his head, probably blinding him in one eye. His right arm was withered, and he had lost a hand. Several bones had been fractured, and then healed.
This shows that the Neanderthals looked after their sick and aged - this man couldn't have hunted and cared for himself.
Another individual was discovered in a burial site, and a small pile of stones - a grave marker - was found on top of the pit. There was also evidence of a large fire by the grave site - implying a burial ceremony.
Finally, another grave contained the remains of many species of plant. This has led some to suppose that the Neanderthals not only buried their dead but scattered flowers on the remains in a religious ceremony.
So these 'apemen' made tools, looked after their sick and perhaps worshipped their own gods. They may even have played music.
In 1995 a bear femur bone was found in a Neanderthal site at Divje Babe in Slovenia. The bone was pierced with a series of holes, and some archaeologists are convinced that it was a flute.
I heard a replica of the 'flute' played at a conference; it had a deep, haunting sound. Could this have been the music of the Neanderthals?
Across Europe folk legends abound of shadowy, fierce creatures that live in the caves and the forests. Think of the trolls of Norway, the elfin folk and little people of the Celtic West.
Is it too fanciful to suggest that these legends could be ancient, racial memories of the Neanderthals? Remember that humans and Neanderthals would have met, possibly traded and even, perhaps, exchanged mates.
They were so like us but they were not us; those eyes gazing out from that cave in Gibraltar at the game below were keen and clever, but they were not human eyes(?). The story of the Neanderthals shows us that, for a long time, we were not alone; we shared this planet with a powerful and intelligent rival. Who knows what the world would be like now if it had been us, and not them, who perished 24 millennia ago.