90 Years After Its Discovery...It's a Neanderthal Tooth

In a new study, published in Scientific Reports, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History teamed up with international partners to re-examine the fossil and archaeological record of Shuqba Cave.

It’s the first time this human tooth from the site has been examined in detail, alongside a major study of the stone tools.

The site of Shuqba Cave was first excavated by British archaeologist Dorothy Garrod in the spring of 1928, who found stone tools and animal bones cemented in cave deposits, as well as a unique, large human molar tooth. The tooth was kept in a private collection for most of the twentieth century, but eventually made its way to the Museum, allowing researchers to take another look at it. They realised it belonged to a Neanderthal aged between seven and 12 years old.

Both Homo sapiens and Neanderthals shared the use of a wide suite of stone tool technologies. Recently Nubian Levallois technology has been argued to have been exclusively used by Homo sapiens .

This is the first time they’ve been found in direct association with a Neanderthal fossil, which suggests we can’t make a simple link between this technology and Homo sapiens .


Great find @thoughtful . Thanks for posting.

1 Like

When I read it I was trying to remember what @NLENTS said in the most recent interview regarding his view that Neanderthals do not have symbolic thought. I wondered whether any of this would challenge his view.

But I think a Neanderthal baby being weaned at 5-6 months is the most compelling evidence. You just don’t do that unless you’re a busy mom imagining what else you could be doing. :slightly_smiling_face:


There is some legitimate debate about that among scientists. We don’t know for sure how human Neanderthals were.

It seems to me that the idea that Neanderthals were cognitively inferior to their anatomically modern human has more to do with the requirements of the evolutionary narrative than with the evidences.

What requirement are you speaking of?

In the early 1900’s it probably had more to do with culture than science. At the time there were people who thought their fellow anatomically modern humans were cognitively inferior. Later on, we may have been biased by our egos, citing our superior intelligence as the reason we outcompeted the Neanderthals. For all we know, H. saps are simply more vicious and cutthroat than the Neanderthals were.


Probably that too would have an influence early on, but that does not explain why some more recent and extant scientists lean towards reduced cognitive capacities of neanderthals.

I think it’s important to remember that scientific conclusions are tentative and based on the evidence available at the time, so if for some time neanderthal remains had been found only in association with more primitive artifacts compared to those found together with anatomically moder humans, then it would not seem warranted to conclude they were at the same technological and cultural development, and then one can of course speculate on why that might be if they were contemporaneous with anatomically modern humans.

Gilbert is just making up some conspiracy theory in his head about how paleontologists and anthropologists think.

1 Like

A lot of evolutionary scientists think Neanderthals were equally human as Sapien…so there goes that theory.


So what is the reasoning for ones that don’t think that - besides humans needing time to evolve all the traits that we have, or that all of the “human” characteristics we know today don’t show up in the archaeological record until later?

1 Like

Isn’t the latter one enough to explain why some people think that? As I said, historical changes in the archaeological evidence scientists use to base their thinking on, can explain why most scientists used to (and why some still do think) one thing, and then as evidence accumulated views began to change.

According to the evolutionary narrative, modern humans evolved from some australopithecine apes. This evolution took time and went through a series of transitional forms. Obviously, the australopithecine apes were cognitively inferior to modern humans, right? Therefore, in order to fill the cognitive gap between the two, evolutionary theory need to posit that at least some of the transitional forms were cognitively superior to australopithecine apes but inferior to modern humans. And it is exactly what happened when Neanderthal was discovered.

This is truly nonsensical.

That’s very true. We just have to be aware of our possible biases.

What would people think of the archaeological record of N. America starting in 1492? Would we think there was a cognitively superior species of humans that invaded the continent?

You do make a good point though. Indigenous Americans were quick to adapt to the new technologies, and Neanderthals didn’t.

I’ve always been something of a Neanderthal booster. Their abilities for abstract thought might be speculative, but my guessmanship works this way… Northern seasonal latitudes are demanding, and animals generally feature physical or behavioral adaptations such as hibernation to survive severe winters. How would Neanderthals adapt to living off the grid? The uniquely human ability has always been intelligent problem solving. I expect that the family had to keep warm, kids had to be fed, and life had to go on pretty much in the usual manner. How well would you or I fare?

I suspect that the image of Neanderthals living in caves may be due to a selection bias, in that such occupancy has a higher chance of preserving remains than huts or shelters of hide. So I rather envision Neanderthals at minimum possessing the wherewithal to anticipate and plan for seasons, utilize primitive technologies, coordinate hunting, and generally make life as secure and comfortable as possible. That doesn’t necessarily qualify them for Mensa, but in my expressly non qualified opinion, they likely had more going for them than the rather dated caveman caricature.



As inferred by their anatomical, cultural, and technological level of development, yes I think that makes sense

I don’t think that is actually needed. It makes sense from a more gradualistic perspective, but I don’t think that is a requirement of the evidence we have.

Is it though? - or were and are those interpretations of Neanderthal cognitive capacities based on available evidence?

No, that really does appear to be what you’re doing. Constructing a sort of story in your head about how conformity to theory(rather than conformity to evidence) is what made people think Neanderthals were cognitively less developed than anatomically modern humans.

1 Like

[quote=“Rumraket, post:15, topic:13234”]

You’re plain wrong here for my view is exactly the same than the one hold by paleo-expert Erik Trinkaus, a foremost authority on Neanderthals. Here is what he said about Marcelin Boule’s faulty reconstruction of the Neanderthal skeleton discovered in 1908 in a cave in La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France.
« Boule, like many of his contemporaries (and many subsequent human paleontologists), let his preconceived evolutionary notions unduly influence his interpretation of functional morphology, so as to provide an overall reconstruction of the Neanderthals that fit their perceived evolutionary relationships to modern Homo Sapiens. He was able to do this and convince the discipline that his reconstruction was accurate… »
Note that Marcelin Boule was a highly esteemed paleontologist of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and that his reconstruction of the aforementioned Neanderthal skeleton, dubbed the « Old Man » was made in such a way as to portray Neanderthals as a brutish sub-human species.
Now, would you say that Trinkaus « is just making up some conspiracy theory in his head »?

He’s right next door to you @swamidass. Perhaps you should bounce some
Of this off him

1 Like

You do know there are members of Homo before the neandies right?

Let me remind you what you wrote:

It seems to me that the idea that Neanderthals were cognitively inferior to their anatomically modern human has more to do with the requirements of the evolutionary narrative than with the evidences.

This is you making a general statement about the researchers(having opinions on the cognitive capacities of neanderthals) working in the field of human evolution, which applies to the present. That’s what that reads like. That you’re saying paleontologists today who think Neanderthals were cognitively less capable than anatomically modern humans do so because they’re trying to conform to some evolutionary narrative.

And as evidence for this general state of the field regarding the cognitive capacities of Neanderthals(which you said has more to do with this “requirement” of evolutionary theory, so presumably less to do with evidence?), you reference one guy describing another guy from the beginning of the 20th century expressing views on Neanderthals that are today pretty much universally regarded as false.


Once you’ve admitted that 1) millions of years ago, our ancestors (something like australopithecine apes), were cognitively inferior to modern man, and 2) that transitional forms have existed that connect our ancestors to us, the only way to escape the conclusion that at least some of the transitional forms were cognitively inferior to us is to posit that the first transitional form in the chain leading to us was at least at our cognitive level. IOW, you have to posit that our extraordinary cognitive skills appeared suddenly millions years ago at the very first step of our evolution from our australopithecine like ancestors. Is this what you think?