Evidence for Neanderthal in America

Stone tools (M.Waters)The long-held theory of how humans first populated the Americas may have been well and truly broken.

Archaeologists have unearthed thousands of stone tools that predate the technology widely assumed to have been carried by the first settlers.

The discoveries in Texas are seen as compelling evidence that the so-called Clovis culture does not represent America’s original immigrants.

Details of the 15,500-year-old finds are reported in Science magazine.

A number of digs across the Americas in recent decades had already hinted that the “Clovis first” model was in serious trouble.

But the huge collection of well-dated tools excavated from a creek bed 60km (40 miles) northwest of Austin mean the theory is now dead, argue the Science authors.

“This is almost like a baseball bat to the side of the head of the archaeological community to wake up and say, ‘hey, there are pre-Clovis people here, that we have to stop quibbling and we need to develop a new model for peopling of the Americas’,” Michael Waters, a Texas A&M University anthropologist, told reporters.

Friedkin site (M.Waters)

For 80 years, it has been argued that the Clovis culture was the first to sweep into the New World. …

Dr Waters and colleagues say this position is now undeniable in the light of the new artefacts to emerge from the Debra L Friedkin excavation.

These objects comprise 15,528 items in total – a variety of chert blades, bladelets, chisels, and abundant flakes produced when making or repairing stone tools.

The collection was found directly below sediment containing classic Clovis implements. The dating – which relied on a technique known as optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) that can tell how long minerals have been buried – is robust, says the team. And, they add, the observed sequence is also reliable; the sediments have not been mixed up after the tools were dropped.

“The sediments were very rigid in the fact that they were clay, which worked to our advantage,” explained Lee Nordt from Baylor University. “If you go to many other sites, they are loamy or sandy in texture, and they are mixed very rapidly by burrowing from animals or maybe from plant roots, etc.” …

via BBC News – Stone tools ‘demand new American story’.

EUROPEANS colonised America up to 30,000 years ago, perhaps by crossing the Atlantic, according to a genetic analysis of native Americans that sheds light on their origins. By studying the DNA in “power packs” of cells called mitochondria, scientists can compare populations to reveal evidence of ancient migrations, the American Association for the Advancement of Science was told. Such work reveals four major lineages in native Americans which can be traced to Siberia and north-east Asia, notably in Baikal and Altai-Sayan.

However, a fifth – more minor – founding lineage, called haplogroup X, can be traced to Europe, and is found in North American populations, said Dr Theodore Schurr of the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas. Dr Schurr said: “This is one of the intriguing findings that we have come across recently. These data imply that haplogroup X was present in the New World long before Europeans first arrived in the New World, before Columbus or the Vikings or anybody else.” …

via mathildasanthropologyblog

When did human beings first arrive in the Americas? The “accepted” date keeps getting pushed back.

The Clovis Culture were mammoth hunters whose archaeological sites have been dated to ~13,000 years ago. The Clovis people are thought to have walked here over the Bering Land Bridge, Northern Alaska, and through a Canadian ice-free corridor.

But coastal archaeological sites may be much older, suggesting that people in boats arrived in the Americas as much as 30,000 years ago. Controversy on the earliest date is decades old and one of the favorites questions debated by modern archaeologists …


It is fun to imagine humanity 30,000 years ago.  The big news of the time was likely the clash between the two noticeably different humans: Homo sapiens and Neanderthal.  What happened to the Neanderthal men? Our ancestors killed them and ate them.

90pxThe phenomenon known today as genocide that began 30,000 years ago when homo sapiens came across a unique independent type of humans and destroyed them to seize more space on the planet. …

Neanderthal men were real hunters and hunted in groups. Neanderthal men and homo sapiens began to hunt each other and eat up bodies of defeated enemies about 40 thousand of years ago. That was a period when first homo sapiens appeared in Europe, the land of Neanderthal men. The two peoples coexisted on the territory for 10,000 years. About 30,000 years ago Neanderthal men lived in the south of Spain, in Gibraltar and the Pyrenees, and then vanished without leaving a trace.

via Pravada

Analysis of 11 different human gene trees suggests that our species arose in Africa, and that there were at least two major population expansions out of Africa; one over 600,000 and another 95,000 years ago  (Cann, 2002). Recent fossil finds in norther Spain extend this earliest migration to 1.2 million years ago. An  earlier expansion of Homo erectus from Africa occurred 1.7 million years ago (Templeton, 2002).  The first corresponds with the  movement of  Homo neanderthalensis out of Africa and an increase in hominid (see hominid books) fossil cranial capacity. Archaeologists have found much physical evidence to confirm this date, such as the 0.73 Mya old fossils with stone tools and bison and other animal bones of a generalised Homo species from Isernia in west central Italy.  The other date matches the movement of modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens out of Africa and the appearance of modern traits in fossil skulls. Fossil skull traits such as high, rounded skulls, small brow ridges,  a vertical forehead and a pronounced chin first appear in Africa about 130,000 years ago. They then appear outside of Africa over 90,000 years ago (Templeton, 2002).  Phylogenetic analysis of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA leads to a  date for the common ancestor of the neanderthal and modern humans at around 465,000 to 600,000 years ago (four times the estimate for the common ancestor of all modern humans) (Disotell, 1999). The common ancestor of the mtDNAs of all living humans lived about 170,000 years ago (Hofreiter et al, 2001).   All hominid remains of the last 100,000 years belong to one of these two species (Roe in Waechter, 1990). Ancient remains from a Spanish cave site (La Sima de los Huesos), are a transitional form between Homo erectus and Neanderthals.

via Ecotao

Our only written records are of a time4,711 years ago, and they mention a wild man who battles a king, becomes his friend, and eventually dies.

Gilgamesh was an historical king of Uruk in Babylonia, on the River Euphrates in modern Iraq; he lived about 2700 B.C. … Many stories and myths were written about Gilgamesh, some of which were written down about 2000 B.C. in the Sumerian language on clay tablets which still survive; the Sumerian language, as far as we know, bears no relation to any other human language we know about. These Sumerian Gilgamesh stories were integrated into a longer poem, versions of which survive not only in Akkadian (the Semitic language, related to Hebrew, spoken by the Babylonians) but also on tablets written in Hurrian and Hittite (an Indo-European language, a family of languages which includes Greek and English, spoken in Asia Minor).

I wonder if the wild man, Enkindu, in that story is actually a metaphorical representative of a whole species (or subspecies), Neanderthal man.  It seems unlikely since Neanderthal had been gone 25,000 years, but perhaps not 100% gone.

Under pressure from advancing homo sapiens, Neanderthals found final refuge in present-day Spain and Gibraltar.Gibraltar, the last resort of Neanderthal manScientists have found the last refuge of the Neanderthals, revealing how they eked out an existence for thousands of years longer than had been thought, according to research published today. 

The evidence from a cave in Gibraltar that they were much more tenacious than previously believed adds some support for a controversial claim that this earlier kind of human may have interbred with our ancestors. …

a study published today in the journal Nature by Prof Clive Finlayson of The Gibraltar Museum, Gibraltar, …produce[s] dating results that suggest that a lucky group survived extinction in this part of southern Iberia until at least 28,000 years ago, perhaps even 24,000 years ago. …

The new findings come from Gorham’s Cave, in which stone tools were first discovered more than 50 years ago. Dating of more recently uncovered artefacts, including a series of hearth places all created at the same location within the cave, leaving charcoal remains, now show just how long-lasting the Neanderthal settlement was.

People living there would have had access to diverse plants and animals, sandy plains, woodlands, wetlands and coastline — a rich environment that probably helped the Neanderthals to persist for so long. …

A typical Neanderthal was shorter than modern man with a heavy trunk and a robust and powerful build — perfect for his Ice Age environment.

And he had a big brain too: it is thought possible that he used body decoration, hunted in packs and — by one analysis — had a shorter and wider vocal tract than a modern male human’s that could manage the complex range of sounds needed for speech, albeit at higher pitches. …

via Telegraph

Out-competed by the Cro-Magnon, Neanderthals would become extinct.

via www.smithsonianmag.com

Cro-Magnon are the first early Homo sapiens sapiens.

The term “Cro-Magnon” soon came to be used in a general sense to describe the oldest modern people in Europe. … Cro-Magnon were anatomically modern, straight limbed and tall compared to the contemporary Neanderthals. … Like Neanderthals, the Cro-Magnon were primarily big-game hunters, killing mammoth, cave bears, horses and reindeer. They would have been nomadic or semi-nomadic, following the annual migration of their prey.

modern humans
In Europe, the first modern humans (Cro-Magnons) would have run into the Neanderthals. …
Several works on genetics, blood types and cranial morphology indicate that the Basque people may be part descendents of the original Cro-Magnon population.

An America colonized 30,000 years ago, it seems to me, makes Neanderthal in America a possibility. I have seen a photo of the bone of a giant found in a cave in Calavaras County, California.  I leaned from a cave guide that there are Miwok Indian stories that a giant  lived this cave, a giant who ate people.  Neanderthal man lived in caves and ate people.

The Sierra Miwok Indians feared the caves, and believed they were inhabited by an evil spirit, a “Stone Giant” who ventured from the cave at night in search of human victims. The “Stone Giant” was then one of the “Ancient Ones” who preceded even the Indians.

via tombstonenews

In 2008, ancient artifacts related to Miwok ancestors were unearthed in Calaveras County, some as many as 5000 years old.

via wikipedia

To make it to America, Neanderthal could have used boats, but there is no evidence that they had this technology. It seems to me their lack of boats is another reason their “last stand” was in Gibraltar. They had reached the end of the earth… as they saw it.  Despite their large brains, they seem to have lacked the ability to plan ahead:

While Neanderthals mastered complex tasks such as the making of fire, shelters with post holes, and stone tools, there were many Cro-Magnon tools and behaviors Neanderthals seem to have never developed: organized fishing; using fish hooks and fish nets; headgear or hats, shoes, and sewn clothing; needle-and-thread; and long-distance trade.

… Neanderthals also appear to have never used boats or rafts, as evidenced by the lack of Neanderthal fossils from North Africa, yet in stark contrast Homo erectus, their more primitive ancestor, appears to have used rafts or some other sort of boat on occasion. …

Since Neanderthals evidently never used watercraft, but prior and/or arguably more primitive editions of humanity did, there is argument Neanderthals represent a highly specialized side branch of the human tree …

Additionally, Neanderthals evidently had little long-term planning when securing food. French caves show almost no salmon bones during Neanderthal occupancy but large numbers during Cro-Magnon occupancy. In contrast, Cro-Magnons planned for salmon runs months ahead of time, getting enough people together at just the right time and place to catch a lot of fish. Neanderthals appear to have had little to no social organization beyond the immediate family unit.

via wikipedia

Another way to get to America, was across the Bering land bridge.

The Bering land bridge is significant for several reasons, not least because it is believed to have enabled human migration to the Americas from Asia about 20,000 years ago.

The Neanderthal as early as 24,000 years ago were in Gibraltar, could a group have also migrated east? The colored map above showing the territory of Neanderthal is misleading because evidence shows that Neanderthals were in Siberia!

DNA extracted from skeletal remains has shown that Neanderthals roamed some 2000 kilometres further east than previously thought.

Researchers say the genetic sequence of an adolescent Neanderthal found in southern Siberia closely matches that of Neanderthals found in western Europe, suggesting that this close relative of modern humans migrated very long distances.

Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and colleagues examined skeletal remains found in the Okladnikov cave in the Altai Mountains and dated as between 30,000 and 38,000 years old . Until now, archaeologists have been unable to determine whether the remains belonged to Neanderthals or another species of extinct hominid because the bones are too fragmented.

Pääbo and his colleagues took 200 milligram samples of bone from the adolescent. After dissolving the mineral component of the bone, the team succeeded in extracting DNA from mitochondria – parts of the cell that produce energy.

After sequencing a short fragment of this DNA, the team compared it with that of several Neanderthals found in Europe. They discovered that it matched DNA recovered from remains found in Belgium almost perfectly. The match was “quite a bit of a surprise”, according to Pääbo, since the new evidence extends the territory of this hominid some 2000 kilometres further east.

“It means that Neanderthals were a bit more adaptable than some people give them credit for,” says Jeffrey McKee at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, US.

via New Scientist

Future discoveries may find that Neanderthal did cross by land into America, perhaps even before our own Ancestors did. This would make them “The Ancient Ones” of the Miwok legends. Is “bigfoot” a Neanderthal descendant? We are probably all part Neanderthal descendants.

A genetic analysis of nearly 2,000 people from around the world indicates that such extinct species interbred with the ancestors of modern humans twice, leaving their genes within the DNA of people today.

The discovery, presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on 17 April, adds important new details to the evolutionary history of the human species. And it may help explain the fate of the Neanderthals, who vanished from the fossil record about 30,000 years ago. “It means Neanderthals didn’t completely disappear,” says Jeffrey Long, a genetic anthropologist at the University of New Mexico, whose group conducted the analysis. There is a little bit of Neanderthal leftover in almost all humans, he says. …

Using projected rates of genetic mutation and data from the fossil record, the researchers suggest that the interbreeding happened about 60,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean and, more recently, about 45,000 years ago in eastern Asia. …

via nature.com

There is evidence that Neanderthal man made it to America, at the very least, in the form of DNA.


  1. I don’t think Neanderthals were “giants,” but Gigantopithecus was. It is thought that he/she evolved into what is today Bigfoot, according to some physical anthropologists.

    Neanderthals had on the average larger brain size than Homo sapiens and they weren’t “dumb” as the article above points out. (Check you Dr. David Frayer on YouTube:
    “Year of Darwin: David Frayer”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbLq0F0VEdw )

    But, Homo sapiens excelled in tool-making. Does handiness make Homo saps. smarter?

    If “modern” contemporary humans are so apt to get into war (as the U.S. does and has done for decades now) it sure seems likely human’s more “primitive” ancestors who lived in the distant past did the same.

    But, we needn’t even get into a discussion about weaponry and warfare just look all the destruction our “advanced,” non-killing “tools,” i.e. technology, has done is doing to the planet. (Think Japanese nuclear reactors; think BP and the Gulf of Mexico; think “dead zones” along the coasts of all the continents of the world; think the “great garbage patches” in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans; think PCBs and other industrial chemicals found in the bodies of wild animals from the Arctic to the Antarctic; think that right now you have any number of 200 potentially harmful industrial chemicals in your body.)

    If Homo saps. are more evolved than other primates, it seems to me, they have failed to display it. I can’t help but feel that Homo sapiens are an evolutionary dead-end. Sorry to say ’cause I is one and am living in the mess we made.


    1. We are the most successful primates at increasing our population.

      I wonder if Neaderthals were called “giant” just because they were stocky and muscular, and only slightly taller.

      Neanderthals’ height averages between 164 and 168 (males) resp. 152 to 156 cm (females). This height is indeed 12-14 cm lower than the height of post-WWII Europeans, but compared to Europeans some 20,000 … years ago, it is practically identical or even slightly higher. – link


  2. You guys keep using a brain’s volume to represent how intellectually evolved a species is/would be, but this is not the proper way. Especially in a case in which the volumes are only /slightly/ different, density is the key marker for intelligence. Since we have no living Neanderthals, nor any preserved brains of Neanderthals, the only evidence we can seriously consider are levels of technology at roughly equal intervals of existence. The fact that we have outlasted the Neanderthals does not mean /we/ are smarter, but their brain volume being a little greater is not evidence — at all — that /they/ were smarter.


  3. Apparently you don’t need the soft tissue of the brain itself to measure brain volume if you have more or less complete skulls. Physical anthropologists have been doing this for some time. This is how they figured that Neanderthals have on average larger brains than both modern and archaic humans. [1]

    But, Sam, your right. Brain size itself may not correlate with intelligence. For instance, Homo sapiens brain averages out to be 1,350 cubic cm., but the females of the species have on average smaller volume than the males. Yet, they certainly are not, on average, any dumber than the males.

    One reason females are not on average dumber than males, despite having smaller brain volume, is because they have greater neuronal density in their cortex [2]. I don’t think we can talk about neuronal density among Neanderthals, but having a large brain volume has already given them a head start when comes to “intelligence” – whatever that really is.

    [1] Holloway, R.L., Jr. (1981) Volumetric and asymmetry determinations on recent hominid endocasts: Spy I and II, Djebel Ihroud I, and the Sale Homo erectus specimens, with some notes on Neanderthal brain size. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 55:385–393

    [2] Haug, H. (1987) Brain sizes, surfaces, and neuronal sizes of the cortex cerebri: A stereological investigation of man and his variability and a comparison with some mammals (primates, whales, marsupials, insectivores, and one elephant). Am. J. Anat. 180:126–142


  4. I’ve insisted for over 50 years that there were others here before the “American Indian” migration because many have more European-features. The reply was always “don’t be ridiculous! !!!”


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