FREE Science Talk: "Your Inner Neanderthal"
We will host a special Ice Age-themed science talk on Thursday, January 26 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Walker Lecture Hall. Dr. Noel T. Boaz, President of the Integrative Centers for Science and Medicine (and founder of VMNH), will present “Your Inner Neanderthal”.
This fascinating presentation is FREE thanks to generous donations of all amounts to the VMNH Foundation Discovery Fund.
The term “Neanderthal” conjures up a certain subhuman brutishness and lack of sophistication – “so easy a caveman can do it,” as the punch line for a popular insurance company ad goes. But modern multidisciplinary paleoanthropological research has instead revealed a remarkably resourceful and successful human subspecies that had a superb adaptation to the cold of the European Ice Age. In fact when climates became colder during glacial episodes Neanderthals were able to outcompete and supplant populations of anatomically modern humans. Homo sapiens neanderthalensis was the first fossil species of human discovered, in Germany in 1856, three years before Darwin published his Origin of Species. Science has grappled with understanding the beetle-browed, powerfully built, yet large-brained Neanderthals, usually placing them on a sideline of “our” modern ancestry. By around 40,000 years ago Neanderthals had become extinct, but fascinating new genomic analyses of their bones have now shown that Neanderthal genes live on in us modern humans. There is thus incontrovertible evidence that Neanderthals and “Out-of-Africa” modern humans interbred, with some of the Neanderthal genes contributing to such modern human attributes as tolerance to cold, a definitive gift from the Ice Age.