The Neanderthals were claimed by the late Colin Wilson to have possessed highly sophisticated mathematical and astronomical knowledge and were precursors of the Atlantis civilisation. This extremely speculative assertion is made in Wilson’s Atlantis and the Kingdom of the Neanderthals, a book that wanders all over the place with references to an extensive range of ancient mysteries from the Maya to Mary Magdalene without offering anything tangible to substantiate his central thesis.
The idea of a Neanderthal connection with Atlantis is totally at variance with Plato’s description of a literate Bronze Age civilisation. While many atlantologists have chosen to reinterpret, modify or ignore aspects of Plato’s narrative, they have usually made some effort to justify their stance. Wilson, however, simply disregards the substantial Bronze Age references by Plato without any attempt at an explanation for his omission. Although, it is generally accepted that the Neanderthals had died out by 20,000 BC and Wilson seems to believe that the cataclysmic flooding of Atlantis took place around 9500 BC, it leaves an insurmountable gap of over 10,000 years unexplained by him.
Neanderthals are accepted to have been indigenous to Europe, although the are sites in Israel attributed to them. As far as I’m aware, the most southerly evidence in Europe of Neanderthal activity has been in Malta(l), which is outlined in Dr. Anton Mifsud’s beautifully illustrated book, Dossier Malta – Neanderthal , which can now be read online.
A January 2010 report(a) dated the demise of the last Neanderthal at around 35,000 BC, which conflicts with the last paragraph. An even more eyebrow raising claim was made two years later in February 2012, when New Scientist magazine published an article(b) which suggested that the Neanderthals had a maritime history in the Aegean 130,000 years ago! However, to make such a claim does not seem to take adequate account of the fact that at the time sea levels were much lower and as a consequence some islands were considerably larger and in many cases, individual islands that we know today were joined to each other or generally required shorter sea journeys between them.
Now the suggestion has been made that the Neanderthals were possibility the first cave artists. This claim was put forward in the journal Nature (15/6/12). The El Castillo cave in northern Spain has some of this art dated to at least 40,800 years ago.
It was also proposed by Peter Fotis Kapnistos, who worked with Spyridon Marinatos, that Neanderthal Man may also have mastered sea travel and possibly played a part in the development of the Atlantis story(c). The idea of Neanderthal sailors has gained further support in a paper(s) by Professor George Ferentinos of the University of Patras.
Paola Villa a curator at the University of Colorado’s Museum of Natural History has recently (April, 2004) expressed the view that the intellectual abilities of the Neanderthals have been seriously underestimated(d). Similar views are expressed in an article(e) which traces the early characterisation of Neanderthals as ‘primitive’ and contrasting that with the current revised opinions that attribute much greater intellectual capabilities to them.
In 2018, an article by Joanna Gillen on the Ancient Origins website offers more evidence that the Neanderthals had a more sophisticated lifestyle than previously thought(n). This based on the finds from the cave at Abric Romani in Spain’s Catalonia. For obvious reasons the technological capabilities of Neanderthals are only hinted at from the scanty evidence available so far. One such clue was the discovery(r) that they seemed to have used birch tar to haft projectile points.
Neanderthal cave discoveries continue to surprise. In 2016, Nature published(t) details of investigations carried out in the Bruniquel Cave in southwest France. Occupation was dated to around 175,000 years ago. Furthemore, apart from evidence of the use of fire, broken stalagmites carefully arranged in circles.
An extensive two-part article describing the Neanderthals as ‘human’ is available online(g). This view is currently championed by Portuguese archaeologist João Zilhão, who’s views are featured in an interesting article(m) in the May 2019 edition of the Smithsonian Magazine.
There appears to be an acceptance that many of us have some Neanderthal DNA within us. While this is usually in the form of small snippets, an article in New Scientist magazine has reported that longer strings have been identified in Melanesian populations(o) in Pacific!
In 2015 the results of the mapping of the entire geonome of a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal were published, which concluded that “There is now conclusive evidence that Neanderthals bred with Homo sapiens.”(f)Also in 2015, genetic studies pushed back the origins of Neanderthals to a startling 765,000 years ago(i), twice as old as previously thought.
Geneticist David Reich had been sceptical of the idea that humans and Neanderthals had interbred until he engaged in a study of the DNA extracted from 40,000-year-old Neanderthal bones found in a Croatian cave. The result was that he was forced to conclude that “that humans and Neanderthals did interbreed in their time together in Europe. Possibly even more than once.”(p)
A year later the results of a study(j) of their ‘Y’ chromosome suggested that Neanderthals had diverged “almost 590,000 years ago from humans.”
The apparent relatively rapid extinction of the Neanderthals has, understandably, led to a great amount of speculation. One of the most recent(h) suggests that the lack of the control of fire by the Neanderthals, in contrast with their human neighbours, was probably a factor that led to their demise! However, the use of fire by Neanderthals in Tuscany now appears settled with the discovery of tools shaped with fire(q).
More relevant to life today is a report(k) that the average 3% which modern Europeans share with Neanderthals have left us with a greater risk of nicotine addiction and depression.