Our views of Neandertals have swung wildly over the years. Scientists once regarded them as dimwitted brutes—we still use the epithet "Neandertal" to refer to clueless, sexist guys—but recent research shows that they were skilled toolmakers, had a complex social organization, and made sophisticated use of the caves and other spaces they lived in. Still, human evolution experts continue to debate how similar Neandertals were to Homo sapiens in their cognitive and symbolic capacities: Did they have language? Did they bury their dead? Did they make art? Just how "human" were they?
Join us for a live chat on how we compare to our closest evolutionary cousins at 3 p.m. EDT on Thursday, 25 October, on this page. You can leave your questions in the comment box below before the chat starts. The full text of the chat will be archived on this page.
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Harold L. Dibble is a professor of anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and curator-in-charge of the European section at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. His research interests include archaeological methods, lithic analysis, and the origins of modern culture.
John D. Speth holds an Arthur F. Thurnau (Emeritus) Professorship for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education; he is also professor emeritus of anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and curator emeritus of archaeology in the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is interested in the evolution of forager diet, subsistence strategies, and food processing technologies, and, more specifically, in the ways that hunter-gatherers cope with seasonal and interannual unpredictability in their food supply.
Michael Balter has been a journalist for more than 30 years, the last 20 of them based mostly in Paris, France. He was Paris bureau chief for Science from 1991 to 2002, and continues to write regularly for the journal's news pages as a Contributing Correspondent.