Animal’s Daily News

Probably not actually one of our ancestors.
Probably not actually one of our ancestors.

Here’s some food for thought; over the last four million years or so, there have been quite a few human and near-human species wandering around, but today there is only one – us, H. sapiens.  (Some days I question that specific name, but there you are – thank Carolus Linneaus.)

But what if some other species, or several others, were still kicking around today?  Excerpt;

Imagine how things might have turned out had the Neanderthals or Denisovans survived alongside Homo sapiens. What kind of cultures, societies and political structures would have emerged in a world where several different human species coexisted? How, for example, would religious faiths have unfolded? Would the book of Genesis have declared that Neanderthals descend from Adam and Eve, would Jesus have died for the sins of the Denisovans, and would the Qur’an have reserved seats in heaven for all righteous humans, whatever their species? Would Neanderthals have been able to serve in the Roman legions, or in the sprawling bureaucracy of imperial China? Would the American Declaration of Independence hold as a self-evident truth that all members of the genus Homo are created equal? Would Karl Marx have urged workers of all species to unite?

Over the past 10,000 years, Homo sapiens has grown so accustomed to being the only human species that it’s hard for us to conceive of any other possibility. Our lack of brothers and sisters makes it easier to imagine that we are the epitome of creation, and that a chasm separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. When Charles Darwin indicated that Homo sapiens was just another kind of animal, people were outraged. Even today many refuse to believe it. Had the Neanderthals survived, would we still imagine ourselves to be a creature apart? Perhaps this is exactly why our ancestors wiped out the Neanderthals. They were too familiar to ignore, but too different to tolerate.

Bear-stuffsIt’s an interesting thought.

Some years back the esteemed paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey stated that if you took a Neandertal, shaved him, put him in a suit and put him on a New York City subway (think for a moment of the typical denizens of the NY city subway system) he probably wouldn’t attract too much notice.  This is often quoted to imply that the Neandertal were “just like us,” which they weren’t – for one thing, you’d need to give Old Cuz a hat to cover his flattened and elongated cranium, otherwise suit or no, he’d look pretty odd.  But Leakey clarified his comment at a later point, adding that if you pulled the same trick with a Homo erectus, everyone would stare at him; if you did it with a Homo habilis, everyone would move to the far end of the car.

But forget for a moment what it would be like to have a family of Neandertals living next door; forget the implications to everything from government to religion to medicine.  I can think of one professional field in which our ancestors would have excelled; put a six and a  half-foot, robust, massively muscled H. heidelbergensis in the ring with any of today’s “professional” wrestlers, and the resulting match would, I suspect, be very, very short.

That’s a pay-per-view that I might actually kick in a few shekels to watch.