A Neanderthal Foreign Policy

Roundup
tags: foreign policy, Neanderthal



John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus.

Neanderthals generally get a bad rap.

If history is written by the winners, they are the world’s very first losers. After all, Neanderthals came out on the wrong end of the great evolutionary battle with our Homo Sapiens ancestors. Ever since, they have been portrayed as big, stupid, artless, lumbering brutes. Our smarter forebears wiped out the last trace of the creatures from Europe about 28,000 years ago in what might well have been history’s first genocide.

But this history is now being rewritten. Neanderthals, it turns out, were not stupid or artless. And they didn’t likely die out in an apocalyptic firefight with our ancestors. When the first Neanderthal genome was sequenced in 2010, it revealed an entirely different story.

And that story has some interesting implications for foreign policy as well.

Kissing Cousins

Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens are cousins, having branched off from a common ancestor around 350,000 to 400,000 years ago. Neanderthals never seemed to have lived in Africa, for no sign of them has ever been found there. But they ranged widely across Eurasia and parts of the modern-day Middle East. And that’s where they encountered our ancestors spreading out from their African birthplace....




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