Scientists are growing 'mini-brains' containing Neanderthal genes. Could they reveal what made modern humans such a successful species?
Neanderthals looked after their sick and their dead, as this reconstruction shows. They lived in small family groups and are thought to have had language. Many academics believe our ancestors outcompeted Neanderthals by being smarter
Humans are the only living species of hominin, a tribe of great apes that also includes our shorter, stockier, stronger – and extinct – cousins, the Neanderthals. These prehistoric relatives originated in Europe, colonised Asia and were successful for almost 250,000 years.
But within 10,000 years of ‘anatomically modern humans’ appearing in Eurasia, following our last migration out of Africa over 50,000 years ago, Neanderthals had disappeared. While the cause of extinction remains controversial, many academics believe our ancestors outcompeted Neanderthals by being smarter. Archaeological evidence tells us that we had burial rituals, cave art and tools that surpassed anything created by the Neanderthals – all thanks to an ability to innovate.
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