The Homo Sapiens story is one of the most fascinating stories the modern science has still to solve in the next future. Many important pieces of the final picture are already known to the researches in that field. The search for the remaining pieces, however, is dominated by those researches who had interpreted the previous discoveries in a specific, not necessarily the best one, way. The mostly grave of the misleading interpretations is the role of the Genus Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis in the whole story of hominins.The reason for this misinterpretation is obviously buried in the first preliminary opinion about the original discovery in Neandertal Valley (1856, near Duesseldorf in Germany). The first ever found skeletal remains of a member of the Neanderthal genus suggested a wild, carnivorous, strong but non-intelligent being, an apex predator that in no way could be thought of as our direct predecessor.
Fortunately, there is also an increasing number of researchers not really impressed by that preliminary opinion. The most innovative of them I have recently met on internet is paleoanthropologist Rick Potts, the director of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program and curator of anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History. In conclusions to the article by Jill Neimark How we won the hominid wars, and all the others died out, based upon the excellent Potts' research, we read:
"Overall, the evidence shows that hominins were able to adapt to changing environments. The genus Homo, to which our species belongs, also had the capacity to adjust to a variety of environmental conditions all over the world. Homo sapiens is especially able to cope with a broad range of climatic conditions, hot and cold environments, arid and moist ones, and with all kinds of varying vegetation. We use resources from a vast variety of plants and animals and use many specialized tools. We have many social contacts and means of exchanging resources and information to help us survive in a constantly changing world.
Humans today represent the one species that has survived of what has been a diverse evolutionary tree, composed of species that had a variety of adaptations and ways of life. Despite their very close relationship with our species, and despite the fact that all of them possessed some combination of features that characterize humans today, these earlier species and their ways of life are now extinct."
Potts admits that also Neanderthals were clever enough to endure climatic oscillations. Also other researchers recognize now that Neanderthals were more advanced than previously thought. In 2010 a U.S. researcher reported finding cooked plant matter in the teeth of a Neanderthal skull, contradicting the earlier belief they were exclusively carnivorous. Another study shows that Neanderthals ate shellfish 150,000 years ago.
Most researchers studying Neanderthals had assumed they were simple wanderers, hiding out in caves when the weather got bad. Now however, the discovery in Ukraine of the underpinnings of a house built of mammoth bones by a group of Neanderthals, some 44,000 years ago, turns that thinking on its head.
Until recently, many scientists have thought of Neanderthals as thick, slow thinking and likely uncreative. New evidence dispels also that part of this image. Archeologists digging in the Netherlands have unearthed flint and bone fragments from 200,000 years ago that have remnants of red ochre on them, indicating that Neanderthals were using the material much earlier than was previously thought. Evidence suggests that Neanderthals even used boats to reach the islands in the Mediterranean Sea (and probably elsewhere).
As mentioned above, however, the mostly innovative is the idea expressed by Rick Potts, also discussed in his article about the climatic effects upon the human being evolution:
"During the period of human evolution, the Earth's climate has fluctuated between warm and cold. Some of the most important milestones in human evolution occured during times of greatest fluctuation."
This idea coincides very well with the Naturics timescale of the evolution of the terrestrial life. Nevertheless, it seems to me that even Rick Potts does not really make use of the difference between the genus Neanderthal and the species Neanderthal.
As shown in my diagrams to „Our own evolution“, the Genus Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis has occupied the Earth's surface for 165 thousand years, and during this period created twelve succesive species Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis. Each of these twelve species has lived for 13,5 thousand years before it died out, leaving however its own descendants; the evolutionary chain has not been interrupted until now. Each of these extinctions has been accompanied by climatic fluctuations of the level 4 (compare the levels of the Cosmic Hierarchy of the Solar System). But no extinction of these species was really abruptly, unexpectedly forced by the corresponding climatic fluctuations. After the characteristic (quantum) period of 13,5 thousand years every species is at the end of its own „life“ (duration, activity period). It dies out because it is old enough, it is ready to die.
The same has occurred to the whole Genus Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis, now 6816 years ago. However that time it was the quantum „jump“ of the level 5 of the Cosmic Hierarchy. The genus of the Neanderthals has done its evolutionary „job“ and was old enough to die out and to make place free for the next genus of Homo Sapiens, our own Genus Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Nevertheless, the „environmental fluctuations“ corresponding to the quantum jump of the level 5 are approximately hundred forty times more energetic than those of the level 4. Correspondingly stronger and more destructive are the extinction effects. There were really only very few hominin survivors of this extinction. We all living on the Earth today are the first and the only species of the Genus Homo Sapiens Sapiens. And we are just in the middle of our own „period of activity“ (of 13,5 Ty). Our first global civilization is the seventh of the twelve consecutive civilizations during this period. We all are the direct descendants of the last species of Neanderthals died out 6816 years ago.
The proposed point of view allows us to understand additionaly the second great puzzle of the large brains of the Neanderthals.
Neanderthals were really primitive creatures 172 thousand years ago, when they followed the previous genus of our family, the genus I call (temporarily) "Homo Sapiens Heidelbergensis" (with its theoretical duration of 165 thousand years; between 336,6 Ty and 171,7 Ty ago). However already the first species of the Neanderthals were skillful enough to build their homes of mammoth bones. Each new species of them developed new skills, as fishing, cooking the food, and using the red ochre and other materials for artistic and spiritual expressions. Their brains were growing continuously from species to species. Cro Magnons were not „arising from nothing extraterrestrial aliens“ but just the eleventh species of the Genus Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis, originated 35,9 thousand years ago. They have brains already distinctly larger than our brains today. Also the twelfth species, that originated 22,3 thousand years ago, was characterized with larger brains.
Then came the end of the Genus Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis. The (potentially) thirteenth species, originating 8,7 thousand years ago, had not obtain a possibility (vitality) to evolve quietly to the next evolutionary step. This species was forced to hurry with the adaptation to the rapidly changing environment (massively melting ice, rising sea level, quickly shifting climatic zones). The worst, however, were the direct impacts of the cosmic bodies of the level 4 (8755 years ago; about ten times larger than Tunguska impactor) and of ther level 5 (6816 years ago, with impactors with a diameter even above 1 km), and the immediately following earthquakes, tsunamis, earth slides, volcanic eruptions and global fires. All civilizations of the last Neanderthals (I mean Cro Magnon and relative species on all continents around the globe), located preferably at the seaside (including all continental „Atlantis“) were immediately wiped out from the Earth's surface. The large brain was useless for almost all human beings under those conditions.
Only those few per cent of them, who survived by chance, living in niches far from the seashore, having not enough to eat, and thus in average smaller bodies and smaller brains, gave us their own genes and the chance to live here today.
So, when Kathleen McAuliffe asks; If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking?, we can answer now: the shrinking was conditioned through the traumatic period around the origin of our own genus 6,8 thousand years ago, but our brains have a chance to grow again, if we remain clever enough to use them for the remaining half of our own life-period of 13,5 thousand years. And we are able to answer R. Cedric Leonard, asking Did an asteroid destroy Atlantis?: Yes, but not directly, only through the environmental catastrophes following the recent cosmic impacts of the level 5. By the way, they were no asteroids, they came from the much farther space (but it is one another story).