When you think of a Neanderthal, what comes to your mind? A primitive, hairy cave man like we see in the GEICO commercials? There are plenty of stereotypes surrounding this mysterious people group, but it’s important we set them aside as we ask the question “Who were the Neanderthals?”
Over the years, evolutionists have argued that Neanderthals were our brutish and less-evolved cousins. As a result, these same evolutionists would argue that Neanderthals were simply a casualty of mankind’s inevitable march toward progress.
But creationists have long contended that this people group was simply a variety of human—descendants of Adam just like us.
Let’s look at what science says about this issue from a biblical worldview.
Evidence of Neanderthals’ Intelligence
Earlier this year, scientists found evidence that Neanderthals made and used string. The researchers said this complexity implies that these peoples were “as smart as us.”
This isn’t the only sign of intelligence we’ve found among the Neanderthal people. Archaeology confirms that Neanderthals made instruments, makeup, jewelry, and weapons and that they ritually buried their dead.
In fact, many humans today share DNA with Neanderthals. A study in the journal Science compared the Neanderthal genome to the genes of five humans still alive today. The comparison revealed that, in some of these people, as much as 4% of the total genome was of Neanderthal origin.
Evolutionists didn’t expect modern humans and Neanderthals to share the same DNA—but young earth creationists did.
So Then Who Were the Neanderthals?
Evolutionists say Neanderthals lived around 60,000 years ago or more. But creationists believe they were a group of humans who lived in the harsh post-Flood Ice Age. Neanderthal bones have been found buried alongside extinct Ice Age animals like mammoths and stegodons.
The Bible doesn’t specifically mention this brief era of worldwide climate change, but we can see the effects of former glaciers throughout northern Europe, Asia, and North America (as well as the mountainous highlands of Africa, South America, and South Asia).
Neanderthal remains have been discovered in several of those areas, including Northern Asia, Northern Europe, and the Middle East. This wide range of locations makes sense when you consider the events at the Tower of Babel after the Flood. At Babel, God confused people’s language and caused them to disperse around the world.
By the time of Abraham—around 2000 B.C.—several cities had been built throughout the Middle East. Yet no Neanderthal remains or Ice Age animal fossils have been found around those cities, indicating that the Ice Age had waned by that point.
Starting With God’s Word When Studying Neanderthals
As you can tell, a biblical worldview makes much more sense than an evolutionary perspective when interpreting Neanderthal findings.
We can better understand why Neanderthal anatomy differs from modern man when we realize the harsh climate of the post-Flood Ice Age. And the increasing discoveries of Neanderthal intelligence make sense when we realize that Neanderthals are fully human, not primitive links in human evolution.
These people didn’t live tens of thousands of years ago and they aren’t our evolutionary cousins. They were humans, descended from Adam, and made in God’s image. Neanderthals were our relatives. They simply reflect some of the variation in mankind.
You can learn more about Neanderthals on Answers.tv! Start by watching What Happened to the Neanderthals? with Ken Ham and Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson. You’ll learn when they lived, how they lived, and why they died out.