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Neanderthals on Trial

Program Overview


Scientists present a wide variety of evidence, and its interpretation over time, in an ongoing debate over Neanderthals' place in evolution.

The program:

  • describes the changing view of Neanderthals over the last 150 years and illustrates the different interpretations that scientists have held over this time period.

  • follows the debate of whether Neanderthals were ancestors of Homo sapiens, or the result of a separate evolutionary path.

  • documents an analysis of Neanderthal DNA, which supports the idea that Neanderthals were not direct ancestors of modern humans.

  • introduces arguments from those who believe that Neanderthals and moderns were separate species and could not interbreed, making Neanderthals an evolutionary dead end; and those who believe that Neanderthals and moderns were members of a single species that did interbreed, giving Neanderthals a role in the ancestry of modern humans.

  • illustrates the subjective nature of interpreting archeological sites by detailing the errors of past interpretations of artifacts found in a French cave.

  • reveals modern excavation techniques of the French cave site and interpretations of the artifacts there.

Teacher's Guide
Neanderthals on Trial
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