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December 23rd, 2009
Web-Exclusive Video: Less Spark, More Smolder?

One good way to learn about the human spark is to investigate a closely related species that lacked it. Alan Alda traveled to a French cave called Roc de Marsal, where Neanderthals sheltered intermittently for tens of thousands of years. The archaeologists who excavate here are becoming experts on Neanderthal life. In this video, Alan quizzes them on what they believe the big differences were between Neanderthals and early modern humans. Harold Dibble, Shannon McPherron, and Dennis Sandgathe explain what they think differentiates Neanderthals from us… and why the human spark might actually have been more of a human smolder.

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  • Nyloc Rek

    This is the most insightful discussion of the series to date. Humans invented, shared, and passed on technologies, language and ideas over successive generations where Neandertals did not. We have ‘climbed onto the shoulders’ of our forebears and this has enhanced our survivability as compared to our extinct cousins. I would also add that being omnivores instead of strictly meat-eaters is also significant. Like wolf packs, Neandertals likely required more territory and shied away from other “tribes”, discouraging sharing and trading technologies and ideas. As social beings, we meet, trade and share.

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