A team of anthropologists claims to have discovered the remnants of a supposedly ‘30,000 year old’ Neandertal/modern human fossil hybrid. Fossil fragments of a skull, upper and lower jaw, and shoulder blade seem to reveal a blending of Neandertal and modern human features. Study author Erik Trinkaus of Washington University said, ‘At least in Europe, the populations blended.’1 This is exciting news for young earth creationists! This discovery further enhances the circumstantial evidence for Neandertals being fully human beings.
The skeletal remains were initially discovered in a Romanian cave in the 1950s. Because they looked superficially very much like modern humans, they were filed away. That is until Trinkaus and his colleagues decided to reopen the case and take a closer look. Their study compared the fragments with those of modern humans in Africa and Europe. Surprisingly (at least to progressive creationists and other long-agers who try to relegate the Neandertals to a less-than-human status), the Romanian fragments showed a mosaic of Neandertal and modern human characteristics. For example, the skull had an occipital bun at the back of the skull, and muscle attachment scars were present at the back of the jaw. These characteristics, in particular, are very Neandertal-like. In addition, upper jaw, lower jaw, and shoulder blade fragments appeared to reveal a blending of features. This evidence of interbreeding shows that the two groups ‘saw each other as socially appropriate mates’, Trinkaus said.
This would not be the first Neandertal/Modern Human skeletal mosaic ever discovered. In 1998, Trinkaus and his team unearthed the Lagar Velho I child skeleton in Portugal, which also possessed a mosaic of features.2
Neandertals easily fall within the wide range of skeletal variation that exists in mankind. Creationist anthropologist Marvin Lubenow calls them “varieties of post-flood humans.”3 UK surgeon Vij Sodera considers Neandertals to be fully human, with their characteristic skeletal features arising due to an ice age climate, arthritis, rickets, and genetic isolation.
We do not often appreciate the enormous range of skeletal variation in modern humans. For example, Owen Lovejoy, a famous evolutionary paleoanthropologist, studied 1,000 year old North American Indian bones and drew the following conclusion:
An array of archaeological evidence, such as sophisticated spears and stone tools, the controlled use of fire, building huts from animal skins, making flutes out of bear femurs, and the ceremonial burial of their dead, strongly confirms that Neandertals possessed an intellectual and spiritual capacity like our own. How many of us, without the aid of modern technology or an internet library, could perform these same feats? They also possessed a hyoid bone (in the larynx, or voicebox) that was very similar in shape, size, and position to our own, which means they were capable of fully human speech.
At least one Neandertal sample of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) appeared to reveal substantial divergence from modern human mtDNA.5 Some scientists considered this clearcut evidence that Neandertals must have been a different species. However, even in the evolutionary community, there is still a firestorm of debate over the modern human-Neandertal relationship based on mtDNA comparisons. Issues such as postmortem contamination, small sample size, enormous mtDNA diversity in non-human primates, effects of population bottlenecks, and molecular clock inaccuracies render a solution impossible at this time.
Just this year, U.S. and German scientists announced plans to reconstruct a draft of the Neandertal genome over the next two years.6 Caution is urged in the creationist community as the interpretation of this genome reconstruction will depend on which areas are accurately sequenced and the particular origins model being employed to filter the data.7
Most biblical creationists regard Neandertals as post-Babel descendants of Noah. Although the genetic data is inconclusive at this time, the skeletal and archaeological evidence strongly supports the notion that Neandertals were fully human beings, made in the image of God and descended from Adam and Eve.8