In recent years, the distinction between anatomically modern humans (AMHs) and Neanderthals has come into question in light of genetic evidence that suggests they interbred. Some claim that this distinction can be maintained by delineating anatomical, developmental, and behavioral differences between the two species. This paper examines the body of evidence for and against behavioral modernity in Neanderthals by using their capacity for symbolic thought as a proxy for modern behavioral capabilities. Evidence for colorant usage, personal ornamentation, symbolic etchings, and interactions between AMHs and Neanderthals supports the hypothesis that Neanderthals were capable of symbolic thought and thus possessed a behavioral modernity similar to that of early AMHs. The emergence of these behaviors seems to be closely tied to cultural/demographic explanations rather than genetic/cognitive explanations and suggests promising opportunities for future research.
"Neanderthal Behavioral Modernity and Symbolic Capabilities,"
Field Notes: A Journal of Collegiate Anthropology: Vol. 7
, Article 5.
Available at: https://dc.uwm.edu/fieldnotes/vol7/iss1/5