Thursday, September 18, 2008

Meet Wilma, Neanderthal!

National Geographic News says this photo is a reconstruction in part from "ancient DNA" evidence of a Neanderthal woman named Wilma, after Fred Flinstone's wife. I dunno, she seems a bit gracile to me. Why do Neanderthal women look like WWF prettyboy maulers? And would she have had a name, or an elaborate declension of her kinship, such as *woman-from-three-valleys-over-who-came-with-two-kids-sarah-hidescraper-palin-related-to-moose-mastodon-killer-uncle-cold-stream-thunder-butt-mountain-shaker-big-mouth?

Update: NatGeo is all hot to prove Neanderthals and CroMagnons interbred, for some reason. Their big "smoking gump" evidence is the FOXP2 language gene, identical in both kinds of humans. Hardly proof. Whenever you have a bright, shining bit of genetic material like that, entailed in sophisticated behaviors like language, you first assume common ancestor who also had the FOXP2 gene and its precursors, and several million years to polish the trait — in other words, Homo erectus. You don't assume that our ancestors and Neanderthals would "interbreed" at the drop of a knapped flint, when our word for them was probably troll, orc, goblin, etc., and their word for us was probably lunch.

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