Them and us: predatory Neanderthals hunted humans?

Around 50,000 years ago modern humans arrived in Europe. There they encountered the Neanderthals: a gorilla-like super-predator 6 times as strong as the average human. These vicious neanderthals hunted humans almost to extinction (and raped human women, to add insult to injury); reducing our population to


Around 50,000 years ago modern humans arrived in Europe. There they encountered the Neanderthals: a gorilla-like super-predator 6 times as strong as the average human. These vicious neanderthals hunted humans almost to extinction (and raped human women, to add insult to injury); reducing our population to a scared tribe of just 50.  This forced us to adapt; driving our cultural evolution to where it is today.

Neanderthals the super predator, compared with humans the regular predator

Neanderthals the super predator, compared with humans the regular predator

That’s the history of humanity proposed by the “Neanderthal Predation theory”. It sounds rather absurd. Well, spoilers for the rest of this post: it is absurd. This wacky idea was pointed out to me on EvoAnth’s Facebook page (which I’m now legally obligated to tell you to go like) but was originally concocted by Danny Vendramini and detailed in his book: Them + Us.

As such, the best (and likely most hilarious) aspects of the NPT are hidden on dead trees somewhere. Nevertheless, Danny’s promotional website provides enough information about the theory to reveal it has three central pillars:

neanderthal hunted humans

How to make something dumb seem exciting? Excessive motion blur

  1. Neanderthals were more ape-like than human-like
  2. They hunted, ate and sometimes raped humans; pushing us to the brink of extinction.
  3. Human culture evolved in response to this.

Today we’re going to deal with that first pillar of the NPT: Neanderthals were ape-like super-predators. Their key ape-y traits include:

  • Their body plan, with their head being in front of their body rather than on top,
  • Their eyes which are large and slitted, since they were nocturnal predators,
  • Their muscles, which were large, powerful and ape-like
  • The absence of a human nose.

Also, if you look at Danny’s artwork they apparently also snarl all the time.

Lets deal with these ideas in order of sensibility.

The eyes

Danny does raise a good point about Neanderthal eyes: they’re soft tissue, so don’t preserve. Did their eyes have whites like us, or were they mostly iris like an ape? We have no real way of knowing. What’s more, depending on how “human” you make the eyes can greatly influence our interpretation of reconstructions. An artist picking a more human eye could make it much easier for people to anthropomorphise the Neanderthals (or vice versa, in the case of Danny’s model).

Danny points out Neanderthals had larger eyes than humans

However, whilst there is debate over just what Neanderthal eyes looked like there is not enough evidence to indicate their large eyes evolved to help them hunt at night. This is because they were already doing something else that would have necessitated large eyes: living in the north. The reduced sunlight during the winter forces many species to evolve larger eyes. In fact, modern humans native to higher latitudes have larger eyes than those living further south!

Whilst this doesn’t rule out the idea Neanderthals were nocturnal hunters, it does mean Danny needs to provide extra evidence that they were; and these large eyes weren’t evolving for something else we know the Neanderthals encountered.

The (non)-nose

Much like the eyes, noses are soft tissue so we don’t really know what they looked like. However, we do know for sure that Neanderthals actually had one. The nasal bones at the base of their nose are prominent and upright; forming the foundation of an actual nose. Humans have the same setup, whilst the non-nosed apes don’t.

A Neanderthal and human skull. Note the protuding bones where the nose should be

The muscles

At this point you might be thinking that I was a bit unfair on the NPT by dismissing it so quickly as “absurd”. After all, all it’s done so far is re-interpret soft tissue. And we don’t know what that actually looked like. However, the muscles are where the NPT jumps the shark, and it’s all down hill from here.

Danny draws parallels between Neanderthal and gorilla musculature, which is particularly problematic when it comes to their hands. Ape arm muscles are very robust, adapted for climbing and walking. Humans have weaker arms, but our muscles have evolved for fine motor control. As a result of this, whilst apes are smart enough to make stone tools they’re really bad at it.

Fortunately for Danny, it’s not like there’s any evidence of Neanderthals making stone tools.

The other issue with having as much muscle as Danny claims is the sheer amount of energy needed to sustain it. Even the weakling Neanderthals palaeoanthropologists believe actually existed had so much extra muscle that some argued they died from lack of food. The bodybuilding Neanderthals proposed by the NPT would’ve had an even tougher time finding enough food; even if they were a super predator.

The posture

So things are starting to seem ridiculous and it isn’t looking good for the NPT. However, it’s the new posture Danny gives the Neanderthals that’s really the final nail in the coffin. Continuing along the “they were more ape-like” line of reasoning, Danny suggests they had a much more ape-like posture, with the head being more anteriorily (aka forwardly) positioned.

Danny’s ape-y Neanderthals

The issue with this reconstruction is the foramen magnum, bane of psuedoscientists everywhere. This is the hole on the base of the skull that the spinal cord enters the brain. And we certainly know that it was on the base of the Neanderthal skull, angled straight down. In other words, the Neanderthal spine should be coming straight out the front of the neck in Danny’s reconstruction above.

Conclusion

I’m not sure there’s really much to add here. The idea is wrong on almost every point.

Really, the take home message from all this should be to send me more stuff on Facebook, because I found this all very hilarious. I hope you did too; and if there’s enough positive feedback maybe we’ll deal with the other pillars of the NPT in the future.

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33 thoughts on “Them and us: predatory Neanderthals hunted humans?”

  1. welikehumans says:

    I would find this totally hilarious except that I also think it is racist — hulking big black savages raping our women etc. His Neanderthals would look kinda funny with light skin, freckles and red hair.

    1. Adam Benton says:

      I’m not sure anything malicious is meant by it; its drawing inspiration from gorillas more than anything, which tend to have darker fur. That said, I would love to see a ginger monster. Don’t see many of them

    2. V. Powell says:

      This idea that competition with Neanderthals drove [European] cultural evolution also smacks of racism, and doesn’t seem to hold up. What aspects of culture do they mean? If I’m not mistaken, there isn’t much cultural advancement seen in Eurasia in the 30-50 kya window that wasn’t paralleled in at least some parts of Africa. Granted, I didn’t read the source paper, so maybe I’m failing to consider something.

      1. Adam Benton says:

        Most of the details are hidden in the book; and I’m not planning to buy it since its so patently absurd

        1. essenn says:

          An extract of the first three chapters of the book are available as a pdf from the site, plus you can find links to an additional two chapters and a full faux-scientific paper describing “NP theory” at: http://www.themandus.org/old_website/extracts.html

        2. Adam Benton says:

          Aha! The links I had found to those just kept giving 404 errors. Will be interesting to read more details on this

  2. Kenneth Cope says:

    hello; this is complete bullshit.

    1. Adam Benton says:

      Well that’s a more succinct summary than I was able to offer

  3. Paul Braterman says:

    I hope you use do not link when linking to such nonsense. Always a difficult Q: to publicise by attacking, or to hope it goes away quietly. I think that has to depend on judgments about how well publicised it is already.

    1. Adam Benton says:

      It’s a thin line to walk; but I think I’m not popular enough for it to be serious issue. I am sure to make sure my links don’t give Google juice to them though

      1. essenn says:

        I’m not sure how you are sure you aren’t giving out any Google juice, but I’d suggest adding the “rel=’nofollow'” attribute to any links to b.s. sites: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/96569?hl=en https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nofollow

        I don’t see that attribute on the two links you have to the t+u site.

        1. Adam Benton says:

          Oh I thought I had that set up. Just updated some stuff on the backend; something must have broken. Thanks for pointing it out

  4. Charles Bishop says:

    This is nonsense. First, Neanderthals were not six times stronger than modern humans, although many were quite strong. Second, there is no evidence that they ever preyed on modern humans – none. Third, the differences between Neanderthals and Moderns were relatively small with many intermediate fossil forms. Now we know why. They interbred demonstrating that they were not as some state a separate species. Fourth, Neanderthals made sophisticated stone tools (Mousterian), buried their dead at least sometimes, cooperated to kill large prey, lived in family groups, and almost certainly had a symbolic form of language. I personally still call them “Archaic Homo sapiens” indicating that they were not a separate species but a separate “race” that retained some primitive anatomical traits. Up to 10% of the genes of people with a European ancestry are from Neanderthals.

    1. Adam Benton says:

      All excellent points; I might call on them in any follow up posts

    2. Zem says:

      One again, you are attacking a stupid claim with inversely stupid claims.
      No modern human has 10% Neanderthal DNA, it ranges from 1-3% at max.

      And actually east Asians have the largest brain size of modern humans, not Caucasians, the highest IQ’s exist in eastern Asia as well.

      This isn’t all thanks to Neanderthal, as east Asian skull shape is more round and that is a very different shape than the Neanderthal skull.

      But as a percentage per group, they find that east Asians have around 2.3-.2.6% Neanderthal DNA, Western Europeans have retained 1.8-2.4% neanderthal DNA.

      Central Africans have absolutely no neanderthal DNA.

      But a person must not be simple in using this to assume that more neanderthal = better.
      As Australian Aboriginal people and Papua New Guinea people have Neanderthal mix as well and these people are rather primitive and not that bright.

      Also you have to understand that the modern east Asian morphology has only existed in the fossil record for 7000 years, they are a result of recent mutations and not a result of Neanderthal DNA.

      The person’s FB page is ridiculous and anyone that treats it as serious can only be an idiot. It would make a good fictional movie, but that’s about it.

  5. Jim Birch says:

    Once again you are using evidence against good wholesome scary stories. Are you anti-fun of something?

    1. Adam Benton says:

      Well if you go read his site; you’ll find out that the fact we find them scary is evidence they hunted is.

      So he’s just as bad as me really

  6. Neanderthal-phile says:

    This theory left me really breathless, but the comment by “welikehumans” was even more shocking. I think almost nobody would have seen anything but a gorilla in that artwork. Nobody but him. Just like V. Powell seeing “cultural racism”. He scored second in my weird-ometer.

    (Come on guys, confess: you studied at Berkeley, don’t deny it)

    These reactions really tell you a whole lot about the cultural-moral landscape of europoids in the first decades of the 21st century. Huge amounts of guilt and finger-pointing -in the best puritan tradition- to earn status points and rise in the hierarchy of the ingroup.

    I guess it can only become worse as the factual situation of europoids degrades more and more in the next decades. It’s the proverbial “unstoppable force meeting an (almost) immovable object”: on the one hand, the instinctual realization that your prospects are deeply dark. On the other, the impossibility of breaking the taboos of the tribe in the short term (and the individual rewards earned if you comply with them).

    But I digress: my original commentary was going to try to point out that, wrong as it is, this theory got something right (in my opinion): Neanderthals were super-predators.

    Our archaic cousins (kind of a race, not a different species, as it has been noted) were almost as clever as us. Much more stronger (way stronger and bigger). Those huge eyes… it doesn’t matter what came before, whether the egg or the chicken: even if they evolved originally as a response to the reduced sunlight, they were surely very useful when hunting too. They were great tool makers. They were super-predators.

    But, ok, I consider modern humans are also super-predators. Redundancy.

    1. welikehumans says:

      I’m sorry if my opinion was offensive. I have come across the Neanderthal Super-preditor theory several times before, usually referenced to support various racist opinions both for and against Europeans. I personally find using anthroplogy to support hate offensive. I was wrong to assume that those attitudes came from the original author. BTW, no I’ve never been to Berkeley and I’m not a guy. I may admittedly be a little weird though, 😀

  7. Mark Thomas says:

    They are using propaganda to offset the fear that much larger-brained Neanderthals created a superior Homo sapien sapien and since Nubian Africans have little or no Neanderthal DNA and smaller brains than Caucasians the best strategy is to attack anything pro-Neanderthal and pro-European. Lots of stupid people out there who will eat it up.

    1. ABlackRacistIfSuchAThingExist says:

      Here are the facts: an whale, elephant and rhino have very large brains. Ants have very small brains. Ants have a very intelligent and highly complex social order that includes wars, enslavement, hierarchy government systems, bury their dead and communicate like independent interdependent networks. So, how is it that an ant can do more with its small brain that an elephant can’t do with its large brain? plants have no brain at all yet have a very complex intelligent way of living and communicating. OBVIOUSLY BRAIN SIZE DOESNT MATTER AND YOUR POSTING IS FIRST HAND PROOF because it was a stupid ass comment. Intelligence and intellect are two different things and they are measured in spiritual consciousness and not physical brain size idiot.

    2. Zem says:

      “propaganda”? Look the whole thing is retarded, but some of these comments in the description are nearly just as retarded.
      “smaller brains that Caucasians”.
      So you are another one of these white supremacists and everything is about you vs black people?

      Are you forgetting that east Asian people actually have the largest brain size and top the IQ charts?
      Stop being a racist, you are being scientifically uneducated with your Caucasian superiority claims.

  8. AC says:

    (Please treat ALL-CAP WORDS as italics; since we don’t have the italics and bold feature for these comments.)

    Does the Neanderthal skull look more human or more Chimp-like? Consider:

    1 – Do ape skulls have massive cranial capacity like the Neanderthal ones do, or is that more of an exclusively human feature?

    2 – Do Neanderthal skulls have a massive cranial crest, larger-than-average jaws and sharp Canine? Apes, after all, have all of these.

    Answer is rhetorical.

    Why WOULDN’T reconstructionists believe that a human-like skull would mean the specimen looks more like a human? (“lol” with me, please.)

    The point of fact is that, on the simplest grounds, Danny Vendramini contradicts himself on the soft-tissue appearance point: There should be evidence of ape-like features on the skull of Neaderthals. We don’t see these on any of said skulls. Apparently, this was the very flaw in evidence-finding which Danny was using against human-appearance reconstructionism in the first place.

    Here’s MY inference: Danny likely already knows his “theory” is a joke, and he doesn’t ACTUALLY believe the very things he says. He’s a television producer with none other than the itent of making money from a book. And, what better way to do that than to present a “thought-provoking” scientific idea, no matter what claptrappishly balderdash rubbish nonsense baloney caca-chahoola it is?

    1. Adam Benton says:

      I can’t disagree with you on any particular point. Indeed, it’s an argument that could be made for just about any piece of pseudoscience I deal with here. After all, it seems that every 10th article Answers in Genesis puts out is a plea for donations. Sometimes it’s even more common than that.

      However, there are a few things that stop me from dismissing the whole thing as a fraud. First, the principle of charity. The second being that, regardless of the intentions of the author, he seems to have genuinely convinced some people. His cover is full of supporting quotes and he has a fair few positive book reviews. They would surely benefit from an honest takedown of this idea.

      1. AC says:

        The “principle of charity” allows any quacking goon to make any claim they want, so long as it’s ‘rational’. A lot of things that are untrue can be considered based on logic: without further qualification, I can claim that there are birds that are proficient in English. After all, humans took on that evolutionary path; why couldn’t any other animals also have done so in history’s timeline. Right? There is no possible way for humans to actually know that they don’t exist, too, because we’re only limited to 5 senses that can’t detect the whole universe. Right??

        While it’s certainly not impossible for birds to have intelligible verbal language , have we so far come across a species that can ACTUALLY do that? Be real, dude.

        Furthermore, his “supporting quotes”, as you put it, have all been very easily discredited, on said-grounds of self-contradiction. Not to mention that none of the references he sourced in his citations actually linked to a real webpage, let alone one containing any scientifically plausible peer-reviewed information.

        I say, Adam Benton, don’t feed him an inch, because he’ll run 10 blocks with it; I’m sure you’ve heard that expression before.

        Yes, maybe I could have been nicer in my criticism against his work, and perhaps it was my harsh tone that made you all of the sudden decide to gave him more credit than you originally did in your article. (It’s not the first time my frankness in expressing the nasty truth has caused people to do this.). But, regretfully, I was harsh for a reason: his intention was none other than to make money through cheap means, at the price of people’s education being fed pseudo-researched false information; of course they’ll give him a positive review for his radically off-beat neat ideas, even without knowing where his facts truly came from. Not only do I not take any part of his Sci-fi “Planet of the Apemen” movie fantasy for a book seriously (the style in which he arrives to his scientific conclusions seem more akin to the work of a t. v. producer, which he is.), I can’t encourage anyone else to partake in and promote his disingenuous, unintegrous behaviour.

        1. Adam Benton says:

          I still think his argument is complete rubbish, the principle of charity doesn’t give him any recourse there. It simply means I’m taking him at his word when he says he believes it. But you hint at some evidence that it’s not quite on the level. I’d be interested in hearing more about that. Though I can’t decide what would be better, knowing that people are this stupid or this disengenous

  9. Xross says:

    is this a satirical article something? it’s 100% bullshit and not funny

    1. Adam Benton says:

      It’s a real book. You can go buy it on Amazon if you want.

  10. ABkackRacistIfSuchAThingExist says:

    OK, this is typical Eurocentric blatant RACISM in a insinuating innuendo subliminal manner. First off white people WHITE MEN IN PARTICULAR tend to grow long hair all over their bodies like an ape. The hair is straight and has texture of an apes hair. White European has longer torso with shorter leg span like a knuckle dragging ape. Some white peoples are still being born with tails like an ape, the pop singer ke$hia openly admitted her functioning tail was cut off at birth to hide this fact and regularly occurrence among white European RECESSIVES. If you were to cut the hair off an ape the under skin is pink like white peoples skin. White peoples have a territorial/predatorial drive like apes(violent chimpanzees in particular) and their historical behavior such as hunting animals for sport, countless wars even among themselves like both world wars, civil war, war of independence, Roman crusade, colonialism, imperialism, ethnocentricism, xenophobia and domination is a few good examples of the animal nature of white Caucasians.
    The images are suggestive propaganda that is cliche racism to make the black ape appear to be wild violent rapist of the human or suggestive WHITE PEOPLE as humans. I have 3 pet snakes whom are all predator in nature. I breed rats which are omnivorous in nature to feed my snakes. I have had spiders and lizard as pets and they were predator driven animals. NOT ONCE IN THE MANY YEARS OF ME HAVING PREDATOR PETS I HAVE SEEN ANY OF THEM DEVELOPING SEXUAL ATTRACTION TO THEIR PREY OR FOOD ITEM. THAT WOULD GO AGAINST THEIR NATURAL INSTINCTS TO KILL WHICH WOULD RESULT IN DEATH AS A SPECIES BECAUSE IF YOU FIND YOURSELF FUCKING YOUR FOOD INSTEAD OF EATING IT YOU WOULD DIE OUT DUE TO HUNGER AND STARVATION. All non black Africans have Neanderthal DNA. That is shown in hair texture. Only black Africans types have kinky cosmo spiral swirling hair. Now, many white peoples who allow their Neanderthal nature to run wild prompting the amgedala MAOA warriors Gene to influence their behavior become violent warmonger and serial killers, which they would find eating their victims as a natural habit. Jeffery Dahmer made many attempts to control his Neanderthal-predator, hunting-human nature with drugs and alcohol but was unsuccessful so of course he killed and ate his victims and his victims were typically black or colored people and yes he also fucked them too. So again this is the white recessive Eurocentric people nature to take all of their faults and flaws and place them on others then co-opt others civil decency to take as white people attributes. White people trying to become and be good and natural civil humans while forcing the real nature civil humans to become white. They call black peoples apes yet blacks don’t have ape-Neanderthal DNA but white peoples do. Whites are cannibals like Dahmer blacks are not. Whites eat raw meat like a predator. Whites have a sense to detect animal hormone which explains why you find mostly white peoples Fucking animals and even fighting legislations to have rights to continue Fucking animals. It’s not beastiality if the two parties are animals. Having anywhere from 1 to 10% Neanderthal DNA means you are not a human. It means you are a GMO genetically engineered laboratory experiment gone wrong subhuman or subspecies hybrid. Darwin knew he was a monkey and he informed the rest of the white recessive Europe caucus cave apes of this fact.

  11. Chuck Robbins says:

    The rib cage is the best (quickest) way to determine if Neanderthal was more closely related to apes, humans, or had found a very cozy middle ground. Apes, if I remember correctly, do not bury their dead, or memorialize their dead… etc. The muscles of Neanderthal must have attached to their much thicker and denser bones in a similar manner to humans. Measure the ridges that the muscles attached to, measure the bone thickness, and density, compare these to human measurements, The difference, percentage wise… should give a ballpark figure as to their actual strength.

    I am not a scientist, but, their bones served a purpose, just as ours do. Our bones suit our strength, which is not much compared to our distant cousins, the apes. The neanderthal? I would guess them to be about 3-4 times stronger than homo sapiens.

    If you ran into a Neanderthal type human alone on a dark street, I would bet the farm that most of us would find ourselves on the other side of the street very quickly… I would also guess that their reaction times, or reflexes, were much quicker than ours are. An analogy? We are the Humvees, and they are the tanks. They would roll right over us and not break a sweat.

    Feel free to disagree, that is fine, opinions are funny things… they are valid for each of us.

    1. Adam Benton says:

      Examining muscle attachment sites on bones is a great guide for how big the muscles in question are. Using this we can figure out a lot of stuff about archaeological populations, from their hand preference (based on muscle asymmetry) and sometimes even their profession. Although it is worth noting in many cases the limb bones are preferred over the rib cage as they’re used more in manual activities.

      Similar methods have been applied to Neanderthals, revealing you’re right. Their muscles do seem to have been bigger than ours. It’s hard to say how much bigger, given the rest of the muscle has rotted away; but estimates based on what we do have indicate you’ve exaggerated their strength a bit. Their muscle mass would have been perhaps 50% larger than ours. Whilst impressive, it isn’t quite the 3 – 4 times stronger you suggest.

      1. Anonymous says:

        And you’re basing this 50% on what? Muscle mass?? Why would you even try to pull off this kind of junk? Or are you just stupid? Just look at the difference in the bones.

        A human versus a chimp of a much smaller size would rip him apart limb from limb. Stop talking out of your ass. This whole post is so full of bias and straight up bullshit. The argument you criticize is many times more convincing than yours.

        1. Adam Benton says:

          Yes, looking at the differences in the bones does indicate Neanderthals were stronger. Their muscle attachment sites were larger than ours (indicating larger muscles) and their bones were more robust to deal with the added forces of stronger muscles. Pinpointing exactly how much stronger they were is difficult, given these variables don’t have a 1:1 relationship with muscle size and strength. Thus, estimates vary from 20% – 100% stronger. I picked 50% as a nice middle number.

          You can repeat the same process with chimps, showing that you are right: they’re even stronger still (typically speaking, some of our muscles are larger than their equivalent given we use them for different purposes. Those associated with bipedalism. for example, are actually larger in humans). The cortical thickness of their thighs, for example, is twice that of modern humans.

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