Homo neanderthalensis is known as the closest extinct relative to modern humans. Their physical appearance was very similar to Homo sapiens except they had larger sculls and flatter faces. They engaged in many human behaviors such as using tools, living in shelters, wearing clothes, and burying their dead. There are two varying viewpoints about how Homo neanderthalensis fossils fit into the fossil record in relation to modern humans.
The evolutionist view holds that modern humans may have evolved out of Homo neanderthalensis and that their fossils are a record of the last step in human evolution before modern man.
The creationist view holds that Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens are decendents of Adam and Eve, and Homo neanderthalensis was a genetic variation that died off in the years following the flood. Both views use scientific backing such as genetics and DNA structure, and the creationist view also uses the Bible as a source for knowledge.
Homo neanderthlensis, commonly known as the Neanderthal, is known as the closest extinct relative to modern day humans.
They were first discovered in 1829 in Germany. The locations of their fossilized remains point to the fact that they lived primarily in Europe and expanded between Southwestern and Central Asia.1 It is thought that they lived between 400,000-40,000 years ago. Their faces were larger and flatter then that of modern humans. With a large middle part to their faces, they had angled cheekbones and a very large nose that was used for breathing cold, dry air.
Their body structure was shorter then those of modern humans, and had a stockier build.
Their sculls were just as large as those as modern humans, and sometimes even larger, pointing to the fact that they had large brains to support their large, brawny bodies. Their sculls create an oval-like shape, with a receding forehead and strong brow ridges. The average height of a male is thought to be around 164 cm and the average height for females is thought to be around 155cm. This is known because all parts of their skeletons have been discovered and can be studied and compared to the skeletons of modern humans.
Homo neanderthalensis is seen as of utmost importance to the evolutionary origins of humanity because they were so similar to modern day humans. But there are also just enough differences to show that modern day Homo sapiens may have indeed evolved out of Homo neanderthalensis and become the species that rules the Earth today. Homo neanderthalensis fossils seem to serve as an important connection between the scull and skeletal structure seen in humans today and past fossils that showed more ape-like features.
Also, Homo neanderthalensis exhibited many human-like behaviors. With their fossils were found stone tools. They lived in shelters that they built themselves, wore clothes and jewelry, and buried their dead. Some even suggest they would leave offerings at graves sites such as flowers. If flowers are left at a gravesite it is a symbol of love, and the ability to show love for others is a distinct human ability. These human behaviors make it quite easy to believe that Homo neanderthalensis could indeed be the modern human’s closest extinct relative. This makes the discovery of their fossils and their place in the fossil record incredibly important, because they are humanity’s connection to their evolutionary past.
Because of the very close similarities between Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens (modern humans) both physically and behaviorally, both evolutionists and creationists alike are in agreement that Homo neanderthalensis should be considered human. But while evolutionists hold to the idea that Homo sapiens may have evolved out of Homo neanderthalensis, many creationists hold to the idea that at one time they could have lived side by side.
One creationist view held by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell who writes for Answers in Genesis, states that the fossils of Homo neanderthalensis are “the remains of those who descended from those who disappeared from the Tower of Babel in the centuries after the global flood.” This is an interesting perspective, and the article calls its readers to view fossils such as those of Homo neanderthalensis not as human ancestry, but of human diversity from a time when God was diversifying the Earth by language and culture. This is an entirely plausible idea when Homo neanderthalensis looked at from a biblical worldview.
Another creationist article that studied the similarities and differences between the DNA of Homo neanderthalensis and the DNA of modern humans also supports the idea that Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens lived simultaneously. The DNA research suggests that while Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens may have been related, it is more plausible that they shared a common ancestor between them, instead of Homo sapiens being the direct decedents of Homo neanderthalensis. From a biblical perspective of course, the common ancestors would be Adam and Eve. From this viewpoint, Homo neanderthalensis is also seen as a genetic variation of the modern human that died around the time of the flood.
There are several theories as to why Homo neanderthalensis may have died out at this time in history. One theory is that genetic drift caused the variations to no longer be passed down to future generations. Another is that inbreeding as a result of the small populations after the flood may have caused defective genes, causing Homo neanderthalensis to eventually become extinct. No matter the cause, many creationists hold to the view that Homo neanderthalensis was more like a brother to modern humans, rather then a father that modern humans originated out of. The idea that Homo neanderthalensis was a genetic variation stemming from Adam and Eve is supported not only by a scientific study of DNA, but also by the biblical narrative presented by the book of Genesis.
This historical picture that the fossil record paints can be interpreted in many different ways. One way is not more plausible or more scientific then another, but each viewpoint is simply trying to answer different questions. Evolutionists are trying to find the origin of humanity, and use fossils like Homo neanderthalensis as evidence for the idea that humans are decedents of other species. Creationists already know the origin of humanity, as it is recorded in the book of Genesis. They are simply trying to find out how fossil like that of Homo neanderthalensis fit into God’s narrative.
Neither idea is superior from a scientific viewpoint, and proponents on each side should not necessary see the other as the opposition, for they are even not looking to answer the same questions. Because of Homo neanderthalensis’s both physical and behavior characteristics both evolutionists and creationists believe that they were human. Evolutionists believe modern humans may have evolved out of Homo neanderthalensis, while creationists hold that Homo neanderthalensis was a genetic variation stemming from Adam and Eve. Both ideas have their place in the scientific community, and both views are worthy of respect and acknowledgement.