Neanderthal humans vanished as a recognisable species from the fossil record some 30,000 years ago. Until then, though, they had co-existed in Europe with the taller and slimmer Cro-Magnons (early modern Homo sapiens) for the previous 10,000 years or so. The two groups had brains of similar size – a little larger than our own! There is some dispute about whether they interbred, but I bet they argued when they met. Imagine two of them, after a few pints of Mammoth Blood:
“Don’t you patronise me,
You Cro-Magnon sissy,
Or I’ll show you the point of my spear.
Yeah, we’re brutish and short,
(Like our lives, some have thought. . . )
But we’re second to none while we’re here.
“We’re Neanderthal, see?
And you’ve got to agree
We’re as big-brained as you are, my friend.
Though our brows might be prominent,
It’s we who’d be dominant
If it came to a fight to the end.”
The Cro-Magnon replies:
“We’re more cultured and wise
Than you clunky Neanderthal dudes.
We are speedy evolvers
And good problem solvers,
And we paint our cave walls and carve nudes.
“And we happen to know
That your fossils will show
That big brains and brow ridges won’t cut it.
To survive here for ever
You’ve got to be clever,
And Neanderthals aren’t, see? So shut it!”