Thursday, September 24, 2009
When Darwin met a Neandertal
As many readers will know if they have been paying attention during this 150th anniversary of its publication, On the Origin of Species makes no mention of human evolution. Darwin did not get around to that controversial subject until his 1871 Descent of Man. Yet there was plenty of evidence for the antiquity of humanity, including the 1848 discovery of a Neandertal skull and other bones on Gibraltar and the 1856 discovery of Neandertal fossils in Germany's Neander Valley. Although the 1848 fossils were not recognized for what they were until much later, the Neander finds, which came three years before the publication of Darwin's breakthrough book, were clear evidence for his ideas.
On Science's Origins blog, I report on a talk given at a human evolution meeting last week in Gibraltar, by Alex Menez of the Gibraltar Museum, which described Darwin's first encounter with a Neandertal skull. Check it out, I think it's a cool story.
Photo: Courtesy of Clive Finlayson, Gibraltar Museum