Re: Did Neanderthal make baskets?

Glenn Morton (
Sat, 08 Nov 1997 07:15:22 -0600

Hi John,

At 03:02 PM 11/8/97 -0600, John P. McKiness wrote:

>Thank you for passing on this information concerning the finding, I find it
>interesting but I am still having a problem with your attempts to identify
>Neanderthals as human when we still do not know what "human" means. Is
>every organism that does "human" activities "human?"

Let's look at it this way. Suppose you took a gun and shot a 5' 4" stocky
man who was very ugly. The police investigated and found: he lived in a
tent, made baskets, played the flute, hunted game, built walls, made
clothing from animal skins, buried his granny in a grave with grave goods
(as well as burying his dead child), made and wore a bone necklace and
worshipped bears.

Question: Do you think you would be convicted of murdering a person who fits
this description? If the answer is yes, then you have killed a human. You
don't want me on your jury.

> Is it the
>characteristics of the skeleton which makes the organism human? Is it he
>skeletal characteristics coupled with cultural detritus what makes organisms
>human, or may something else (not seen in the fossil record or in a
>photographic image for that matter) determine what is "human?"

I would say having a culture comes close to being a good definition of
"human" Theologically it is the image of God, but that doesn't fossilize
and I am not sure that it can be defined apart from our cultural remains anyway.
>I do not believe that the idea of the bearer of the "image of God" will even
>help us here because even theologians can not agree on what that term means.
>(my understanding of the Lutheran position is that we lost the image at the
>fall and it is only present at present in Jesus Christ).

I agree that the theological definition won't help.
>I would suggest that sin is part of the definition of "human" now and that
>will be devilishly hard to find in the fossil record if "man" existed prior
>to Adam.

Forget this "man existed prior to Adam" business. That begs the question.
I would say no man existed prior to Adam because Adam lived millions of
years ago.
>I have no problems with Neanderthals, H. erectus, or A. afarensis, being
>called men by their bones or cultures. But I do have a problem with those
>who define the term as we Christians do and then apply it to them. Our
>understanding of the term requires us to recognize our position before God.

I can cite evidence of religious activity for Neanderthal and H. erectus. I
can't find any earlier evidence of religion but that may merely be due to
the difficulty of finding it. Just today I ran across this for a Neanderthal
site in Lebanon.

"In the Mousterian cave shelter of Nahr Ibrahim in Lebanon the
bones of a fallow deer (Dama mesopotamia) were gathered in a pile
and topped by the skull cap. Many of the bones were unbroken and
still articulated. Around the animal were bits of red ochre.
While red ochre was common in the area and so may have been
introduced inadvertently, the arrangement of the largely unbroken
bones suggests a ritual use of parts of the animal."~Alexander
Marshack, "Early Hominid Symbol and Evolution of the Human
Capacity," in Paul Mellars, The Emergence of Modern Humans,
(Ithica: Cornell Univ. Press, 1990), pp 457-498, p. 481

>If Neanderthals lived prior to Adam, or didn't spring from him, they could
>behave as we do but not be capable of sin. Think of it, if not a
>"descendent" of Adam, Joe Neanderthal could be a mass murder and not be a
>sinner like say a grizzly who attacks and kills humans today; but would Joe
>be human.

I could not accept that. You seem stuck with the presupposition that Adam
was a recent creation. He couldn't be or problems like you suggest arise. I
would suggest that you move Adam back in time like I do.


Foundation, Fall and Flood