A prediction on Neanderthal cloning


Neanderthals in folk memory

Recently quantities of DNA have been extracted from Neanderthal fossil skeletons. Despite any moral considerations, I suspect that once the complete sequence is available someone will attempt to produce a Neanderthal clone. Before this happens, I would like to make a specific prediction about the result.

Fairy Tale Dwarf

A memory of the Neanderthals ?

There is a common theme that runs through Northern European folklore and childrens nursery stories. Many of these tales contain one or more villains who share certain traits no matter where the story originates. They are usually short, ugly, bad tempered and bearded. They usually live on the edge of civilisation in a cave or forest. Dependent on the country or culture originating the story they will have different names; Dwarves, Goblins, Ogres, Trolls, Leprechauns, etc, but otherwise they are very similar.

I suggest that this is not just coincidence or an old story having been passed around over a long period of time. These are the folk memories of our ancestors from 30,000 years ago (ref http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neanderthal_interaction_with_Cro-Magnons). As our cro-magnon forbears expanded their territories, conventional thinking has it that the Neanderthals were not well equipped to compete (possibly due to differences in technology, possibly changes in the environment arising from climate change). The fossil record would appear to show that the Neanderthals were forced to migrate further North and West ahead of the Cro-Magnon advance (although some of the last Neanderthal fossils were found on the Spanish peninsular). I suggest that stories arose in our ancestors cultures that record the strange people who lived on the fringes of villages, shying away from contact with people. In the same way that modern xenophobic culture has expressed racism and attacks on those who appear differently from the bulk of the population, it would seem reasonable to assume that the cro-magnons would have treated the Neanderthals as outcasts, making them social scapegoats and evil spirits.

The Prediction

So far the idea sounds reasonable although some might question whether folk tales could be preserved for 30,000 years. Compare this with biblical tales which were originally passed by word of mouth from around 5000 BC and it can be seen that fascinating stories have a way of being preserved. However, if this supposition is correct, can a specific testable prediction be made ? It can be noted that many of the characterisics of the dwarves and ogres of folk tales described above could apply to certain members of the modern population. What do the tales describe that is not seen today ? I predict that the cloned Neanderthals will have pointed ears !

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~ by ambulocetus27 on October 19, 2008.

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