Hey! Who you callin' a Neanderthal?

The Times reports today that scientists are reconstructing the Neanderthal genome, which has led to lots of debate about whether we should clone one, were that possible. Putting aside what society would actually do with a cloned Neanderthal (put him in some unholy Pleistocene Park? cast him in a Geico commercial?), the guy would need some major image rehab, because over the years his species has been scientifically slandered. Here, courtesy of Channel 4, are 10 Neanderthal myths that need debunking:

  • Neanderthals grunted, they couldn't speak: For many years, scientists believed that Neanderthals' mouth and throat were designed in a way that prevented them from speaking like us. In 1983, scientists found a Neanderthal hyoid bone at a cave in Israel. It completely changed the debate. The hyoid is a small bone that sits in the throat, holding part of the vocal mechanism in place. It was almost identical to modern humans', suggesting that the Neanderthals' throat was, in fact, designed for speech.
  • Neanderthals were hairy: Neanderthals' image as hairy brutes has more to do with prejudice than scientific fact. They were probably no hairier than many people today. Computer simulations have shown that, for Neanderthals, excess body hair could have caused overheating. If Neanderthals overheated, sweat could have frozen to their body hair in the arctic-like conditions, with potentially fatal consequences.
  • Neanderthals were stupid: Neanderthals had brains as big and in some cases even bigger than ours. But this doesn't prove they were 'brainy'; brain size doesn't necessarily correlate with intelligence. Neanderthal brains were also a different shape from ours, and could have been 'wired-up' in a different way. Their skilfully made tools demonstrate considerable intelligence and forethought, but we can still only speculate how similar or different Neanderthal thoughts might have been to our own.

ha1.jpgThey walked with bent-knees like a chimp or orangutan
Studies of Neanderthal fossils show that they would have walked upright, in a very similar way to us. The slouched caricature is largely due to an inaccurate reconstruction of Neanderthal remains done at the start of the last century. We now know that this individual's gait was caused by arthritis.

We are descended from Neanderthals
Most experts now agree that Neanderthals were an evolutionary dead end; a species that became extinct about 30,000 years ago. In recent years, this belief has been supported by groundbreaking research on Neanderthal DNA. Tiny quantities of DNA have been recovered from Neanderthal bones and then analysed on computers. The results support the view that they are different species to Modern Humans.

Neanderthals were club-swinging thugs
There is no evidence that Neanderthals made or used heavy wooden clubs. However, there is good evidence that they made spears, and a wide variety of stone tools. Many of these tools were incredibly sharp. Some had a cutting edge sharper than a surgeon's scalpel.

They were savage, uncaring brutes
In recent years, scientists have discovered evidence that Neanderthals cared for elderly and sick members of their group. For example, one elderly Neanderthal found in Iraq had suffered multiple fractures on the right side of his body and may have been blinded in one eye. Many of his injuries had healed, indicating that somebody must have cared for him for the rest of his life.

Modern Man killed off the Neanderthals
After surviving for 250,000 years in Europe, Neanderthals became extinct just 10,000 years after modern Man arrived, implicating us in their fate. However, there is no evidence for conflict. Indeed, in some regions of Europe, the two populations co-existed for thousands of years, perhaps peacefully. Slightly lower birth rates and higher mortality rates, combined with an increasingly unstable climate are now thought to have killed off the Neanderthals.

Neanderthals bred with Modern Man
Some scientists claim that a child skeleton, found in Portugal in 1998, has a mixture of Neanderthal and Modern human features. For them, it's proof of interbreeding. Other scientists dispute the claim and DNA tests on 3 other Neanderthal fossils have found no evidence for interbreeding. Research on the child continues. The debate is far from over.

Neanderthals were scavengers, not hunters
Neanderthals may not have used projectile weapons, which to some people suggests that they lacked the ability to kill large prey. However, the large proportion of injuries found on Neanderthal bones - likened to those of modern day rodeo riders - suggests that they did engage in the close-quarter killing of large animals. Large accumulations of bones at the bottom of some cliffs suggests that they also chased herds of mammoth, deer and reindeer over the edge, reducing risk of injury to themselves.

Yes, You Can Put Your Christmas Decorations Up Now—and Should, According to Psychologists

We all know at least one of those people who's already placing an angel on top of his or her Christmas tree while everyone else on the block still has paper ghosts stuck to their windows and a rotting pumpkin on the stoop. Maybe it’s your neighbor; maybe it’s you. Jolliness aside, these early decorators tend to get a bad rap. For some people, the holidays provide more stress than splendor, so the sight of that first plastic reindeer on a neighbor's roof isn't exactly a welcome one.

But according to two psychoanalysts, these eager decorators aren’t eccentric—they’re simply happier. Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told UNILAD:

“Although there could be a number of symptomatic reasons why someone would want to obsessively put up decorations early, most commonly for nostalgic reasons either to relive the magic or to compensate for past neglect.

In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood.

Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extend the excitement!”

Amy Morin, another psychoanalyst, linked Christmas decorations with the pleasures of childhood, telling the site: “The holiday season stirs up a sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity. For many, putting up Christmas decorations early is a way for them to reconnect with their childhoods.”

She also explained that these nostalgic memories can help remind people of spending the holidays with loved ones who have since passed away. As Morin remarked, “Decorating early may help them feel more connected with that individual.”

And that neighbor of yours who has already been decorated since Halloween? Well, according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, homes that have been warmly decorated for the holidays make the residents appear more “friendly and cohesive” compared to non-decorated homes when observed by strangers. Basically, a little wreath can go a long way.

So if you want to hang those stockings before you’ve digested your Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead. You might just find yourself happier for it.

11 Black Friday Purchases That Aren't Always The Best Deal

Black Friday can bring out some of the best deals of the year (along with the worst in-store behavior), but that doesn't mean every advertised price is worth splurging on. While many shoppers are eager to save a few dollars and kickstart the holiday shopping season, some purchases are better left waiting for at least a few weeks (or longer).


Display of outdoor furniture.
Photo by Isaac Benhesed on Unsplash

Black Friday is often the best time to scope out deals on large purchases—except for furniture. That's because newer furniture models and styles often appear in showrooms in February. According to Kurt Knutsson, a consumer technology expert, the best furniture deals can be found in January, and later on in July and August. If you're aiming for outdoor patio sets, expect to find knockout prices when outdoor furniture is discounted and put on clearance closer to Labor Day.


A display of tools.

Unless you're shopping for a specific tool as a Christmas gift, it's often better to wait until warmer weather rolls around to catch great deals. While some big-name brands offer Black Friday discounts, the best tool deals roll around in late spring and early summer, just in time for Memorial Day and Father's Day.


A stack of bed linens.

Sheet and bedding sets are often used as doorbuster items for Black Friday sales, but that doesn't mean you should splurge now. Instead, wait for annual linen sales—called white sales—to pop up after New Year's. Back in January of 1878, department store operator John Wanamaker held the first white sale as a way to push bedding inventory out of his stores. Since then, retailers have offered these top-of-the-year sales and January remains the best time to buy sheets, comforters, and other cozy bed linens.


Rows of holiday gnomes.

If you are planning to snag a new Christmas tree, lights, or other festive décor, it's likely worth making due with what you have and snapping up new items after December 25. After the holidays, retailers are looking to quickly move out holiday items to make way for spring inventory, so ornaments, trees, yard inflatables, and other items often drastically drop in price, offering better deals than before the holidays. If you truly can't wait, the better option is shopping as close to Christmas as possible, when stores try to reduce their Christmas stock before resorting to clearance prices.


Child choosing a toy car.

Unless you're shopping for a very specific gift that's likely to sell out before the holidays, Black Friday toy deals often aren't the best time to fill your cart at toy stores. Stores often begin dropping toy prices two weeks before Christmas, meaning there's nothing wrong with saving all your shopping (and gift wrapping) until the last minute.


Rows of rings.

Holiday jewelry commercials can be pretty persuasive when it comes to giving diamonds and gold as gifts. But, savvy shoppers can often get the best deals on baubles come spring and summer—prices tend to be at their highest between Christmas and Valentine's Day thanks to engagements and holiday gift-giving. But come March, prices begin to drop through the end of summer as jewelers see fewer purchases, making it worth passing up Black Friday deals.


Searching for flights online.

While it's worth looking at plane ticket deals on Black Friday, it's not always the best idea to whip out your credit card. Despite some sales, the best time to purchase a flight is still between three weeks and three and a half months out. Some hotel sites will offer big deals after Thanksgiving and on Cyber Monday, but it doesn't mean you should spring for next year's vacation just yet. The best travel and accommodation deals often pop up in January and February when travel numbers are down.


Gift basket against a blue background.

Fancy fruit, meat and cheese, and snack baskets are easy gifts for friends and family (or yourself, let's be honest), but they shouldn't be snagged on Black Friday. And because baskets are jam-packed full of perishables, you likely won't want to buy them a month away from the big day anyway. But traditionally, you'll spend less cheddar if you wait to make those purchases in December.


Rack of women's winter clothing.
Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

Buying clothing out of season is usually a big money saver, and winter clothes are no exception. Although some brands push big discounts online and in-store, the best savings on coats, gloves, and other winter accessories can still be found right before Black Friday—pre-Thanksgiving apparel markdowns can hit nearly 30 percent off—and after the holidays.


Group of hands holding smartphones.

While blowout tech sales are often reserved for Cyber Monday, retailers will try to pull you in-store with big electronics discounts on Black Friday. But, not all of them are really the best deals. The price for new iPhones, for example, may not budge much (if at all) the day after Thanksgiving. If you're in the market for a new phone, the best option might be waiting at least a few more weeks as prices on older models drop. Or, you can wait for bundle deals that crop up during December, where you pay standard retail price but receive free accessories or gift cards along with your new phone.


Row of hanging kitchen knives and utensils.

Black Friday is a great shopping day for cooking enthusiasts—at least for those who are picky about their kitchen appliances. Name-brand tools and appliances often see good sales, since stores drop prices upwards of 40 to 50 percent to move through more inventory. But that doesn't mean all slow cookers, coffee makers, and utensil prices are the best deals. Many stores advertise no-name kitchen items that are often cheaply made and cheaply priced. Purchasing these lower-grade items can be a waste of money, even on Black Friday, since chances are you may be stuck looking for a replacement next year. And while shoppers love to find deals, the whole point of America's unofficial shopping holiday is to save money on products you truly want (and love).


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