The Geico “caveman” advertising campaign might be on to something. Evidence presented in April at the Paleoanthropology Society meeting in Chicago suggests that Neandertal behavior resembled that of early modern humans. Bruce Hardy of Kenyon College studied artifacts from Hohle Fels, a site in southwestern Germany. It contains tools made by Neandertals between 36,000 and 40,000 years ago as well as items manufactured by early modern humans between 33,000 and 36,000 years ago. Both groups lived under similar environmental conditions at this site, making their cultural remains ideal for comparison. Hardy examined the wear patterns and residue on the tools and found that although modern humans had a larger range of implements, both groups engaged in similar activities, such as using tree resin to bind stone points to wooden handles and crafting tools from bone and wood. He speculates that the Neandertals did not invent more tools because they could survive just fine with what they had.
This article was originally published with the title "Living Alike" in Scientific American 300, 6, 31 (June 2009)