Did you know that once, very long ago, there were at least two species of humans?

Neanderthals were one species and Homo sapiens (ancestors of modern man) were the other.

That means that at one time there were at least two types of humans on this planet. The differences are explained in one of the most recent articles in the Smithsonian magazine. Evidence of Neanderthal man was first discovered in 1856. Quarrymen in Germany’s Neander Valley in the Rhineland dug up the fossilized skull with a receding forehead. Further research disclosed that Neanderthals were stockier than modern man, had shorter legs and bigger bodies. Fossilized evidence also indicates that Neanderthals lived in Europe and Asia from about 400,000 year ago until about 40,000 years ago.

Science says that Neanderthals are an extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans. Humans who look like people today didn’t appear until about 150,000 years ago in Ethiopia, according to most anthropologists.

According to Wikipedia, some of the proof that Neanderthals were human to a significant degree can be found in their use of tools.

“Neanderthals made stone tools, used fire, and were hunters. It had long been debated whether Neanderthals were hunters or scavengers, but the discovery of the pre-Neanderthal…wooden spears in Germany helped settle the debate in favor of hunting.” There is also evidence that inbreeding occurred between Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans around 70,000 years ago. Clearly, there is evolution going on in mankind’s past.

“Based on a 2014 study by Thomas Higham, an archaeological scientist and radiocarbon dating specialist of organic samples from European sites, Neanderthals died out in Europe between 41,000 and 39,000 years ago,” according to Wikipedia. Furthermore, “Anatomically modern humans arrived in Mediterranean Europe between 43,000 and 45,000 years ago, so the two different human populations shared Europe for several thousand years.”

So, what happened to Neanderthals?

For a while, anyway, the two human populations shared Europe for several thousand years. One scientist suggests that Neanderthals might have become extinct as the result of conflict between modern humans and Neanderthals. Other theories suggest extinction as a result of climate change or interaction with modern humans, which would mean they were absorbed by modern humans over time – thousands of years.

A 2014 study by Higham states: “Neanderthal bones and tools indicate that Neanderthals died out in Europe between 39,000 and 41,000 years ago, the two different human populations shared Europe for as long as 5,000 years. Nonetheless, the exact nature of biological and cultural interaction between Neanderthals and other human groups has been contested.”

Higham also suggests that disease introduced by modern humans may have contributed the extinction of Neanderthals. If this would turn out to be the case, it adds to the notion of more interaction between modern humans and Neanderthals. The most well-known recent example of this is the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the New World in 1492, which introduced foreign diseases when he and his crew arrived to a native population who had no immunity.

The likely truth is a combination of causes including inbreeding, conflict, weather, and disease all contributed to the extinction of Neanderthal man.

But how does one reconcile the difference between the Biblical accounts of God’s creation of man? In an article called “Genesis and Genetics” written by creationists, they contend, “Neanderthals are pre-flood man. The Bible is clear: shortly after the creation, man sinned and became extremely wicked, so wicked that God was sorry He had made man. Then, God caused a great flood, destroying all mankind with the exception of Noah and his family. We are not sure how many souls died in this global flood but suspect that it was many. A common question is, why is there no fossil evidence of those killed in the flood? There is fossil evidence of dinosaurs, mammoths, fish, vegetation, mosquitoes, and even raindrops, so why not evidence of the humans who died in the flood? The answer to this question is simple and right before us: there is fossil evidence of humans dying in the flood; these humans are referred to as Neanderthals; Neanderthal man meets the Biblical criteria for those who died in the flood very nicely.”

The upshot of all this discussion and debate seems to demonstrate that the evolution of modern man was, in the minds of many, a process and that for thousands of years at least two types of humans existed in Europe. Whether modern man is an evolutionary step forward from Neanderthals is still a subject open to speculation.

Whether or not Neanderthals are a separate species or merely a cousin of modern man, the fact remains that there were at least two species of human coexisting for a long time.

How all that fits what the Bible tells us about Noah and the flood seems to be a logical explanation of what happened to Neanderthals. The mere fact that at one time modern man wasn’t the only human species on earth is fascinating stuff.

That’s – 30 – for this week.

Retired Rush County businessman Paul W. Barada may be contacted via this publication at news@greensburgdailynews.com.