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NOVA: Decoding Neanderthals

Airs Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: A reconstruction of Neanderthals in a cave for "Decoding Neanderthals." Were Neanderthals really mentally inferior, as inexpressive and clumsy as the cartoon caveman they inspired? NOVA examines a range of new evidence.

Courtesy of WGBH Boston

Neanderthal skeleton “Paloma,” from Sima de las Palomas, a Neandertal burial site near Murcia, Spain.

Early Humans in Pop Culture

In popular culture, our ancient ancestors are usually depicted either as noble savages or savage brutes—with Neanderthals often featuring as the brutes. In this slide show, take a look at portraits from the 1870s to today, and see how over the past century, despite advances in the scientific understanding of early humans, the image of the shaggy caveman endures.

What happened when the first modern humans encountered Neanderthals 60,000 years ago?

In 2010, a team led by geneticist Svante Pääbo announced that they had reconstructed much of the Neanderthal genome and the analysis showed that modern humans and Neanderthals had interbred, leaving a small signature of Neanderthal genes in everyone outside Africa today.

In "Decoding Neanderthals," NOVA explores the implications of this exciting discovery. Were Neanderthals really mentally inferior, as inexpressive and clumsy as the cartoon caveman they inspired?

NOVA examines a range of new evidence for Neanderthal self-expression and language, suggesting that we may have underestimated our long-vanished cousins.

Neanderthals: Expert Q&A

On October 18, the leader of the team that proved we share DNA with Neanderthals answered questions about our closest relatives. If your question wasn’t answered here, try watching the NOVA scienceNOW program, “What Makes Us Human?”

NOVA is on Facebook, and you can follow @novapbs on Twitter.

Video

NOVA: Decoding Neanderthals

Above: NOVA examines a range of new evidence for Neanderthal self-expression and language, suggesting that we may have underestimated our long-vanished cousins.

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