Earlier we saw how much present-day evolutionary biologists needed and wanted to believe that we had found a new human species in Flores man a decade ago. But it quickly became clear that the ancient inhabitants of Flores were not appreciably different from other humans of their era, apart from very small stature.
The story was different back when Neanderthal skeletons, first unearthed in 1856, began to be studied. As Britannica puts it, “Using those skeletons as a basis, scholars reconstructed the Neanderthals as semi-human, lacking a full upright posture and being somewhat less intelligent than modern humans.” The story grew legs and was admirably suited to demonstrating the fashionable, then-new idea of Darwinian evolution. As a result, “Neanderthal!” is now a term of abuse. The man himself does not protest, of course, for his type is extinct.
Thus, until very recently, Neanderthal man has been explicitly treated as an extinct, separate human species — the status sought for Flores man — in so highly politicized an environment that classification likely depends not on the persuasiveness of facts but the power of factions. More.
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (human evolution)
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