Before King’s contribution, the predominant view was that the Neanderthal might be a deformed or diseased human. King dismissed this idea with the suggestion that even the most degraded and “inferior” human races (as King believed races other than Europeans to be) showed a more spherical skull and a higher forehead than the Neanderthal skull cap suggested.
During the 19th century, a high forehead was believed to indicate superior intelligence. Australian Aborigines were most Europeans’
favouriteexample of a supposedly “degraded” and “savage” race and King believed that even their skulls showed more similarity to modern humans than the Neanderthal skull. In short, the Neanderthal skull’s “strong simial tendencies” led King to believe that it was simply too different from humans to be of the same species. In his 1864 paper for the Quarterly Journal of Sciencehe even proposed in a foonotethat “I now feel strongly inclined to believe that it is not only specifically but generically distinct from Man”. That is, not a member of the genus Homo…
It is hard for us to recapture the shock value of King’s ideas in asserting the existence of another species of human-like creatures at a time when the Biblical version of creation was widely considered an accurate description of the Earth’s history
. JulianaAdelman, “The Galway professor behind our understanding of Neanderthals” at The Irish Times
The “shock value” of officially scientific concepts of the subhuman was a harbinger of things to come.
See also: The “dumb Neanderthal” myth dies hard
Was Neanderthal man fully human? The role racism played in assessing the evidence
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Bombshell: Neanderthal art found. Why was it a “bombshell?”
In any Darwinian scheme, someone must be the subhuman. Otherwise, there is no beginning to human history.
Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents
A deep and abiding need for Neanderthals to be stupid. Why?