Recreating The Past

As humans discover extinct twigs of the tree of life, many questions arise. What did it look like? How did it behave? What did it eat? Why did that line come to an end? Especially with hominids, members of our genus of which Homo sapiens is the only surviving species, we are eager to recreate their bodies, their lives, and yes, even their voices.

As technology has improved, and people have developed specialties in reconstruction, the extinct can become as real as any other part of nature that we haven’t experienced directly. A mammoth is as real to me as a giant squid, having seen models and footage of both, but neither in real life. In our media-driven life, we process reconstructions perhaps with a grain of salt, but also as an essential way of understanding the world.

Why do we want to know what the neanderthals sounded like? Relatively recent advances in genetics have led us to the knowlege that we are much more closely related to other animals, especially other primates, double especially other hominids. What we once interpreted as a progression from lower animals to perfect man, turned out to be a a family tree, indicating catastrophe for our cousins. Though the other hominids have gone extinct, there may be more to study besides fossils. There is mounting evidence of interbreeding between Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens in Europe, so we of European descent may be carrying some interesting relics with us.

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