Neanderthals are often depicted as brutish club wielders, but a new book suggests Neanderthals had a sensitive side, displaying "a deep seated sense of compassion."
(A Neanderthal and human face to face. Credit: Knut Finstermeier)
The findings, also published in the journal Time & Mind, are part of a larger study charting how empathy and other related feelings evolved in early humans.
Researchers Penny Spikins, Andy Needham and Holly Rutherford from the University of York Archaeology Department examined archaeological evidence for the way emotions began to emerge in our ancestors six million years ago and then developed through more recent times.
Based on fossils, artifacts and other evidence, the scientists propose a four stage model for the development of human compassion:
The first stage began six million years ago, according to the scientists, when the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees experienced the initial awakenings of an empathy for others and motivation to help them, perhaps with a gesture of comfort, or moving a branch to allow them to pass.