News FocusProfile: João Zilhão

Neandertal Champion Defends the Reputation of Our Closest Cousins

Science  10 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6095, pp. 642-643
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6095.642

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Summary

João Zilhão of the University of Barcelona in Spain is a formidable foe in what some call the "Neandertal wars," the scientific debate over Neandertals' intelligence and taxonomic status. He is the Neandertals' fiercest advocate, taking on any and all suggestions that their mental abilities might have been inferior to those of modern humans. In June, Zilhão and colleagues reported that paintings from at least one Spanish cave might predate modern humans in Europe, making Neandertals the possible artists. For Zilhão, however, the new dating "implies a strong probability of Neandertal authorship." Zilhão's insistence on the logic of his case makes it difficult to argue with him, even his defenders say. Yet even Zilhão's opponents agree that he is a force to contend with.