An Evolved and Creative Mind
The human mind is quite evidently unique when compared against the minds of all other living creatures today. Our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, with whom we shared a common ancestor six million years ago, exhibits some of the foundations for symbolic thought and language, but there is a cognitive gulf separating its cognitive capacities from those of humans. A more challenging question is whether the mind of modern humans, Homo sapiens, is unique when compared to those other members of the Homo genus, all of whom are now extinct. Of most interest is our evolutionary close and large brained relative Homo neanderthalensis with whom we shared a common ancestor a mere 500,000 years ago. What can the archaeological and fossil records tell us about the similarities and differences between the minds of Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis? Did both species have symbolic thought and spoken language? Did both species make art and music? Are the differences significant in explaining the extinction of the Neanderthals c. 30,000 years ago and the remarkable economic and cultural developments of modern humans in the last 30,000 years involving the origin of agriculture and civilization?