The Project

Neanderthals and Us

"Neanderthals and "us": how the golden age of Neanderthal research challenges human self-understanding" as a collaborative project of Erasmus University Rotterdam, Leiden University and the Neanderthal Museum (2023-2025).

This interdisciplinary project combines expertise from Paleolithic archaeology and philosophy to explore how changes in Neanderthal research and creative genres (exhibitions, novels, films, cartoons) challenge our understanding of ourselves as humans.

Our image of Neanderthals is changing rapidly and drastically. Until recently, Neanderthals were considered inert brutes, and research focused on differences (anatomical, genetic, psychological, and cultural) between "them" and us. Increasingly, however, Neanderthals are thought to have been capable of "typically human" practices: for example, language, ritual, grooming, music, or symbolism. Neanderthals are thus increasingly seen as human beings equal to us Homo sapiens sapiens.

Together with a citizens' panel, the question of what we understand by "human" and how our image of "human" changes when we learn more about other human forms is to be explored. The Paleo experts are a supporting element in the participatory research. Participants bring new, broader perspectives and ways of thinking to the professional discussion. Together with researchers from the universities and the museum, they are in constant exchange through thematic workshops on Paleolithic archaeology, Neanderthal stereotypes and Neanderthal reconstructions.

For the Paleo experts 20 interested citizens could be found, which are composed of different age groups. In a total of six meetings the Paleo experts will get to know each other, the working methods of archaeology and the Neanderthal better.

The project is made possible by the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO, Dutch Organization for Scientific Research).

Contact person: Dustin Welper

Partner & Sponsor:

Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek.

Faculty of Arts, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University