I was scrolling through the headlines when I saw “New study shows modern man did not wipe out the Netherlands” and I kept going and then jerked back a second later, thinking WTF did I just read. Oh. Neanderthals. Never mind.
I don’t know. As creatures just a few generations removed (perhaps a few hundred generations, but with little technological change) from grunting animal consciousness, we probably would have had even fewer moral objections to genocide than we do now and, as a quick perusal of the headlines will tell you, we have too few today.
On the one hand, with so few individuals spread over such a huge area, there probably wasn’t too much fierce competition over hunting grounds. On the other hand, people are still feuding over land today when the obvious solution is for somebody to move. On the one hand, while the two species could interbreed, on the other, the two species were different enough that neither one probably felt the other was attractive. DNA analysis has shown that there probably was some sex between the two. (we are worried today about the NSA spying on our every move, but it doesn’t matter. 40,000 years from now, scientists, who will have huge, V shaped heads will dig up your bones and say “Oh, yeah, he was fooling around with a girl from work, drank two glasses of wine a day, red, liked seafood, and spent too much time on facebook,” because we’re almost getting that specific now)
I suspect that Jean Auel probably nailed it with her descriptions of sex between the two. Generally not consensual, or socially acceptable. I know, she was writing fiction, but at 40,000 years back, the scientists are, too, a bit.
Anyway, the big evidence that Homo Sapiens is probably innocent of genocide and the Neanderthals died of cold, maybe, or starvation, or something else, was that the two species had co-existed for a couple of thousand years before the Neanderthals went extinct. I don’t think that proves anything at all. Having just rocks and clubs, it might have taken 4,000 years to wipe out another species.