I MUST take issue with Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh’s article describing Neanderthals as “Brutish and solitary” (By ‘fittest’ Darwin didn’t mean the biggest bully, August 5). They were nothing of the sort!

There are studies into care-giving in Neanderthals, eg by Dr Penny Spikins et al, University of York. They certainly lived in groups and there is strong evidence that they cared for and protected their old, injured and sick.

We have remains of individuals who were old and several seriously injured who would have needed intense care and could not have survived on their own. The most touching is maybe Feldhofer Neanderthal, with a healed severely fractured left arm and skull, signs of severe sinusitis, which is very painful, and also signs of metastatic bone tumours. This is secondary cancer usually to a primary cancer like lung, liver, breast etc.

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They’d obviously have been very sick and needing intensive care (and protection) for a long time: in our society they’d be in a hospice getting end-of-life care. There’s even touching evidence of grief at loss. In one Neanderthal grave (you can’t be solitary and bury yourself!) pollen grains were found, which may be from flowers left in the grave. How human is that? Leaving flowers on (or here, in) a grave!

These are the “brutish, solitary” Neanderthals she talks about through common, stereotypical ignorance. The same kind of stereotyping and ignorance that leads to racism etc. Her erroneous statements nullify her arguments and in fact this type of “argument” is highly dangerous (Nazis and international Jewish conspiracy to take over the world?).

The reason for their dying out as a species is not known but is probably due to a myriad of factors – but being “brutish and solitary” not amongst them. The last of their species is a family group in a cave in Gibraltar. And the Denisovian tooth was not found in Tibetan caves (one tooth in several caves?) as she states, but in Siberia, Russia. Get your facts right before basing your arguments on them!! This is very sloppy journalism and dangerous thinking!! Neanderthals would put many a human in our society to shame!

Crìsdean Mac Fhearghais
Dùn Eideann