Myths in Europe and the Middle East contain “Giants” either as the ancestors of humans or as dangerous adversaries who exist in the wild and who often attacked humans. We assume that “Giant” refers to a very tall creature, but giants are described by the Greeks as having great strength and are not until later depicted in art as being tall, but of human size. Could these giants have been small surviving groups of Neanderthals or Hn/Hs hybrids driven to the edge of extinction by Homo sapiens? Estimates of Neanderthal “extinction” have been pushed forward to within 30,000 years ago and possibly 20,000 years ago, a time frame that is not outside the possibility of being remembered as a significant chapter in human history, with Neanderthals included as important beings in core human myths.
Our arguments over “Who was Neanderthal?” focus on trivial physical characteristics, but our true questions concern this creature’s humanity. Our arrogance is challenged by our definitions of “who counts” in evolutionary history. If it is only one species that matters (us, obviously) then we must reject Neanderthal along with the millions of species that we have already rejected as inferior novelties on the road to ourselves.
___________________________________________Interpretation of ancient art
The Middle East was a “Neanderthal -rich” environment. Lines carved into Humbaba masks could indicate scarification, but around the mouth, these lines often compose a full mustache. Other lines follow facial contours and may also depict hair, and a very hairy “wild man” with a large mouth and prominent teeth emerges. The flat winding versions below have been claimed to be intestines – Hmmm? Note also the lack of a high Homo sapiens forehead.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Humbaba is a “special” guardian of Nature, specifically the great cedar forests of Lebanon, which were uncut as long as fearsome Humbaba was alive. Once he is decapitated by Gilgamesh and Enkidu, the forest is cut down and hauled away to build cities. This is a “true fate” of forests and an ecological disaster in the view of the Epic. This transgression (whomever Humbaba represents) was a crime against Nature even then – a turning point in “man’s” exploitation of formerly sacred environments. Is the Humbaba figure based on a Neanderthal?
The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia. Dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur, it is often regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature