David Pogue, Neanderthal

On the Wednesday edition of NOVA scienceNOW, David Pogue walks the streets of San Francisco in Neanderthal drag. Above, a actual clip from the upcoming hour, "What Makes Us Human?," in which the tech writer turned PBS host explores our relationship with Neanderthals, after being made up like a Neanderthal based on instructions from Daniel Lieberman, a paleoanthropologist from Harvard. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during that shoot!

What Makes Us Human? premieres Wednesday, October 10 at 10PM/9c on PBS. (Thanks, Paula Apsell)


    1. When these were found, they were named after the Neander valley. In German at the time, they generally wrote stops with ththal for valley, thier for animal, and so on. So they were called Neanderthals, and that is how the word was brough into English.

      Around the end of the 19th century, German dropped the h, and so today the words are tal, tier, and Neandertal. Should English follow them in making the change? Maybe, but I wouldn’t fault people who stick with the original spelling.

      Either way, anything with two Ls is right out.

      1.  Indeed, I was correcting the program’s pronunciation, not spelling. It’s like hearing about the golfer “Chy Chy Rodrugweez”.

  1. One thing they can’t do is show that Neanderthals had much larger eye sockets than modern humans.

    Also, only in humans are the “whites” of the eyes prominent and we don’t know when that mutation occurred.

    It would have been really creepy if Neanderthals had large eyes with no visible white areas.

  2. One time I saw a girl who had Steven Hawking levels of disabilities, but she had huge brow ridges.  I don’t know if her affliction had a specific name, but it’s possible for modern people to have those brow ridges. 

    1. Except for having a high forehead, I have a pretty Neandertal head.  Long with heavy brow ridges.  Nose with notable saddle and weak chin until the plastic surgeon took care of those traits back in the 1980s.

  3. So neanderthals had big wrinkles and bad haircuts?  This was not really fair, they should have made him up to look like a neanderthal dressed and groomed for modernity.  You could give anyone on the street mutton chops and long scraggly hair and big funny wrinkles and he’ll look nearly as odd.

  4. This fun excursion was rather spoiled by the fact that the makeup itself didn’t seem to be up to much. It is very obviously a prosthetic mask, so no-one really reacts in a “OMG what is that!?” way, just a “oh a guy in a mask, just carry on.” way.

  5. The other thing that would have been striking about seeing a Neanderthal walking amongst Homo Sapiens was the robustness of their physique.  Their bones were bigger, thicker — which suggests (to me at least) that their musculature was also probably bulkier (if only to manage the weight of the bones!).  

    1. They were definitely more muscular. There’s not actually much of an inherent difference there, though, it’s mostly about lifestyle. Other Pleistocene humans were also much more robust and muscular than humans of today.

  6. While the hair-plugs look great, I’m still worried about this new season of Arrested Development’s narration.

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