'them' - neanderthals in art, myths and the movies

NP theory argues that, like all prey species, early humans acquired an innate 'predator identification' module that allowed them to identify Neanderthals and remain hyper-vigilant for tell-tale signs of their presence. In modern humans, this vestigial 'them and us' module is subliminally expressed in art, myths, movies and other cultural forms.

sexual predators in roman mythology

Our genetic fear of Neanderthal sexual predation is manifest in the countless myths and legends about half-man/half-beast sexual fiends who kidnap and rape women. The Roman mosaic (right) from Pompeii is a typical example. It depicts a cloven footed Pan with an erection, assaulting a bound woman.

what big eyes you have
This photo (left), from the book, compares the large optical orbits (eye sockets) of a Neanderthal (left) with those of a human (right). The eyes are considerably larger. According to Vendramini, Neanderthals evolved these extra large eyes because, like most mammalian predators, they were nocturnal hunters.

 Slit-shaped pupils are better suited to the eyes of nocturnal primates (right) because they can close down tighter, preventing damage to their super-sensitive eyes from strong sunlight. NP theory argues that, like modern nocturnal predators, Neanderthals had slit-shaped pupils to protect them from snow blindness.

what's with the eyes?

Prey species have an innate ability to identify their natural predator in order to effect an escape strategy. Vendramini argues that the distinctive eyes of Neanderthals provided a quick and reliable means of identifying them, so these optical features have been hardwired into our genes. Today, this innate fear is expressed in a universal portrayal of bug eyed monsters in art, mythology and the movies.

Vendramini points out that that because human portrayals of Neanderthals are based on an innate 'emotional representation', they are not pictorially accurate - hence the cultural variation. However, he contends that they have one thing in common - they all express what Neanderthals felt like - terrifying.

werewolves, vampires and other night stalkers



Danny Vendramini examines the pervasive belief in ferocious nocturnal predators that prey on humans after dark. He reveals it to be yet another vestige of Neanderthal predation. We fear dark forests because Neanderthals were nocturnal hunters.

the neanderthal eye

Copyright 2009: them+us.org

Neanderthals evolved super-sized eyes to see in the dark and vertically aligned slit pupils to protect them from strong sunlight.

neanderthal surrogates in medieval art

By the middle ages, the 'hairy wildman' was well entrenched in European mythology as a malevolent forest dwelling brute, who usually wielded a club and abducted innocent women. In the early 16th century French illustrated manuscript (below) a naked woman is rescued from a sexual attack by two wildmen who are then burnt alive.

Picture courtesy of the British Library

contemporary expressions of the predator ethos

Artistic expressions of creatures that possess Neanderthal characteristics are not limited to ancient times. The way modern artists, hoaxers, villagers and filmmakers depict the Yeti, Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot and other imaginary creatures (below) bears an uncanny resemblance to the latest scientific reconstruction of a Neanderthal (right) commissioned by them and us.org.



This is because they are all guided by the same innate 'predator identification' module that  provides the 'feeling' of Neanderthals, which guides the artist's imagination.

the real thing

Copyright 2009: them+us.org

The image above is a forensic reconstruction of a Neanderthal based on Vendramini's reassessment of Neanderthal physiology.

The similarities to the imaginary creatures from myth and folklore are obvious, suggesting that a likeness of our former predator was encoded into the human genome during our evolutionary past.

neanderthals at the movies

Movies like The Descent, The Blair Witch Project, The Exorcist, and The Terminator unwittingly tap into our innate Neanderthal fears to dramatic effect, as do the nocturnal zombies from I Legend and the hairy Morlocks with their glowing eyes from The Time Machine.

2009, themandus.org