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Human Evolution

2. The Neanderthal and the Denisovan

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About this Lecture


In the second mini-lecture, we learn a little bit more about the relatives of humans that we mingled with in our early stages. At this point, humans were not much more than ‘smart apes’ but in this lecture we also learn about other smart apes that were abundant at this time. The Neanderthal is commonly known in the scientific community, and is often conflated with brutish, unintelligent individuals. However, in this lecture, we learn about their immense sophistication developing tools and fashioning garments. We speculate on what their culture might have been, brought to life by fantastic illustrations and archaeological discoveries. After this, we learn about the discovery of the Denisovan in 2011, an entirely unknown lineage of humans.


In this course, Professor Matthew Cobb (University of Manchester) walks us through the history of how the modern human came to be. The modern version of the human was no more than a smart ape when it first appeared 50-60,000 years ago, but where did it come from, and what happened to it in its early stages? We begin by: (i) investigating the theory of evolution by natural selection and apply it to human evolution, looking at where they came from; before (ii) challenging common misconceptions of the Neanderthal and then examine their interactions with humans in their ~5,000 year overlap, as well as introducing the Denisovans; which follows into (iii) a more detailed description of the discovery of Denisovans, what they might have looked like and how they might have behaved; before finally (iv) taking a closer look at the marks our ancestors made on the world in the form of illustrations, drawings, and handprints on prehistoric cave paintings.


Matthew Cobb is a British zoologist and professor of zoology at the University of Manchester. He is known for his popular science books "The Egg & Sperm Race: The Seventeenth-Century Scientists Who Unravelled the Secrets of Sex", "Life and Growth"; "Life's Greatest Secret": "The Race to Crack the Genetic Code"; "The Idea of the Brain: A History", "Smell: A Very Short Introduction", and "The Genetic Age: Our Perilous Quest to Edit Life". Cobb has appeared on BBC Radio 4's The Infinite Monkey Cage, The Life Scientific, and The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry, as well as on BBC Radio 3 and the BBC World Service. Cobb earned his BA in Psychology at the University of Sheffield. During the second year of his undergraduate studies he read an article about the recent discovery of the Drosophila melanogaster dunce mutant in New Scientist and decided to focus on behaviour genetics in fruit flies, later saying he, "went on to do my PhD there, in Psychology and Genetics, looking at the mating behaviour of seven species of fruitfly. Psychology in those days was as much about animal behaviour as it was about human psychology, and I was lucky enough to be in one of the few places in the UK that studied [it]".

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Cobb, M. (2022, August 30). Human Evolution - The Neanderthal and the Denisovan [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cobb, M. "Human Evolution – The Neanderthal and the Denisovan." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 30 Aug 2022,

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