Tagging Thals in the Wadi

I read an article about a find at a site in Israel that yielded evidence supporting the claim that so-called “modern humans” had sex with Neanderthals.

Made babies.

The couplings took place a long time ago. Back at least as far as when, according to a museum exhibit in Kentucky, Jesus rode a dinosaur.

The questions that come to my mind concerning the Neanderthal connection are probably the same that come to yours: Where and how did these creatures meet, what was the attraction, and who was on top? And, what happened as a result?

The idea that modern humans and Neanderthals played the beast with two backs with one another is not a new one. Scientists have found traces of Neanderthal DNA in contemporary non-African humans.

Oh, those godless scientists: absent the restrictions of archaic tribal superstition they stray wherever uncensored whim leads them. Give them rein and they’ll “discover” all sorts of disturbing things.

Did you know the earth is round?

Yes, believe it or not, they discovered that.

The recently found prehistoric skull of a human female (probably 55,000 years old, give or take a couple years) allegedly indicates something key about the migration of humans from Africa, on their way north to lands unknown, there to couple with Neanderthals. And, eventually, to screw the planet.

What does the discovery mean?

First: that modern humans arrived in the area in question when there was a significant Neanderthal population roaming about. This was probably the first geographic zone encountered in the human migratory path that allowed for lustful interspecies interaction.

Second: that the region was a prehistoric, fern-studded Studio 54 or Plato’s Retreat (if you are younger than 50, Google these references). In between mangling and gnawing on other animals, humans and Neanderthals were on each other like wolverines on wounded bunnies.

The fact that traces of Neanderthal DNA have been found in contemporary non-African humans comes as no surprise to me. I played hockey as a youngster; I knew plenty of Canadians.

But, surely it was something of a surprise back when a “modern” human hunter pushed his way through the shrubs in the wadi, wiped his sweaty brow, and cast eyes on a comely, somewhat hefty Neanderthal lass bending over at the edge of a stream, Ground Zero clearly exposed and beckoning.

At New York’s Studio 54, he’d have offered her a couple lines of blow and they would have gyrated to the latest Rick James release. With the couple loose and lubed, the evening would have taken its drug-addled course and, eventually, the coosome twosome would have traded fluids in his crummy apartment in Chelsea.

The DNA Deal: sealed!

Not so in the wadi.

I’m certain the prehistoric process, short, brutish and smelly as it must have been, lacked Rick James tracks, and coke. After a few snarls and threatening glances, several tests of arm strength and a bite or two delivered to the extremities, human and Neanderthal joined, sperm met egg and, bingo, months later, a hybrid.

Then, there’s the more likely scenario in which a somewhat lithe, “modern” human female casts aside her musk ox hide cape in order to scrub her insect-bitten butt with a handful of stiff weeds. Who should be watching but a strapping young Neanderthal male, recently emerged from under the overhang in search of fresh air.

He lays aside his crude stone tools, and hunches in for love. Magic, of a sort, happens. With accompanying racket.

Well, probably fairly ugly magic, but sperm meets egg nonetheless and, bingo, months later, a hybrid.

Not much different than when, today, a drunken coed is unlucky enough to meet a linebacker on the college football team at a fraternity party.

Now, 55,000 years after an interspecies event, a proud citizen of Bavaria goes to the lab to get his DNA checked in order to verify his racial purity and… uh oh.

Turns out Nietzsche’s great blond beast, in fact, has some actual beast in him. Ten thousand-generations ago, grandma dallied briefly (and, we hope, with a measure of satisfaction) with a male of another species.

Oh, the shame.

How is news like this going to be received by the bozos who run the museum in Kentucky? Will they be compelled to construct a new diorama?

Perhaps that’s the wrong question, since those Deep South hammerheads don’t believe the earth has existed for 55,000 years. But, what about some of their slightly more literate compatriots. Say, the ones who admit the earth has been around for a very long time, but deny climate change? Is science wrong, yet again?

And, if it’s right?

I get to thinking about this situation. That I might tote a smidge of Neanderthal DNA doesn’t bother me in the least. In fact, if there is any credence to my theory that the double helix can influence behavior, my Neanderthal DNA excuses a lot of what I did from 1960 to 1985. I couldn’t help myself.

Since I flunked physics in prep school and am thus qualified to comment on all things scientific, I am convinced the itsy bitsy amount of Neanderthal juice in billions of people who descend from the humans who moved north shows up in their behavior and appearance.

There should be phenotypical residue of those matings consummated oh-so long ago. After all, there’s little question regarding the science (unless, of course, you are one of those pinheads in Kentucky). Cells in your body contain DNA, and that DNA, via its strands, comprises genes, and genes provide the blueprint for proteins. Proteins build other molecules, influence chemical reactions.

Genes code for functions of the most important kinds — basic operations necessary for survival. All humans have pretty much the same genes when it comes to this: breathing, immune system, etc.

But other, less critical genes influence things like height, body type, eye color, etc., and these differ from person to person. This is where the Neanderthal DNA creeps out of the genetic cave.

So, to sum up the science: the DNA bone’s connected to the gene bone, the gene bone’s connected to the protein bone, the protein bone’s connected to the cell bone, and, kazaam!, you’re five feet, nine inches tall and your hair is brown.

If my hunch is correct, you might look a bit like a Neanderthal.

And exhibit a few Neanderthal behavioral characteristics as well.

We know what those burly Neanderthals looked like. Forensic reconstructions, using skulls and bones, provide an accurate vision.

I go to the Internet and scare up images of male and female Neanderthals. I recognize a few of the Canadians who hit me in the face with pucks, sticks and fists. I hope their caves in Manitoba are damp year-round.

I set out on a scientific expedition, to discover Neanderthals who walk among us.


I print out several wallet size photos to carry as references.

Where better to conduct my search than the grocery store here in Siberia With a View? We have only one big store, so nearly everyone who lives here crosses the threshold at one time or another. A Wal-Mart is opening soon (people who have lived here three years or so are in a tizzy, bemoaning the end of a way of life, the destruction of the “pristine” environment that includes their 4,000 square foot homes and gated communities). Little do they know: Wal-Mart will be the ideal lab for future genetic and cultural research. But, the grocery store will suffice in the meantime.

Dressed in unassuming fashion and wearing dark glasses, I position myself just inside the front doors to the store building, next to a Valentine’s Day gift display. I riffle through bunches of wilted roses, racks of cheesy cards and boxes of cheap, year-old chocolate in order to appear to be an ordinary shopper, to fade into the busy, commercial background. This is much like the ornithologist who covers herself in feathers in order to study the Trumpeter Swan. An unobtrusive presence is essential to the scientific enterprise.

I face the entrance, review my reference photos, and I observe.

What I discover in short order is amazing.

They’re all over the place! The store is overrun by Neanderthals!

I follow Neanderthals around the store and out to the parking lot, taking copious notes about every aspect of their looks and actions.

Not only do they share certain characteristics, phenotypewise, but it’s clear that Neanderthal DNA influences the way people behave.

I am in a science frenzy. I wish I had brought a camera. If only I could implant microchips in these creatures with a blowgun, perhaps briefly anesthetize them and fit them with radio collars.

There they are, in profusion and procession: overhanging brows, bulging jaws, deep-set eye sockets, strangely spaced teeth, neck muscles barely able to hold heads erect. The rotund body type gives them away: when they walk, their weight causes them to sway to the sides with each step, dangerously close to collapse. Some would call it “waddling.”

I’ll be gentle: they lumber. In packs.

Their head movements are sluggish; their eyes need a lot of time to focus on the brightly colored bags of chips on the shelves as they stand there, mouths agape, transfixed by the staggering variety of treats. Most of the items they purchase at the store involve brightly colored packaging. Captives to color, tNeanderthals prefer red, yellow and orange.

I draw another conclusion from my observations of our Neanderthals: they have similar taste in things like clothing, modes of transportation, politics.

Gotta be the DNA; no other explanation.

Clothing: first choice, any article with an elastic waistband. Stretch fabrics. Velcro is a big favorite. Flip flops crushed beneath splayed, flat feet. Sweatshirts with high school logos or clever political/cultural slogans silkscreened on the chest. Ball caps. Baggy pants and shorts. Camo gear.

When weather permits, many Neanderthal females display midriffs beneath short halter tops and above stretched elastic waistbands. The midriffs are generous. Neanderthal males flaunt their ass cracks as elastic waistbands are pulled dangerously low by fingers, flab and gravity. I believe I can establish that these are genetically determined mating gestures and clan bonding signals. Tip of the hat to Margaret Mead.

Transportation: pickup truck with huge wheels and mud-spattered side panels, a van or aging SUV with bald tires bearing bumper stickers indicating offspring are incredibly successful honor students at a substandard school; other stickers on the vehicle display “patriotic” messages, in particular about gun ownership, the evils of health care insurance, the vice of liberalism and the growing specter of reverse racism.

Politics: Fox News, American supremacy, military fixation, satellite talk radio blaring from vehicle interior when not replaced by Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes.

I wander the store in an effort to determine the Neanderthal’s standard diet, whether food choices correspond one Neanderthal to another.

They do.

Neanderthals are particularly fond of Jimmy Dean sausage products and any beverage in which high fructose corn syrup is the number-two ingredient. They generally opt for family-size bags of sugared breakfast cereals, the largest boxes of Pop Tarts and Velveeta. The basic food groups.

In the flesh department, aside from sausage, they purchase anything that is ground (with meat from a hundred or more animals in one pack) and products including massive amounts of sodium nitrite. Fish sticks are popular, as are Buffalo chicken wings.

Ice milk is a big favorite. And, did I mention chips?

Communication: Neanderthals use their cell phones in public more often than others and, when they are on the phone in a public place (which is 85 percent of the time they are in a public place) the volume of their voices is 80 percent louder than that of non-Neanderthal phone users. The conversation is often limited to grunts, or: “Where are you? I can’t hear you. I’m at the store, in the soft drink aisle. Do you want Dr. Pepper or Pepsi? Don’t let the dog out, and if he shits in the living room again, don’t let the kids roll in it. Keep the gun away from Blinky. Remember how much they charged us at that damned emergency room.”

I take particular joy in observing pre-adolescent Neanderthals as they rumble down aisles at the store, lips and noses stained red or orange by high-fructose corn syrup-saturated soft drinks, hair patchy and mussed, fingers coated with taco chip residue, their tummies ballooning over the stretch waistbands of their tattered sweatpants as they push me aside to knock items from the shelves with their paws. More often than not, they are yelling into cell phones. The youngest among them tug at my heartstrings: the three years they’ll spend in first grade might be the best times of their lives.

Another couple of weeks of work, and my study will be complete: “The Modern Neanderthal in Siberia With a View, by Karl Isberg, Scientist.”

I’m certain my observations and conclusions will be enthusiastically received when I mail them to Harvard (I’ll send the report “c/o Harvard,” I’m sure it’ll be forwarded to the science room). In addition to the acclaim, fellowships and grants I’ll receive, there’s a more meaningful reward resulting from my project: the personal satisfaction that comes from confirming the presence of the Neanderthals amongst us and accounting for their contributions.

In upcoming essays and scholarly papers, I’ll give these brusque, burly but endearing folks the due they deserve – investigating the key roles played by Thals (pretty nifty tag, eh? Use it as you will) in all aspects of contemporary American life.

I will begin with an analysis of Thal contributions to the Tea Party movement and the corresponding success of the tri-cornered hat industry. Thals in Congress? Sure thing, plenty of grist for the mill there. Thals in the banking and investment industries? You bet. As soon as I buy a calculator, that study will get underway.

Now, though, I’m feeling an irrepressible urge to eat some Jimmy Dean sausage products and do a little cruisin’ for rough poon. With the recent nice weather here in Siberia With a View, midriffs are blooming and it’s time to make hybrids.

Anyone with me?

Grab your stone tools and meet me in the wadi.


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One Response to Tagging Thals in the Wadi

  1. bill Musson says:

    i am there and getting depressed…….what more is there?

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