We live in an age where cloning technology is close to being capable of bringing back extinct animals. Currently, there are research groups who are moving forward with efforts to clone the passenger pigeon and the wooly mammoth. A cloned wooly mammoth may have some difficulties learning how to be a mammoth, lacking parents to teach it things like how to best use its tusks to root for vegetables, but careful rearing can help the newborn effectively learn to mammoth. It will also seek the company of a group of other mammoths, being a social creature, but again this is a surmountable problem. Either we create a bunch of mammoths simultaneously, or else we integrate them into a herd of elephants until there's enough mammoths to make a herd of their own. Ultimately, they will likely have no problem in the longer term adapting to and becoming a part of the ecosystems of northern Canada and Russia.

Neanderthals, on the other hand, had a complex society similar to our own, and were thinking sapient beings who learned their way of life from their parents. Furthermore, while a mammoth will be perfectly happy wandering the tundra munching on bushes, a Neanderthal, particularly one which was raised by modern humans, is unlikely to want to be left to roam free in the great and open north any more than modern humans do.

How, then, would we best integrate cloned Neanderthals into the modern world? They're likely to sound and look different, eat way more food, and mentally approach society in a different way. What would be the best way to integrate them into our society?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related : What would the social implications of the creation of humanoid races be? $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2015 at 18:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just came here from the Hot Network Questions. I was reminded of The Ugly Little Boy by Isaac Asimov and wanted to bring it up. It is somewhat relevant to this question. $\endgroup$
    – gla3dr
    Aug 7, 2015 at 21:14
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Aside from anything else, the below all reads like early "racialist" tracts discussing the hypothetical possibility of civilizing Africans. It seems likely that mistaken ideas about the capabilities of Neanderthals, whether over-estimations or under-estimations, would initially be far more significant than the actual capabilities of Neanderthals... $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2015 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ Relevant: gizmodo.com/ancient-humans-had-more-dna-than-us-1722592449 $\endgroup$
    – Cat
    Aug 8, 2015 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ I did have a thought: what about cloning H.floriensis? The remains are in better shape and we could then employ them to colonize Mars or other planets as they would use a fraction of the resources. $\endgroup$ Jul 19, 2018 at 6:51

9 Answers 9


This would be quite the experiment. Unfortunately, since we’re limited to archaeological evidence of their behavior, a lot of what a Neanderthal is capable of will be conjecture.

If you intend to integrate a Neanderthal into modern society, the best way to raise him would be to treat him as a human child. Like a newborn human today, the best way to merge him into our world is to carefully supervise and stimulate his mental development over a number of years and introduce concepts he needs to coexist with others.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. While we are very well equipped with techniques and procedures to introduce new children into society, we are used to the mental capacity and growth of homo sapiens. Neanderthals share many physical traits with modern day humans, but there are a number of significant differences, particularly lower encephalization. By looking at their hypothesized behavior it does seem that they had some form of society with low complexity. In order for integration to be successful, they need to be mentally capable of behaving like a typical homo sapien.

Communication will be critical. There seems to be both evidence and skepticism about whether or not Neanderthals had a spoken language, but being vocal is not necessarily required. Sign language could be taught and used adequately, so long as the Neanderthal was capable of more abstract critical thinking (which is not implausible given some of their known behavior). Depending on how heavily encephalization impacts intelligence, it is likely that a Neanderthal child would be slower in grasping some concepts and even incapable of grasping others. This could create a very serious challenge if certain things, such as morality, cannot be effectively taught.

Ultimately, no matter how capable the Neanderthal brain is of being taught homo sapien societal concepts, he will be severely ostracized. Attempting to socially integrate another person with different mental capacity almost always causes friction (such as young adults with down syndrome). In this case, we’re compounding that with them being a different species, and one that would be viewed as a lesser evolution of ourselves. This is an individual that would likely be reclusive as he matured, and may well end up being suicidal with a full understanding of his circumstances.

Unlike resurrecting the wooly mammoth or the condor, these would be intelligent beings. It seems unlikely that we could integrate them into our own society and the complications of giving them their own land to thrive on are significant. Even if it were possible, this is an experiment that would most likely never be attempted.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Adding to the socialization problem - Neanderthals were apparently really strong. Children trying to bully the "dumb apes" might well find themselves in a whole lot of trouble. Followed, of course, by the Neanderthal kids being in a whole lot of trouble. $\endgroup$ Feb 8, 2016 at 17:54

The physical adaptations of Neanderthal man are well known. Neanderthals were adapted to life in Ice Age Europe and the Middle East (a related race called the Denisovans existed in Asia, but besides a very limited number of bones and teeth and their DNA, their physiology and mental ability is unknown). Neaderthals were powerfully built, but also physically different to minimize surface area to deal with the cold. As well, their facial features were distinct mainly to provide for a large nasal cavity to pre warm cold, dry air before it was passed to the lungs.

In terms of mental acuity, the evidence is less clear. In the strata where Neanderthal remains are found prior to contact with Homo Sapiens, there is evidence of some social structure, but a very limited tool kit and not much evidence of art or culture. In the strata where it is clear they could have interacted with Homo Sapiens, there is a sudden flowering of more advanced toolkits (including needles and awls to make fitted clothing), as well as more evidence of art and culture. How much of this was copied from the new neighbours or learned as part of trade and exchanges is unknown, but the circumstantial evidence is that they were never going to develop any of this on their own. OTOH, there is no reason to suspect they were not as smart as us; their brains are actually larger on average than the ones of Homo Sapiens, but clearly "wired" differently.

We also know that Neanderthals were not really very social beings; their tribes and clans were much smaller than contemporary Homo Sapiens bands, and it is possible that they became extinct because too many critical skills could be lost in a tiny band if disease or a bad season led to a lot of deaths (if only one person in the band could make stone tools, or knew the best healing plants, their loss would be a disaster). With the increasing pressure on resources by the more numerous Sapiens bands, coupled with the loss of critical skills, it is easy to imagine the tiny bands starving to death in a winter without the nearby Sapiens bands even realizing what was happening until the next spring.

Modern day Neanderthals, if they resemble this speculative reconstruction, would fare even less well in the highly interconnected and fast moving modern society we have built. They would have a difficult time assimilating the mass of inputs, and not be able to create a social network to help them cope (technically, you would say that have limited human capital). An experiment that recreated only one would be highly unethical, since the reconstructed Neanderthal would be more isolated than any being in history (in fact, being very much "out of history"). As a minimum, a tribe should be recreated so they have the ability to interact with their own kind, and it would be most ethical to keep them in an isolated "game preserve" so they can live in peace and a bit of comfort on the land, not living in cages or cells in a lab somewhere.


Most of what we think we know about Neanderthal's is myth created by early scientists who were just speculating, and incorrectly assuming evolution always favors the best and brightest.

A more modern and unbiased assessment of neanderthals indicates they were smarter than us, stronger than us, and just as social. We believe they did not have language as sophisticated as homo sapiens, but they did have language.

Neanderthals and humans did interbreed. Most of us have between 1% and 4% neanderthal DNA. This large amount of neanderthal DNA in modern humans is a good indication neanderthals did not get wiped out by, or out competed by humans, but simply merged a smaller population of neanderthals into a larger population of humans.

Besides being odd physically it is likely a neanderthal would do just fine in modern society.


I believe you're making too much of the difference in appearance, and differences in mental processes are unproven. I fear that there will be some discrimination, but I hope that it won't be widespread.

  • The first Neanderthal would probably be raised in a lab/creche by human researchers. What are their motives? Are they open about it? Is the baby a media star like Truman, or at least a 15-minutes-of-fame starlet like the Big Brother contestants? That could influence how most subsequent Neanderthals are seen.
  • Neanderthals are stereotyped as brutish and stupid. Even if that was the case, how much is nature and how much is nurture? There is a good case to say that we're all part Neanderthal.
  • Last but not least, how would a Neanderthal look with access to soap, razors, and a good barber?

I would like to think in this era of tolerance and political correctness, (which generally is overblown and rediculous) they would be at least tolerated, and based on their larger brains, they appear to be very mentally capable, as even a gorilla named Koko has an estimated IQ of ~90. The one thing I think would set us apart is that they don't appear to have that imagination that gives birth to music, art, entertainment, as there isn't much development in technology or tools until humans. They would be intelligent enough to at least grasp the general idea of music, as animals respond differently to music at higher intelligence level. There is evidence we got along fairly well with them, at least in a non violent way. The general manager theory is their groups were smaller, so they weren't aware that their birth rates plummeted. It would be funny if we did get along with another human species, considering there's already predjiduce within our own race(homo sapients)


My first thought is that their behavior would be destructive either to themselves (himeself) or their immediate environment. I belive they would have a different thought process than typical human beings. Differences in physiology are very widely documented such as pronounced brow ridges and larger brain case, missing chin protusion. All these differences add up, Even if you bathe, shaved and groomed, they would instantly be different to the eyes of a "normal" person. That would only serve to keep them segragated from the community as least initially. Now imagine this clone starts life as a baby and is trained as it grows up. I would assume that certain cultural things would be learned and others would not. They would have many similarities to modern humans, that is they can laugh, create jokes, have desires, create intrigues and many things typical people also do. But it stops at a point where the Neanderthal cannot assimilate to modern culture. This would vary from Neanderthal to Neanderthal but it analagous to being shorter than normal and asked to reach for something on a high shelf and there are no step stools in existence. We all have observed this and what happens is the person falls back on primal instinct which manifest as screaming, hitting, sulking, breaking things, etc. (road rage, punching walls and throwing computer monitors on the floor). The difference is that Neanderthal would reach this level sooner because so much of the world is on that high shelf. If you believe the hypothesis that they died out because they were conquered and exterminated by modern (cro-magnon) humans then it is possible that much of the modern culture is on the "high shelf" and cannot be assimilated by Neandethals. The primitive humans would reach the point of frustration quickly and fall back on primitive instinct. What happens next is well documented in the history of people and their treatment of the insane and people with development disabilities. That is, society's first instinct is to shut those people away and keep them out of sight for their own protection. Your story may go further and place them in a zoo environment where they can be observed without knowing they are being observed. How would these people fare, there is no happy ending because they are actually sentient. Unlike the mammoth, they will quickly begin to feel oppressed by what they can observe. There will be people that want them dead because they are different. Others will champion them but will only feel neanderthals are something inferior that need protection from other "normal" people and cannot take care of themselves. No one, or maybe a few people will realize they are just other people who are not sick and can be loved like anyone else.


Since this neanderthal is cloned. He/She has no reference point to judge their surroundings in our time from their own timeline. Although it's a certainty they would have diminished capacity for understanding and intellect, in theory they should still be able to cope well enough to live out a normal (whatever that means) life.

  • $\begingroup$ Hello, George W, and welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! Please take our tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have a nice day! $\endgroup$
    – Gryphon
    Jul 19, 2018 at 14:42

I think that they would be kind of able to integrate into our normal society, but not quite..

Here's an example of what could happen:

A Neanderthal child is put into a normal kindergarten class. As soon as he arrives, the other children begin whispering about how ugly he is. This makes the Neanderthal child feel sad. As the school year goes on, the teacher learns that he has higher than usual physical skills, but has trouble with some subjects. He also has more primal instincts, such as getting very angry when something "unfair" happens.

Fast forward 25 years later.

The Neanderthal has integrated into normal society, but slightly backward. After about 100,000 Neanderthals are created, the UN (with the consent of the Neanderthal's leader) builds an island in the Atlantic that is about the size of California. After being taught skills such as advanced farming and formation of civilizations, they are brought to the island and recognized as an official country.

That's the most optimistic view. The most pessimistic view would be intense discrimination and even slavery...

That's my view, anyway.


This is all just speculation since we don't know a whole lot about the specifics of just how different neanderthals were socially compared to their distant cousins(our direct ancestors)

  • They were "designed" to be more physically powerful, as opposed to mentally powerful
  • They appear to have not had spoken language
  • They were much larger in size than we were
  • They ARE a different species than us(no successful interbreeding)

As a result, they communication would be an issue, they are likely to be more intelligent than say an ape, but they aren't likely to be anywhere near the intellectual capacity of a human.

I really would disagree with your assumption that they would want to be integrated into our society, without an ability to communicate(except perhaps with broken sign language) they would likely be treated like animals, being used as a cheap source of labor. We created the type of society we have today because it best suits us as a species. It wouldn't very well suit a neanderthal, since from what we can tell they aren't nearly as social as we are.

However, you could take advantage of how little we know and allow them in your story to speak(I would leave them fairly dull, however since intelligence is one of the major differences between our two species). If they were able to communicate effectively their superior strength would make them invaluable assets to the blue collar industry. However, discrimination due to their differences is unavoidable, and they will likely(at least for a period in time) be taken advantage of (lower wages than would normally be legal, since they aren't technically human) at least for a time, until they become a regular part of society

  • $\begingroup$ I can't comment on the credibility of the linked article in particular, but looking at some of the other stuff on that site sets off all sorts of alarm bells. It appears to be (in large part at least) a junk-science shill site designed to give the appearance of scientific credibility to corporate abuses in the field of agriculture, not unlike global warming deniers. This specific article wasn't about that, but even so, the source it came from doesn't look very credible... $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2015 at 20:47
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This Wikipedia atricle suggests that there was interbreeding. $\endgroup$
    – djs
    Aug 7, 2015 at 21:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ " their superior strength would make them invaluable assets to the blue collar industry" -- I can't be the only person thinking "offensive linemen". $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2015 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ @SteveJessop or boxing.. $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2015 at 21:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .