One of the most tantalizing topics about Neanderthals is their cognition: how it developed and whether it was much different from patterns of thought in Homo sapiens.
We know from the archaeological record that much of Neanderthal hunting, foraging, and toolmaking behavior was quite similar to that of anatomically modern humans in the same time period, some 50,000 years ago. Recent evidence for Neanderthal art also suggests that they had the potential for symbolic and abstract thinking, which had previously only been attributed to H. sapiens. These clues hint that Neanderthals may have been broadly capable of the same mental tasks as anatomically modern humans, and yet the standard view is that modern humans won the evolutionary race.
What let them win? Was there something about the Neanderthals’ cognitive capacity that didn’t measure up?