Neanderthals and Us (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Our museum is part of the project "Neanderthals and "us": how the golden age of Neanderthal research challenges human self-understanding" of Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam and Leiden University (2023-2026).

Our image of Homo neanderthalensis is changing rapidly and drastically , and this has repercussions for long-standing views about ourselves. Until recently, Neanderthals wer seen as sluggish brutes, and reserach focusses on (anatomical, genetic, psychic and cultural) differences between "them" and us. Increasingly, however, Neanderthals are regarded as capable of allegedly unique human practices (language, rituals, care, music, symbolims), The are increasingly regared as human, people like us.

This interdisciplinary project combines expertise from Palaeolithic archaeology, Biological psychology and philosophy, to address the question how these transitions in Neanderthal research, but also in genres of the imagination (exhibition, novels, movies, cartoons) challenge us to reconsider our self understanding, reopening the question what makes us human.

This project is made possible by the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO, Dutch Organization for Scientific Research).

Contact Person: Melanie Wunsch, Anna Riethus

Paper related to the topic:

Partners & Sponsors:

Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (

Erasmus School of Philosophy, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam (

Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University (