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Mo welcomes his friend Michael Ian Black – comedian, author, podcaster, and, as it turns out, Neanderthal (we’ll explain). Mo talks to Michael and the world’s leading researchers about why our extinct human cousins Neanderthals have gotten such a bad rap for so many many years, and how we’re learning more about how close we really were. Oh, Mo also talks to the guy who played Cha-ka on the 70s kids show Land of the Lost.
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00:00:06during the earliest days of this Millennium I took part in the kind of history series and ambitious survey that explore milestones in American culture decade-by-decade of course I'm talking about
00:00:24and after I love the eighties there was
00:00:29and really who could forget
00:00:36what made trying to see what was the catfight package screamed midlife crisis extreme I just got divorced and I don't know where I belong anymore it was a classy Show featuring a panoply of commentators and I was one of them pondering complex topics like 1980s hospital dramas Caldwell comedian and author Michael Ian Black was another contributor
00:01:18I thought if anything the title that's incredible was an understatement of how incredible the things on that's incredible were Neanderthal Epic Quest for Fire While most of us were obsessed with the film's nudity Michael took the high road I was really looking at at Atmore from the anthropological point of view and it's that prehistory that that was subject this episode since Quest for Fire we've learned some stunning truth about neanderthals and I knew who I wanted to discuss this topic with my friend Michael Ian Black back when we were loving the 80s neither of us knew just how connected he is so are we human cousins of 4000 decades ago if they told me only how much Neanderthal I am I would have paid twice the amount for the test
00:02:15I'm Maraca and this is mocha chew Aries
00:02:26this moment meanderthals Circa 40,000 years ago death of a human species
00:02:38okay first let's take care of some Basics the name Neanderthal comes from the neander valley in Germany where one of the first Neanderthal skulls was found in 1856 at the time the boss so was Miss identified as the skull of a Cossack soldier from the Napoleonic Wars they were only off by a few tens of thousands of years the first Neanderthals live about four hundred fifty thousand years ago now neanderthals were also human but a separate species Homo sapiens that's us flourishing Africa while neanderthals roam to cross Europe and Asia adapting to a colder harsher climate eventually the two species met up then about 40,000 years ago neanderthals it disappeared Without a Trace or so we thought which brings me to my special guest so Michael Ian Black thank you so much for joining me for this whole episode my pleasure let's get the promotion out of the way
00:03:38it's deserved your podcast how to be amazing it's amazing you're one of your books navel-gazing in it you talked about genetic testing and why did you go about investigating your genetic makeup I think the same reason most people do just curiosity I just wanted to know Genetically speaking who I am I had it in my head that I must be at least a pesty shifting some kind of melange I was hoping to find some African American to Native American but the results were so disappointed Glee kind of exactly what I had been led to believe which is that I am 800% Ashkenazi Jew I do think the food is better than Sephardic food good for delicious
00:04:38delicious if you just take the gefilte fish out of that which I have always Associated and will always associate with just jelly cat turds you say you found out you were 100% Ashkenazi Jew but that's not quite right well it is in terms of ethnicity but there was also a marker which I didn't know till I got it back from the company that says it will also tell you your neanderthal
00:05:11percentages only how much Neanderthal I am I would have paid twice the amount for the test because for some reason. Just really captured my imagination to think o I may be part of an entirely different species that was thrilling to me and I didn't know that they had developed the test and I found out that I am 2.9% Neanderthal which is greater than the norm the average is a 2.7% I was to hear this because your listeners can't see me but you can probably tell by the way I speak in the Timbre of my voice that I am not the most masculine of fellows
00:06:00but yeah I was going to say I mean, I'm tolerant but your point but just the popular image of the Neanderthal as a lumbering brute as this strong Survivor out on the steps in Planes just thrilled me to no end and so I was delighted and I told my wife that I am above averagely Neanderthal and she said that's why you look like that and she did not mean it as a compliment and let me just say that Martha is highly evolved she's basically Daryl Hannah in Clan of the Cave Bear blond lumbering brutes you're making certain assumptions and will dispel some of these in this episode for instance how do we know there weren't cultured epicene neanderthals I think we do know now you were doing the research and I'm just being off the top of
00:07:00they were connoisseurs of fine wine is my understanding they did puppet shows to do at Lisa Kudrow and this is who do you think you are I think that's her shout I want you to know that your Neanderthal ancestors were pretty darn special and not as different from us normal people as you may think so how did they get such a bad rap we're about to find out
00:07:29this episode of Mo bichoo Aries is sponsored by cam the number one app to help you sleep meditate and relax when we talked about getting healthier most of us think about improving our diet and exercising good physical health isn't the only thing that matters it's just as important to focus on our mental well-being that's where Cam can help it's the number one app to help you sleep meditate and relax if you go to calm.com Mo you'll get 25% off a calm premium subscription it includes hundreds of hours of programs with things like guided meditations to help you deal with anxiety stress and focus you'll also find soothing music breathing exercises gentle stretches to relax your body and more for a limited time obituaries listeners get 25% off a calm premium subscription at calm.com / Mo that's CA lm.com Mo get unlimited access to all of Conn's content today at calm.com MO
00:08:35I grew up with so many classic TV shows and films about neanderthals and cavemen and they pretty much all got it wrong a 1981 there was the A4 mentioned Quest for Fire
00:08:50characters basically just who Howell through the whole movie except when one of them gets beaned in the head by a rock
00:08:59and everyone laughs
00:09:04that's a mere moviegoers were subjected to the Ringo Starr vehicle caveman the Ringo Starr vehicle
00:09:19me I always love the Mel Blanc voiced cartoon character
00:09:29and who was a certain age could forget the Saturday morning kids show Land of the Lost featuring Chaka
00:09:44what kind of a caiman a monkey or what
00:09:51I spoke to filippelli who played Chaka when he was just nine years old I wore a prosthetic head piece so it had a very prominent brow and forehead so it did kind of look Neanderthal ish I guess but make no mistake Chaka was a member of a furry and purely fictional species the suit was made out of like nylon pantyhose material with real human hair hand sewn into it so it made a kind of itchy let's face it the movies and TV shows I've mentioned fun as they were didn't do much good for the Public's image of early man or neanderthals but now we know better anything that depicts neanderthals as basically bad hair that's what I laugh about professor John Hodge from the University of Wisconsin is one of the world's leading experts on neanderthals why have neanderthals had such a bad reputation the Neanderthals are a group that doesn't have an A
00:10:51advocacy representatives calling their congressman and and so as a consequence if you thought something bad about the past you know they were convenient group cuz they weren't going to complain it's so easy to use geico.com a caveman could do it
00:11:17the Neanderthals in those Geico commercials might be funny but make no mistake we're laughing at them so how did these stereotyping of Neanderthals as a brutish howling a stupid get started John Hart says it may have begun with a 19th century German biologist named Ernst haeckel who attempted to map a genealogical tree of all living things when it came to early versions of us he chose a rather insulting classification the name that he had for the predecessor of humans that would be the Neanderthals basically was homo stupidus but it was the French who really gave me and Ruth all's a Bad Name a 1908 a nearly complete Neanderthal skeleton was found in a cave and the town of La Chapelle all Sam paleontologist Marcel bull analyzed for the remains of this individual and made sweeping and hugely influential assumptions
00:12:17the entire species the image that came out of his work was Harry and create like but splayed toes and a slouchy hunched posture long is a senior editor for Scientific American researchers later determined was that this was an older individual does Neanderthal has suffered from severe arthritis so all of the sort of features that led bull to assume that the species had these slouched trades were actually the result of disease that is really hilarious and I'm an individual species of something what if you're finding a weird member of that species and it turns out that's exactly what happened with the Neanderthal totally in agreement fascinating and hilarious but pull on there's more
00:13:15the old man of La Chapelle as he came to be known became the Public's picture of Neanderthals or generations. With over a hundred years later the research leader at the Natural History Museum in London tells me part of the problem was that in the early 20th century we didn't understand how Evolution worked there was this rubbish epistick idea that they would be missing links to be found in the story of the of the missing link that we Typecast neanderthals into the role of a half ape half human caveman
00:14:03but thanks to the rapid advancement in the study of archaic humans the image of a neanderthal he's finally changing to be short neanderthals were different from us in appearance the pronounced brow Ridge and sloping forehead in those Geico commercials weren't trumped-up by makeup artists so everyone can show you these wrong the girl beella sometimes described as the Neanderthal cranial shape was longer and lower in fact the Neanderthal brain was bigger than ours as was the Neanderthal schnoz we gifts they certainly seem to have had a nose that was capable of very very heavy breathing it might have to function of warming up and humidifier and we are when they were living in Brevard should be colder and dry conditions they were stuck here to with rib cages that flared out and shorter limbs or recent studies on the Neanderthal for
00:15:03suggest they might have walked even more upright than we do as for what they sounded like Neanderthal voices might have been higher-pitched than ours listen to this simulation from the BBC that's just a puppet of nasal now pushing to me
00:15:29no that isn't the Monty Python sketch it's a serious demonstration
00:15:35but aside from the physical what's really surprising is how long are Neanderthals were with us. Nibley and creatively they made a lot of the same kind of tools they had fire decorated their bodies with jewelry made from shells eagle talons animal teeth all sorts of fabulous accoutrement and in the last two years researchers have discovered Neanderthal cave paintings that might not sound significant but from an archaeological standpoint those are the markers of a species that communicates symbolically some of these discoveries of them using feathers systematically and collecting predominately the feathers of very dark black birds and we talked about it as Neanderthal golf because it seems like they prefer these dark Raptors and dark crows and Ray
00:16:35search thing
00:16:37some scientists speculate neanderthals thought they be imbued with special powers if they wore those dark feathers and if you're picturing Cher wearing Bob Mackie at the 1986 Oscars I am too
00:16:51and when it came to hunting neanderthals were pretty crafty to attach tips to their Spears they made their own glue in order to do that you have to take birch bark and smoke it down reduce set at high temperature so that the sap inside of it condenses into the sticky pitch and that in the end makes a very very tiny amount of this so you got to do this many times to concentrated neanderthals manage that process if I had to assign an engineering class to figure out how this was done they would have a hard time of it
00:17:27old say that neanderthals weren't the least bit stupidest and neither was are fictional friend Chaka
00:17:38and the pakuni had a language it was developed by UCLA language Professor by the name of Victoria Franken after all these years Phillip Paley can still say some phrases in pacu will these are classic ones Mongoose very and there's also old guns Ibiza does that mean big magic I love who doesn't love big Magic
00:18:20we're back with Michael Ian Black talking about what it really means to be neanderthal
00:18:25I mean they were capable of language that we will be with their dad right but I think we should have done that at the top of the episode ways to do I like saying Neanderthal there are some people that will save me and Route also you are welcome you can go back and forth you can switch over to Commander call if you want I am now forever more going to pronounce a neanderthal okay so that's what we're going to do a split on this and I'm going to stick with Neanderthal you stick with Neanderthal and then everybody will be satisfied you did you like Land of the Lost loved it there were these City Marty Krofft shows and in my memory that was the only tolerable one it was as real as we all get we watching a little bit of Captain Caveman that cartoon I remember that I was kind of attracted to cats and Chase bad
00:19:25it was something maybe it was I don't know anyway and now when I go back and look at it I think it's kind of weird because he looks like a testicle basically that explains your attraction thank you were intelligent and surprisingly similar to modern humans that raises the question why did Neanderthals go extinct now there are various theories on this first stop Professor Michael stop Vassar from the University of cologne in Germany my specialities subject called isotope geochemistry that's what I did but you're a weatherman for the ancient times yes you could say that's yes he didn't really like that Line Is It Anyway climate change
00:20:25Parasol's by studying stalagmite in caves he determined that during their last fifty thousand years on Earth the average temperature in the Danube Valley one of the places we're neanderthals lived was much colder than it is now it was about 39 degrees Fahrenheit but and this is crucial during that. There were these cold snaps that would ultimately seal their fate the loss of something between a century in a millennium on average they usually let the temperature drops which could be up to that size 6 to 8 degrees Celsius today it may not sound drastic but it makes the difference between being able to grow crops or not if you can eat you're going to die and then as climate recovered
00:21:13modern humans basically reset an empty area more or less tension of Neanderthals was pretty much bad timing wrong place wrong time but they had existed for Millennia up until this point in the average temperature as it's going down could have forced them South into warmer climates but it seems like it didn't do that I know I don't know why this feels like a very
00:21:49dumb Theory which is why we have another theory for you on why neanderthals died off okay good you remember Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London he thinks the small population of Neanderthals was essentially swallowed up by modern humans some experts estimate that a Topps there were only about 15,000 neanderthals spread all across Eurasia there just weren't that many of them numbers and I think that it probably wouldn't have taken much to push them over the edge to Extinction and maybe their parents are normal humans as a competitor was sufficient to do that but of course that's just the guest yeah well that's out that just sounds like the most likely explanation there was a Sharknado of humans that came in and just just wipe them out I mean we had a habit of doing that that's kind of what we do but may have been iced out they aren't completely gone
00:22:49they believe in us and especially in you Michael Ian Black I mean you're 2.9% Neanderthal now let's find out what that means this episode of Mo bichoo Aries is sponsored by Parachute is a good night sleep in a cozy comfortable bed important to you if it is then you should try parachute parachute thoughtfully and responsibly manufacturers incredibly comfortable bedding luxurious bath Linens and stylish decor items all of their products are made from premium materials Source from around the globe like long staple Egyptian cotton and European white down their collections combined expert craftsmanship with modern design for cozy Linens with a soothing minimalist aesthetic that fit in any home visit parachutehome.com mode for free shipping and Returns on parachutes premium-quality Ultra Soft bedding and bath Linens that's parachutehome.com Mo for free shipping and Returns on parachutes premium-quality Ultra Soft bedding and bath
00:23:49Lenin's they offer a 60-day trial so if you don't love your new bedding just send it back
00:23:57what does it mean to have within our genetic code a certain percentage of Neanderthal DNA for answers I'm heading to New Jersey
00:24:10my name is Joshua key and my professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology in The lewis-sigler Institute for Integrative genomics at Princeton University and you did that all in one breath
00:24:2223andMe you can discover where in the world do DNA comes from Unforgettable gift myheritage dna.com these DNA kits can tell us it's one thing to find out that from one of these mail order things that you're 10% Irish 10% Mediterranean you know 5% African but you find out that your 2.5% Neanderthal level of self-discovery we've always said that of an ancestors and I think what we've learned more recently is it's a mosaic of both recent ancestors and very distantly related different types of human ancestors
00:25:10before we can get to know what Neanderthal DNA look like we had to truly understand our own DNA more than a thousand researchers across Six Nations have revealed nearly all three billion letters of our miraculous genetic code that was President Bill Clinton back in the year 2000 announcement that the first sequencing of the human genome have been completed than in 2006 Swedish scientists Avanti popolo and his team embarked on sequencing the Neanderthal genome in a positively Jurassic Park in way they were able to isolate ancient DNA directly from a neanderthal femur bone so they drill into the long bone
00:25:54and didn't do a whole bunch of cleanup procedures to try to make sure that you're just getting into fall TNA all from this femur bone amazing
00:26:05once we sequenced the Neanderthal genome we were able to recognize that we have what is called archaic and DNA within our own jeans and this bombshell told us a lot about what neanderthals and modern humans were doing with one another about 40 to 50 thousand years ago
00:26:27it's been an interesting way one of the most hotly contested issues in science for 30 years with people arguing either there was at the mixture that happened between the Ender Falls in modern humans were there wasn't he's talking about sex and recent studies suggest that they add Mix-A-Lot okay so where did the modern humans in the Neanderthals end up hooking up that's a great question and something we still don't know precisely it seems to make most sense that the initial rounds of hybridization happened shortly after modern humans dispersed Out of Africa so maybe in Asia Minor like in Turkey modern difference of like in Syria and Jordan okay so it was kind of a literal way I mean 50,000 years ago modern humans Coming Out of Africa and meeting a group of Neanderthals yeah
00:27:27I walk over to the female Neanderthal and were they saying like stop no don't do it she's not our kind but we're learning more everyday thanks to Professor Iggy and his team he took me on a tour of their facility
00:27:45so we're going to go look at the experimental and coffee tationil space in the Louis Sigler Institute drive to wear a hairnet to sleep
00:28:00let's go downstairs, remember, this is one of the class of next-generation sequencers so these are my graduate students pretending like they're working nice to meet you at the gun Aaron this project is on understanding how Neanderthal sequences distributed across the human genome when you walk down the street do you ever seen a wonder the Neanderthal content of different people I'm actually really good at picking that out just by looking at you yeah how much Neanderthal do you think is a new Fresh back here are a little bit I think you're about 1% okay so my friend Michael Ian Black is 2.9% neanderthal
00:29:00exceptional case it's amazing
00:29:05I can definitely see you cuz he's got a small chin and Neanderthals are known for being relatively chinless which is why I think your lord is yet you have a nice drawing Channel thank you and he also has of the sort of backward sloping foreheads which is also very yeah will be referred to as like archaic
00:29:28I don't feel like I have a very weak chin never felt the need to beard myself objectively do not have a week Chan but I do have a reverse sloping forehead he was right about that but so does Rodger Stone and he's gorgeous all right all right let's get back to the story turns out grad student Aaron was just kidding around with me even if you have a significant amount of Neanderthal DNA in most likely won't affect your physical appearance but according to Professor a key2benefits modern humans got from meeting with neanderthals were very real including improved immune systems it was a very efficient way for our ancestors to quickly adapt to these new conditions was to have sex with a neanderthal pick up a few beneficial jeans from the under false benefits just from the sax if your kids will get it yes I persisted benefits are you almost never get sick
00:30:28almost never I can't remember the last time I was sick and you have kids R kids in the whole thing I never get the flu I never get colds and never really get anything that is interesting but wait there's more to the benefits of having Neanderthal DNA there are a few genes that are clearly important in early formation of skin like keratin proteins are snails perhaps it was nice nails or hair it may play a factor in to press it may have something to do with chain smoking it just so happens that this sequence now influences your ability to stop smoking okay never smoked it's a good thing you never smoked because you would find it harder to quit I may just take up the Habit just to see if it's right
00:31:26one of the most mind blowing things the field of archaic genomics has uncovered is that modern humans and Neanderthals weren't the only people around 30,000 years ago with 40,000 years ago we walked around the earth with find modern humans neanderthals denisovans if we went to the island of Flores we'd see The Hobbit individual says we're Hobbits, Florencia so very small diminutive archaic human types of so that the world was a much more interesting place 50,000 years ago and today the only remnants that we see of these archaic forms of humans are the scattered remains of their DNA and the genomes of modern individuals
00:32:14I mean I only have Neanderthal DNA I may have denisovan hobbit or who knows what
00:32:22so I decided to take a test
00:32:30cavemen ancestors running better opening packages saliva collection kit and writes no food or drink for 30 minutes it to fill line
00:32:4820 minutes later my cup runneth over with saliva
00:32:54I have to say this is bringing up a little bit of my competitive Tendencies I'm a little jealous that Michael is so Neanderthal and and I don't know time to see who's the Neanderthal deist of them all
00:33:10this episode of Mo bichoo Aries is sponsored by policygenius life insurance is one of those topics that everyone knows a little bit about but do you understand it well enough to feel comfortable buying it whether you're in Insurance expert or a newbie policygenius created a website that makes it easy for you to compare quotes get advice and get covered in minutes you can compare quotes from Tarpon Shores to find the coverage you need at a price you can afford from there just apply online and the advisors at policygenius will handle all the red tape they'll even negotiate your rate with the insurance company no extra fees no commission sales agents just helpful advice and personalized service so no matter how much or how little you know about life insurance you can find the right policy and minutes at policygenius.com policygenius the easy way to compare and buy Life Insurance
00:34:09it's why I actually have the results I haven't looked yet I have not looked so I guess you heard I spent in an envelope and sent it in and I'm going to look now your DNA tell the story of who you are and how you're connected to populations Trace their Heritage to the CenturyLink Africa Leo 100% what does that mean hey Moe remember you were a little nervous about using your real name I use the name of my cat cat I thought maybe I know you got a hundred percent of a marker for some disease that's going to kill you say cleotis he's okay alright it's already says our ancestry composition
00:35:03your DNA suggests your ancestry is 40.8% Iberian with ties to five other populations and I'm going to view report tomorrow some over 40% Spanish okay, sexy and did you know that he's so Italian Italy I'm 3% Ashkenazi Jewish welcome it's interesting because a cab driver the other day said are you Jewish
00:35:37said to you are you Jewish and now you can answer any affirmative hell yes I am East Asian and Native American looking for oh my God I had that congrats thank you I thought it was on a separate tab as far as I recall so it looks like I have only only 236 Neanderthal variants which puts me in the bottom 11% in terms of mechanical content well it sounds like that researcher was right that you have less Neanderthal than the average person if you have less than 89% of 23andMe customers that medicine suggests to me you don't have very much at all right I guess that's what it means anyway so we can conclude I have virtually no neanderthal
00:36:37different pronunciations of Neanderthal yes but you do have a real Smorgasbord of all I everything that I wanted so I wouldn't say it's at I would take your slightly ahead in the genetic Lottery you said a smorgasbord that I have known you Northern Europeans
00:37:02Michael Ian Black I want to thank you but you should really be thanking me because this was about finding your roots since I'm basically 0% Neanderthal well thank you I mean I really feel like I learned a lot about myself about my family I now know more about you and simultaneously think less of you because you are not of my species but before we close a word from the University of Wisconsin to John Hawkes on his predecessors in the end of Thor research those people whose early analysis of our ancient cousins was so Off the Mark when we looked at the scientific world of the Victorian era you're looking at people who became aware of human variation around the world but they interpreted it in a very culturally insensitive way you look at the passing thing,
00:38:02gosh I can't believe that they said that but that was the way that they approach their science
00:38:10today we're all experts I mean we can just spit in an envelope and get all the answers right far from it hopefully Science and Technology will allow us one day understand why a species of humans as advanced as the Neanderthals disappeared from the planet so that maybe just maybe we don't disappear
00:38:35at least not before our next episode of Mo bichoo Aries featuring the original siamese twins Chang and then my parents don't say a word to your cousin's about the Siamese twins cuz they don't know anything about them I certainly hope you enjoy this episode and if you would please rate and review Hour podcast you can also follow obituaries on Facebook and Instagram and you can follow me on Twitter at Maraca tell me how me and her is all you are or more great content please visit Machu Picchu aeries.com you can subscribe to mow bichoo Aries wherever you get your podcast this episode of Mo bichoo Aries was produced by Gideon Evans our team of producers also includes Megan Marcus and me it was edited by David Fox and engineered by Dan and Azula indispensable support from Justin ater genius donesky Kira Wardlow
00:39:35CBS News Radio and Richard Rohr our theme music is written by Daniel Hart special thanks to Gary Purdue I Nora sistiaga Aronoff Princeton University London Natural History Museum and is always undying thanks to Rand Morrison and John carp without Home obituaries couldn't live

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