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Comet Last Seen by Neanderthals May Be Visible Again This Month

There was a time when being called a “Neanderthal” was an insult – the Oxford English Dictionary says it meant “a primitive, uncivilized, or loutish person” while other dictionaries were less civil, with definitions along the lines of a “big, brutish, stupid person.” Those were based on early assumptions made back in the 19th century when their skulls were first found in the Neandertal Valley of Germany and conventional wisdom of the time thought their large foreheads, protruding brows and big teeth meant they were strong, knuckle-dragging, low intelligence oafs. It took a long time, but that first impression is changing as more fossils and artifacts of Neanderthals are found –  it turns out they were adept at making and using tools, they were excellent hunters and accomplished artists … and they were good-looking enough that our ancestors mated with them. A lot … if you believe our genomes. Now we’ve learned that they may have been astronomers too. A comet is approaching Earth to make its first appearance in 50,000 years and it will be visible to the naked eye just as it was the last time … when Neanderthals were around in large numbers. Did they know what they were looking at? Did they draw it on a cave wall above some animals? Did they take time to explain it to those dumb homo sapiens?

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