Rarely in our self-centered understanding of life do we consider that there were countless lost generations of beings that lived alongside us and were very very much like us. The current archaeological and scientific investigations into the Neanderthals, for example, suggest the following:
a) They lived in very tight-knit clans and sometimes had large group gatherings.
b) They buried their dead, and seemed to decorate the graves and show respect for the body.
c) They didn’t just make tools, but made a sophisticated glue that could be be reheated and remolded. The process to make this glue involved heating it to right temperatures in an oxygen-less environment. (How did they do that?)
d) They used this glue to connect stones to wood to make effective tools, which allowed them to be good hunters.
e) They probably had an oral language.
f) They probably collected plants that had medicinal properties.
I suspect that there’s a very good possibility that these creatures, like humans, had a concept of self-identity. They could have had their own philosophical thoughts, their own fears, their own religions and gods. Judging from their burial sites, they may have had a concept of the soul and the afterlife.
In fact, as recently as 50,000 years ago, there probably were at least four different kinds of “humans” living at the same time. The fact that only we eventually flourished (we almost joined the 99% of the other species that went extinct) is no warrant for arrogance. Instead, we should study with greater depth the remarkable lives of our not-so-distant relatives and appreciate their roles and accomplishments in our evolutionary past.