The discovery Wednesday of a bustling and prosperous Neanderthal community 140 miles northwest of Great Falls, Montana, has stunned scientists and forced them to redraw the human family tree. The branch representing Neanderthals, typically shown to stop around 30,000 years ago, will now extend into the present day.
The village, called Oba or Obah, and located in a remote bend of the Kootenai River, is remarkable for the high level of education and culture among its roughly 650 residents, said Bozeman College anthropologist Jane Saunders, who has lived among the Obahn people since Thursday afternoon.
“By education and culture, I’m not referring to advanced college degrees or the ability to comment on a Renaissance painting,” added Saunders. “I’m talking about the habit of using one’s brain, actually plugging it in and turning it on. When I first met the Obahn I was immediately struck by their thoughtfulness, by the way they reasoned with each other and examined arguments; and by how they treated facts and evidence as something to be respected and understood, not cloddishly dismissed. My God, I thought I was in another country, but then my son texted me and asked if I was going to watch the Republican debate that evening.”
The Obahn had many questions for Saunders. Most urgently, they wanted to know how it was that members of Homo sapiens, so-called modern humans, would consider letting themselves be governed by “buffoons, fanatics and boorish loudmouths such as Donald J. Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and…the rest of them.”
“I don’t know,” replied Saunders, who then pleaded with her Obahn hosts to let her stay with them through the 2016 election and possibly much longer. But they politely refused, telling Saunders she had a responsibility to return to her people and study them.