“Neandertals drew on cave walls and made personal ornaments long before encountering Homo sapiens, two new studies find. These discoveries paint bulky, jut-jawed Neandertals as the mental equals of ancient humans, scientists say.”
Well, depends on what you mean by “equals”. Neanderthals probably didn’t have the same kind of humor, and almost certainly would not have understood complex wordplay – stuff that we lean on our forebrains to help us with. On the other hand, there’s a good chance they had a much more powerful visual cortex and perhaps eidetic memory, which would help them to survive in the winter wastelands of Europe and Asia during glaciation.
In fact, my theory is that the origins of astrotheology come from the pairing of a newfound verbal, metaphor-based faculty of transmission coupled with the eidetic memory of star patterns, used for navigation by Neanderthals. The hybrids, no longer able to pull off the eidetic feats of their ancestors, encoded the knowledge into storylines. Just my speculation.