I have not read the entire thing, but this article from New York Times Magazine suggests that science has long gotten Neanderthals wrong, and that they displayed many behavioral characteristics that were similar to their Homo sapien neighbors in Africa. Note that the last common ancestor with neanderthals was over 500,000 years ago. But anyway, they too, apparently, buried their dead and made specialized tools and jewelry. They also painted their faces or bodies, which could represent symbolic thought.
Personally, human evolution has never really threatened my faith. I have always been open to science, and I think evolutionary biology expresses the creative work of God.
However, I wonder how this understanding of Neanderthals can be consistent with the uniqueness of the human person, who is not just body but soul as well. From the time of our “first parents,” we bodily creatures also have a spiritual aspect, made in the image of God, and can relate to God. Features such as self-consciousness and symbolic thought were thought to be particular attributes of humans made in God’s image, with an immortal soul.
So how this square with Catholic teaching?