Scientists are currently hard at work sequencing the genome of a Neanderthal woman who died some 30,000 years ago. Soon, Archaeology magazine reports, scientists believe they’ll be able to clone that Neanderthal, effectively bringing the long-extinct humans back to life. Paleoanthropologist John Hawks told Archaeology, "we are going to have a cloned Neanderthal, I'm just sure of it."
If, or when, the scientists succeed, a host of ethical and legal questions come into play. Would the Neanderthals be considered human? Would they have human rights? If scientists were to clone just one, he or she would lack any social structure, and could face fear and danger from humans. Archeology sums up the problems:
The ultimate goal of studying human evolution is to better understand the human race. The opportunity to meet a Neanderthal and see firsthand our common but separate humanity seems, on the surface, too good to pass up. But what if the thing we learned from cloning a Neanderthal is that our curiosity is greater than our compassion? Would there be enough scientific benefit to make it worth the risks?
UPDATE: Neanderthals were mistakenly identified as a human "ancestor," and that reference was deleted from this post.