I always thought this would make a terrific book or movie. Settlers in the Southwest hear rumours from the Navaho of the “Old Ones” - not the Anasazi, but men with long arms and protruding brows and a language no tribes understand. A handful of reckless cowboys go into the mountains and encounter a surviving colony of Neanderthals. Take it from there.
Any evidence that this is possible? You'd have to line up the periods where travel across the Bering Strait into North America was accessible with when the Neanderthals (or similar early humans) flourished. I just think it could be an exciting story as the three groups interact.
I remember reading a good twenty years ago a similar idea. The Europeans were the first H. saps to reach the Americas. The homonid that walked over was (basically) H. erectus.
The author was Turtledove (I think) and the stories started in the 1800s while Europeans were colonizing the West. The major theme was how “White men” would treat a human species which really was inferior intellectually.
Personally I don’t think he thought through the biogeography fully. There should have been mentions of surviving mastodonts and mammuths, as I don’t think erectus would have been as effective in megafaunal extirpation.
But as a hijack, check out Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead, which deals with your scenario of relictual Neandertal populations, only set in early medieval Scandinavia. The IMHO underrated film, The 13th Warrior, was based on it.
Wow. That Ibn Fadlan manuscript looks like it would be excellent. Anyone know where I can get a copy? The best lead I found was a photocopy of a translation done as PhD. thesis, currently residing at Carleton College (a bit for from NYC for my purposes).
The Paiutes told of a tribe of red-haired giants called the Si-Te-Cahs. Do a Google on that and you’ll get some pages. (Mostly paranormal or creationist though. Also, the pages I checked were about bones that whites attribute to Si-Te-Cahs rather than the Paiute tale itself.)
“. . .Turok and his young friend, Andar, pre-Columbian Indians, were out on a hunting expedition. They stumbled into a large valley surrounded by unscalable cliffs, where dinosaurs (which they called “honkers”) still lived, and couldn’t find their way back out.” They also battled “primitive cave men” who could have been Neanderthals, I suppose.
My notes from a cult archaeology class state that the one incident where Neanderthal relics were found in North America were proven to be brought over from abroad as part of a ship’s ballast. I’m afraid that I didn’t note the year, unfortunately.