The Neanderthal peoples

Neanderthal man, first found in Germany in 1856 (see p. 377) and originally regarded as a dim-witted slouching brute, actually had a larger brain capacity (mean 1450 cm3) than modern humans (mean 1360 cm3). The heavy eyebrow ridges, massive jaws and large teeth compared with modern H. sapiens (Figure 11.13(a, b)) could mean little more than that Neanderthals were merely a coarsely-built race of Homo sapiens. Indeed, it has been remarked that if a Neanderthal man were shaved and dressed in modern clothes, he would pass unnoticed on a busy city street (Figure 11.13(c))! Mole-

Fig. 11.13 Neanderthal man: skulls of (a) Neanderthal man and (b) modern man, in lateral and anterior view; (c) restoration of the head ofa Neanderthal man. [Figures (a,b) after Lewin, 1999, courtesy ofBlackwell Scientific Publications Ltd; (c) after Savage and Long, 1986.]

cular evidence (Krings et al., 1997; Beerli and Edwards, 2002), however, indicates that Neanderthals separated from modern humans some 0.5 Myr ago, and that perhaps it is correct to recognize a separate species, H. neanderthalensis, based on their morphological dis-tinctiveness (Wood and Collard, 1999; Stringer, 2002b; Harvati et al.,2004).

The Neanderthals have been found in Europe and Asia as far east as Uzbekistan, and in the Middle East in sites dated as 120,000 to 30,000 years old, and perhaps up to 400,000 years ago in Britain and Spain. The most abundant remains come from France and central Europe and, in their most extreme form, they are associated with phases of the later Ice Ages that covered much of the area. A robust compact body is better able to resist the cold than our generally more slender form.

Neanderthals were culturally advanced in many ways (Stringer and Gamble, 1993; Trinkaus and Ship-man, 1993). For example, they made a variety of tools and weapons from wood, bone and stone, the Mouster-ian (Middle Stone Age, Middle Palaeolithic) culture of Europe. These include delicate spearheads, hand axes, scrapers for removing fat from animal skins and pointed tools for making holes in skins and for engraving designs on bone and stone, a total of 60 or so tool types. Neanderthals also made clothes from animal skins, used fire extensively, lived in caves or bone and skin shelters and perhaps had ritual. At Le Moustier in France, a teenage boy was buried with a pile of flints for a pillow and a well-made axe beside his hand. Ox bones were nearby, which suggests that he was buried with joints of meat as food for his journey to another world. It is hotly debated whether Neanderthals could speak as well as modern humans.

The Neanderthals seem to have disappeared about 30,000 years ago; their last refuge may have been in northern Spain and south-west France. It is not clear whether they were seen off by the loss of cold-weather habitat as the ice sheets retreated, or whether they were killed off by more modern H. sapiens of our own type (Klein, 2003). Molecular evidence (Krings et al., 1997) suggests that they did not interbreed with the interlopers: mitochondrial DNA from the original Neander skeleton shows no more similarity to that of modern Europeans than to any other modern humans.

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