Significant Find Sites Of The Classic Neanderthals

In comparison to the rather sparsely scattered early Neanderthal finds, the find world of the classic Neanderthals looks completely different. Their find sites are strewn around all of Europe, but also appear in Asia and the Near East. They stretch from the Atlantic coast of Portugal in the west all the way to Uzbekistan in the east, from the Levant in the south to Wales in the north. There were classic Neanderthals in what is today Germany,

France, Belgium, Italy, Gibraltar, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, the Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Israel, Kurdistan, Portugal, and even in Syria (see the Appendix, Figure 23). The uncontested favorite in the geographical competition for the most classic Neanderthal finds is western France. But it would be a fallacy to conclude from this fact that this area was the most heavily populated region of Europe. Trying to estimate population density on the basis of fossil finds and their geography is a venture that can yield only vague assertions. By inference from ethnographical studies of arctic hunter-gatherer peoples, there would have been an extremely small population density even during the "golden age of the Neanderthals," the period from 70,000 to 30,000 years bp. On average, a Neanderthal occupied an area of 20 to 200 square kilometers.

One ofthe most famous classic Neanderthals is, without a doubt, the one found in the valley of the same name near Mettmann, Germany. His remains, those of a 50- to 60-year-old man, were supplemented by new excavations carried out in 1997 and 2000 at the original find site (Figure 1). Ralph W. Schmitz and Jurgen Thissen achieved the unbelievable coup of not only rediscovering the find site, filled in by limestone quarrying, but even of finding material that had been missed originally, more than 140 years before. Besides fragments from this so-called type exemplar, the two researchers also found 18 further fragments of another individual, whose age is estimated at 44,000 years.

The Neander Valley did not remain the only attested habitat of the classic Neanderthals in Germany. The classic Neanderthals were also at home in Salzgitter-Lebenstadt near Braunschweig. The age of this find site is reckoned at 50,000 years. Besides bone finds, stone tools were uncovered there, worked on in the Mousterian fashion, as was typical for Neanderthals. From Warendorf, Westphalia, there comes a small broken piece of the skull of what was probably a classic Neanderthal, found along with Mousterian tools.

As already mentioned, with finds at La Chapelle-aux-Saints (Figure 13a), La Ferrassie, Le Moustier, and the by far youngest Neanderthal from St. Cesaire, France was more than anywhere else the land of the classic Neanderthal. The so-called "Old Man" from La Chapelle-aux-Saints is the star of the French Neanderthals. For one thing, the 50,000-year-old fossil is very significant because of its completeness, and for another it displays all the typical features of a Neanderthal. The "Old Man" is the Neanderthal par excellence, even though somewhat lacking in beauty. While he was still alive, the aged man had lost his molars, his life was sorely limited by severe arthritis, and his bones were deformed.

In La Ferrassie in the Dordogne two almost complete adult skeletons and bone fragments of a total of six different infants and children were discovered in 1909; they have been classified as classic Neanderthals. Never before had Neanderthals been found in a sort of grave, and never before had a man and a woman been found who could be compared anatomically to each other. The age of the bones was reckoned at c. 70,000 years. Much more recent are the remains of about 20 individuals from La

Figure 13 Examples of the classic Neanderthal include (a) the "Old Man" of

La Chapelle-aux-Saints, an estimated c. 50,000 years old, and (b and c) the individual Shanidar I, also male, who was already crippled during his lifetime, 70,000-40,000 years ago. Contemporary to the Neanderthals, modern humans already lived in the Near East, such as (d) the woman from Qafzeh, whose skull, called Qafzeh IV, already has recognizable Homo sapiens characteristics like a high forehead. Qafzeh IV has an age of approximately 90,000 to 100,000 years.

Figure 13 Examples of the classic Neanderthal include (a) the "Old Man" of

La Chapelle-aux-Saints, an estimated c. 50,000 years old, and (b and c) the individual Shanidar I, also male, who was already crippled during his lifetime, 70,000-40,000 years ago. Contemporary to the Neanderthals, modern humans already lived in the Near East, such as (d) the woman from Qafzeh, whose skull, called Qafzeh IV, already has recognizable Homo sapiens characteristics like a high forehead. Qafzeh IV has an age of approximately 90,000 to 100,000 years.

Figure 13 Continued

Quina, which are especially known because of the tools also found there. The tools have an estimated age of 35,000 years and are classified as Charentian, a variant of Mousterian. The name of this well-known tool culture of the Middle Pleistocene is derived from Le Moustier, a cliff overhang in the Vezere Valley, where besides stone tools, excavators also found the more or less complete skeleton fragments of a 43,000-year-old Neanderthal. The 36,000-year-old skull from Saint Cesaire was taken up in 1979 as the youngest member of the classic Neanderthal find group yet discovered. With it, the discoverer also found tools of the so-called Chatelperronian. This term describes the mixture of finer and rougher stoneworking techniques that before this point had been ascribed exclusively to modern humans. It is difficult to establish how the Neanderthals learned this technical innovation in the production of stone tools, whether they mixed with Homo sapiens or were themselves its inventors. There is much to suggest a technology transfer between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals—but which direction this flowed remains an open question.

With finds at La Naulette, Spy, and Engis (Figure 2a), Belgium too stands high on the scale of classic Neanderthal finds. The discovery of fragments of a forearm, metacarpus, and lower jaw at La Naulette in 1866 and two skulls and skeleton remains of c. 47,000-year-old Neanderthals at Spy twenty years later were celebrated as revolutionary finds at the time of their discovery because they ended the debate about whether the Neanderthals were a separate type of human. At that time, the scholarly world possessed only three Neanderthal finds, from Germany, Gibraltar, and the Belgian Engis. At Engis, a child's skull was found in 1829, 26 years before the discovery in the Neander Valley, although it only "came out" as a Neanderthal in 1936. Another "coming out" of a classic Neanderthal occurred at the Italian Monte Circeo. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, excavators made one of the best-preserved skull finds in southern Europe. The skull, separated from the rest of the body, opened and lying in a small stone circle, gave rise to speculation that the discoverers must have happened upon a showplace of Neanderthal religious rites. The modern view of the matter is less spectacular: that the remains of the skeleton survived in a hyena den, and the arrangement was coincidental.

The lower jaw discovered at Zafarraya, Andalusia, belonged to one of the last surviving Neanderthals. Carbon 14 dating, which determines age with the help of a radioactive carbon isotope contained in organic material, has yielded an age of 28,000-32,000 years. The tools also found at the site are only 27,000 years old. In eastern Europe, the best-known finds are those made at Sipka (Czech Republic), Sualyuk (Hungary), Kiik Koba (Ukraine), and Vindija Cave (Croatia). The fossils from Vindija have been given a date of 28,000 years bp, although newer dating has suggested an age of 35,000 years.

The find site Teshik Tash in Uzbekistan marks the eastern border of the classic Neanderthal's habitat. In 1938, the 70,000-year-old skeleton of a child was uncovered here. What is remarkable about the approximately nine-year-old Neanderthal boy is the location where he was found— encircled by mountain goat horns and deposited in a cave 1600 meters high in the Gissar Mountains. The nearest Neanderthal fossils are found a full 1600 kilometers away, in Shanidar, Kurdistan. The cave, celebrated in the Flower Power seventies as the burial and cult site of Europe's first "flower children," yielded skeletal remains of seven to ten Neanderthal individuals, believed from the find level to be 50,000 to 70,000 years old.

The remains of flower pollen in the graves are today regarded as the remains of voles and by no means interpreted as grave offerings.

The fossil humans from modern Israel and Palestine are regarded as "deviants" among the Neanderthals. Neanderthals in the Levant are less robust anatomically. These were the Neanderthals who lived together with modern humans—although we do not know whether they were neighbors, friends, or enemies. It is likely, though, that the two human species simply lived near each other. Find locations like Tabun or the nearby Skhul at least suggest this conclusion. The three skeletons from Tabun Cave in the Carmel Mountains have been dated to 60,000 to 100,000 years bp based on their find level. The modern humans uncovered at Skhul are dated to the same age. Certainly it was Amud Cave in Israel that provided the oldest fossil humans discovered in the Near East to date. The nearly complete set of teeth of one man, and remains of four more individuals were discovered here in a find level c. 40,000-50,000 years old. With a brain volume of 1740 milliliters and a height of nearly 180 centimeters, the Amud Man must have been a very impressive Neanderthal. And not only his imposing stature was completely atypical. A weakly indicated chin, relatively small teeth, and a slightly projecting face make the c. 25 year old appear quite "modern." Less unusual in his appearance as many more fragments were uncovered is the 60,000-year-old "Moshe" from Kebara (Figure 14). His grave yielded the only Neanderthal hyoid bone that has been discovered to date.

Four hundred kilometers north of Damascus, in Dederiyeh, a Syrian-Japanese team discovered more Neanderthals in 1993 and 1997. The find site is interesting both geographically and socio-anthropologically, revealing something about the classic Neanderthals' social structure. The skeletons of two children, dated to 50,000 years bp, speak eloquently in their careful arrangement about the place of children in Neanderthal society. They were humans who were valued and given burial after death, like adults. The image of the Neanderthal as a muscle-bound ice age brute was revised at the latest with this find. Neanderthals, with their anatomical features, were not only masters at adaptation in the extreme weather conditions of the ice age. They were also forward-looking, sympathetic, and by no means inferior to modern humans in technological attainment.

Figure 14 (a) Kebara II is the most complete known skeleton of a Neanderthal. Discovered in Israel in 1983, the "headless" individual shows, among other points, that the Neanderthals practiced multi-step burial practices. (b) Kebara II's hyoid bone, the only one discovered to date, attests to the Neanderthals' anatomical ability to speak.

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    What was significant about Neanderthals?
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