Ancient Man Neanderthal Man Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis Part 2

About the ancient Neanderthal man a relative of modern homo sapiens, history of his discovery, our understanding of this species.


NEANDERTHAL MAN (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis)

A Neanderthal skeleton from the caves at La Chapelle aux Saints, France which had been found in 1908, was reconstructed by Marcellin Boule of the French National Museum of Natural History. His creation, a distortion that misled scientists for decades, reinforced the idea that Neanderthal was primitive, hairy, and bestial.

We now know that Neanderthal looked a lot more like us than we once wanted to think. Scientists William Straus and Alec Cave, who reexamined the La Chapelle skeleton, have said: "There is valid reason for the assumption that the posture of Neanderthal Man...differed significantly from that of present-day man....if he could be reincarnated and placed in a New York subway--provided that he were bathed, shaved, and dressed in modern clothing--it is doubtful whether he would attract any more attention than some of its other denizens."

Neanderthal, now classified as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, had a larger brain capacity than ours, housed in a long, low-domed skull with a bony bun in the back to balance it; his face was large, his brow projecting. Barrel-chested, he had big, massive bones and powerful hands and arms. Standing about 5 ft. 4 in., he was squat and robust, which helped him withstand the cold of the Ice Ages he lived through.

European Neanderthals first showed up about 100,000 years ago. Their close relatives, from everywhere except Australia and the Americas, were in existence 100,000 years before that.

Their tools were advanced--heart-shaped hand axes, triangular points for wooden spears, and hide-scrapers, all made of stone; bone awls; and bolas (strips of rawhide weighted with stone, which were thrown at the legs of animals). When they could, they ate fruit and other vegetable food, but they mostly lived on game--mammoth, woolly rhino, bison, reindeer, and elk--which they hunted in groups. All of the animal was used: the hide for clothing, the bones for tools and fuel, and the rest for food, even the contents of the stomach. It is possible that Neanderthals stored meat in pits dug in the ground.

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