Physical Anthropology

Distinguishing Physical Traits of Neanderthals



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Neanderthals were a sub species of human that lived in much of Europe and Asia from around 130,000 years ago. They disappeared completely around 25,000 years ago with the migration of Cro-Magnon man into their previous territories, although had started to recede from Asia several thousand years before this. Although in some ways similar to modern man, Neanderthals also had many differences to modern day humans, both socially and physiologically.

Neanderthals were built a lot more thickly than modern humans, and were much stronger as a result. Their bones were shorter and thicker for the most part, and their chins did not protrude as human chins do. The skull shape of the Neanderthals was also different, as it was longer and flatter than ours, although the cranial capacity was the same as modern humans. This meant that their brains were of comparable size to human brains today, although their brains are thought to have functioned slightly differently to ours.

The leg bones of Neanderthals were bowed and thick, suggesting that they probably could not have run for long periods of time as modern humans did. This also suggests a different method of hunting to modern humans, who generally would try to wound a prey species before jogging after it until it either died or collapsed from exhaustion. Neanderthals by contrast are thought to have perhaps wrestled prey to the ground, or at the very least grappled with it while stabbing it to death.

There are many small anatomical differences between modern humans and Neanderthals, although the more visible differences would have been mainly their proportion. They had larger knees, thicker fingers and toes, wider shoulders and long collar bones. All of which made them more suited to ambush hunting rather than for chasing their prey.

They were also almost exclusively carnivorous, meaning that they would have had to hunt more often than modern man, who of course discovered other food sources well before this in lean hunting times. This may have been one of the factors that lead to their extinction, due to modern mans better adaptability during times when there were few animals around to eat.

The reason that Neanderthals had many of the traits that they did is thought to have been adaptations to the conditions in Europe at the time. They were thought to have been largely pale skinned, and may also have been the first human species to exhibit red hair. Their noses were also flatter and had narrower openings, which was probably in response to the colder weather in many of their territories.

The more physically demanding method of hunting used by the Neanderthals also means that they needed to be able to take a lot of punishment. Findings have found that bone fractures were very common, although that they healed cleanly and without infections as many similar wounds generally would in modern humans at the time. This also suggests that they could recover from an injury that a modern human would have likely died from relatively easily.

One of the more noticeable differences between Neanderthals and modern humans is that they were generally shorter. The average height of males was around 5,6 and females were usually around 5,1. Due to differences in the ways that they hunted, being tall probably wasn't as evolutionary effective as it was for the modern humans at the time in Africa. The modern humans of the time would regularly be around the six foot mark for males, and upwards of 5,8 for women, and were often taller than people today.

Neanderthal children are thought to have grown at a much faster and more steady rate than homo sapiens children do. Children today tend to grow slowly, and then have a large growth spurt at the onset of adolescence. Neanderthal children however were thought to reach maturity much sooner, and may have become fully grown and mature at around

Although Neanderthals became extinct as a separate species around 25,000 years ago, they are thought to have at least to some degree interbred with modern humans. Neanderthal traits are certainly often noted in areas where they were once prevalent and numerous, supporting this idea. Also specimens have found which had less than complete sets of traits from either species, which were quite distinctive and separate before this time.

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