Physical Anthropology

How Neanderthal Man Lived



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Neanderthal man was a species of hominid which lived in Europe and parts of Asia, and likely competed with the modern humans for both resources and territory. They eventually became extinct between 30000 and 50000 years ago, probably due to a combination of factors. However their everyday lives are thought to have been somewhat different to homo-sapiens, and their culture and technology differed as well.

Neanderthal man lacked projectile weapons, and due to this had a different hunting method to modern humans at the same time. Instead of being able to chase and attack their prey from a distance, Neanderthals would have had to rely more on ambush hunting, and stabbing their prey from close quarters. This meant that they would routinely come into close contact with their prey, and would as a result tended to suffer from a lot of trauma and fractures to their bodies.

Compared to modern humans, Neanderthals were slightly shorter on average, with the males being around 5,5 and the females around 5,1. However they were also a lot more heavily built, and were a lot stronger and more resilient to damage also. Their legs were shorter and due to their structure, would have meant that they were probably poor runners, stopping them from being effective hunters in open ground.

Neanderthals are also thought to have been completely equal in terms of responsibilities between the sexes. Both men and women would have participated in hunting the large game that they primarily fed on, and other tasks were more shared as well. Whether this was a successful strategy or not is not known, although modern man by comparison tended to divide the labors between men and women, with men doing most of the large hunting.

Primarily Neanderthals were entirely carnivorous, and fed exclusively on large prey species, these are thought to have been ambushed in the dense forests in which Neanderthals lived. Because of this they are thought to have been transitory, and would have likely moved around as the herds of large animals that they hunted migrated.

The children of Neanderthals are known to have grown up a lot faster than in other species perhaps being fully grown and matured by the middle teens. This likely meant that they would be able to participate in hunting sooner, and would therefore need to rely on the care of adults for less time. Also the faster the young of a species can mature into adults, the sooner and longer they can have children of their own for, essentially making this a good skill for the survival of the species.

Despite the fact that Neanderthals are often portrayed as being stupid and backward in the media, in actual fact they are now known to have had similar skills to those of modern humans of the same period. They had their own language for example, which was more musical sounding than ours, and also used fairly specialized tools in their everyday lives. Generally they used mainly stone for their tools, although also adapted bones form their prey, and made use of wood as well.

In many respects Neanderthals were very similar to the modern humans of the time, and many of their traits are similar. They were known to practice ritual burying of their dead, and have also been found to have buried some of their dead with grave goods. This suggests some form of rudimentary belief system in an afterlife, although of course details are not known. Other technologies which they were skilled in include trap making, skinning animals and also the construction of complex shelters.

Whether Neanderthals became extinct completely, or eventually cross bred with modern humans is still being debated, although some specimens have reportedly been found that share common traits. It is thought that the changing temperature and surroundings of Europe at the time would have meant that the population of Neanderthal man was severely reduced at least. This is due to the warming of the area, and the receding of the forests that Neanderthals were adapted for hunting in.

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