This week’s reading and lectures have been super interesting. I’ve always insisted that I’ve been much more intrigued by more modern, cultural pieces and aspects of anthropology, but I’m happy to have expanded my interests to the physical sides of human history especially after the introduction of this week’s materials. With that being said, it’s incredible how much you can learn about a culture and lifestyle, human or otherwise, from just examining their bones! Understanding the evolution of humans, and the variation among similar species is quite fascinating, and to truly appreciate human history in it’s entirety you have to start at the beginning. It’s really wonderful to be able to learn about the timeline that places humans where they are today, and it’s incredible to compare early technologies to technologies we have now.
I found the transition to Neanderthal to be the most interesting variant in the evolution of human species. Morphologically we know that Neanderthals were shorter and stockier than we are, and were lacking the appearance of a chin, but their development rate exceeded ours increasingly! The lack of extra time dedicated to the development of the brain significantly stunted their intelligence and time to develop it, which is a fact I was not previously familiar with. I was also unfamiliar with the concept of dental growth rings as a determinant of age and development, so that was also really interesting to learn.
I also found cultural identifiers of Neanderthals to be intriguing. Paleoanthropologists have not only had the opportunity to study physical remains of Neanderthals, but cultural and environmental markers as well like habitat, tools, hunting styles, and the potential for art and other expressions. Making connections to modern humans, and identifying similar rituals to our own like burying the dead, and donning personal adornments like seashells perhaps as an early expression of wealth or ability is pretty cool. Knowing that it is likely that Neanderthals had the ability to speak and communicate with one another is extremely telling. Though we likely won’t ever be able to know their relationship to language and all of its specific uses, I am curious to know what the nuances of it may have been like. Was it subject to different dialects like modern language? Did the more rapid development of the brain allow Neanderthals to have an earlier grasp on speech, or did this hinder it?
All of these findings are crucial to the understanding of human evolution. Identifying the ways in which this species has had to adapt and survive to changing environments accounts for the types of existence and diversity we are able to experience today.