Post 6

Neanderthals are our closest extinct human relatives. There is some debate as to whether they were a distinct species of the Homo genus or a subspecies of Homo sapiens. They lived in Eurasia 200,000 to 30,000 years ago, in the Pleistocene Era. Neanderthals’ appearance was similar to ours, though they were shorter and stockier with angled cheekbones, prominent brow ridges, and wide noses. Though sometimes thought of as dumb brutes, scientists have discovered that they used tools, buried their dead and controlled fire, among other intelligent behaviors. It is theorized that for a time, Neanderthals, humans and probably other Homo species shared the Earth. During the Ice Age, they often took shelter from the ice, snow, and otherwise unpleasant weather in Eurasia’s plentiful limestone caves. Many of their fossils have been found in caves, leading to the popular idea of them as cave men. Like humans, Neanderthals originated in Africa but migrated to Eurasia long before humans did. Neanderthals lived across Eurasia, as far north and west as the Britain, through part of the Middle East, to Uzbekistan. Their short, stocky stature was an evolutionary adaptation for cold weather, since it consolidated heat. According to the Smithsonian Institution, the wide nose helped humidify and warm cold air, though this assertion is debated. The American Museum of Natural History states that other differences from humans are a flaring, funnel-shaped chest, a flaring pelvis, and robust fingers and toes. Their brains, however, grew at a similar rate to humans’ and were about the same size or larger. Approximately 1 percent of Neanderthals had red hair, light skin, and maybe even freckles. For a long time, scientists and anthropologists theorized that Neanderthals grew up faster than humans, reaching maturity sooner and dying younger, as chimps do. In 2008, however, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published evidence that humans and Neanderthals matured at the same rate.  Neanderthals lived in nuclear families. Discoveries of elderly or deformed Neanderthal skeletons suggest that they took care of their sick and those who could not care for themselves. Neanderthals typically lived to be about 30 years old, though some lived longer. It is accepted that Neanderthals buried their dead, though whether or not they left carved bone shards as grave goods is more controversial. Neanderthals used stone tools similar to and no more sophisticated than the ones used by early humans, including blades and scrapers made from stone flakes. As time went on, they created tools of greater complexity, utilizing materials like bones and antlers. Evan Hadingham of PBS’s NOVA even reports that Neanderthals used a type of glue, and later pitch, to attach stone tips to wooden shafts, creating formidable hunting spears. Neanderthals were primarily carnivorous, and the harsh climate caused them to resort occasionally to cannibalism. Recently, however, scientists have found that Neanderthals actually ate cooked vegetables fairly regularly. Probably the most debated aspect of Neanderthal life in recent years is whether or not they interbred with humans. The answer remains ambiguous, with scholarly opinions ranging from belief that they definitely interbred to belief that the two groups didn’t exist on earth at the same time.

3 thoughts on “Post 6

  1. On the question of whether Neanderthals inbred with humans or not I think that was settled in our lecture material for this week. If you view the video 6.2 “The Neanderthal In Us” in our week 6 lectures and links you will see scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology not only mapped the complete genome of a Neanderthal they also calculated that Neanderthal DNA is present as 2-4% of most people’s genome except if you are from Africa. I would say that’s pretty clear evidence that Neanderthals interbred with our human ancestors. I would also venture that settles the question that they definitely did live during the same period of time otherwise they could not have paired and mated. I just wish we knew what affect those Neanderthal genes are having on us, what do they do? That would be really interesting to know, I think.

  2. Hey! I also think it was of high intelligence and skill to bury their dead like the Neanderthals did. Modern day humans also do this as we are very familiar. What I find interesting is there is still a great diversity in how humans celebrate and bury the death of their loved one. Some people don’t have their loved one in a casket but rather have them dressed up and sitting at a table. I did a study away program this summer in New Orleans and learned about the various ways natives there celebrate death. Pretty interesting.
    Lastly, I wonder if there has ever been a study conducted in the United States to compare the average height of those born in colder states versus warmer states. It would be pretty interesting to see that there is a stark similarity to the Neanderthals being short and living in colder climates like those born in colder states. Maybe even our ancestors who were born in colder climates passed their genes down to us, thus contributing to why many of us are pretty short.

  3. I really liked your post I think that Neanderthals are one of the most interesting species that we have learned about during this summer session. The fact that they could be a link in the chain to our species just excited me. When I learned about Neanderthals and it said they went extinct I wondered what if they really didn’t and we’re just modern day humans but just mated with our said to be ancestors? I wonder this because every day in our society we see differences in people. This has led me to believe that we are just a bunch of differed want kinds of Homo sapiens who just evolved from mating with one another. Overall great post and I like reading your work!

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