Saturday, May 24, 2014

Some more facts about Neanderthals

I posted some of the results of research that I did while writing DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE (published by Untreed Reads) a couple of weeks ago. Some of it is used in the book, but not in this form. I’d like to post some more this week, just in case anyone is as fascinated with prehistory and Neanderthals as I am.

Here are some notes for chapters 6-8, with source references:

Chapter 6

La Ferrassie…Placed in the graves with the man and several of the children were flint tools…. Yet somehow little attention had bee paid to the broader implications of burials for Neandertals’ beliefs and behaviors.
--The Neandertals Erik Trinkaus and Pat Shipman, p. 255

It is an Iraqi cave, Shanidar, that has produced the largest sample of Neanderthals from the Middle East…. Some of these Neanderthals, at least, seem to have been deliberately buried, and it has even been suggested that the Shanidar 4 man was buried with flowers, although this has recently been seriously questions.
--In Search of the Neanderthals Christopher Stringer and Clive Gamble, p. 98

Excavations reveal Regourdou as one sacred site where Neanderthals returned repeatedly to bury brown bear remains, whose bones show marks from stone tools. Yet only a single human [young man] has thus far been unearthed. His people put him on a brown bear skin in a stone-lined pit. They placed ritual offerings of bear meat and stone tools on a slab above his body, and these in turn were covered by many smaller rocks and a deer antler. Finally they set wood on top and lit a funeral fire…. The figures in this scene are based on careful study of many skeletons.
--Sign accompanying a re-creation of this burial in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum depicting the young man with his limbs folded and tied.

Chapter 7

The teeth and jaws of the Cro-Magnons are larger than in modern Europens, as was average stature and (probably) lean body weight. Estimates put early Cro-Magnon height at about 1.84 m (6 ft 1 in) in males and 1.67 m (5 ft 6 in) in females, with lean body weight at perhaps 70 and 55 kg (154 and 121 lb) respectively. So while body weight was comparable with that of Neanderthals, the weight was distributed differently, and the body proportions certainly contrasted strongly…
--In Search of the Neanderthals Christopher Stringer and Clive Gamble, p. 183

Chapter 8

On the remote island of Flores, in what is now Indonesia, scientists in 2003 made a remarkable discovery -- the remains of a pre-human being, only about three feet tall, who lived and thrived there until about 12,000 years ago.

The skeleton was different enough from other fossils that scientists said it was a previously undiscovered species, separate from those that led to modern human beings. They called it Homo floresiensis, though everyone quickly nicknamed it the "hobbit."

And that would have been that, if not for other scientists who weighed in. They said the newly found "hobbit" wasn't a new species at all, just a stunted version of other prehistoric humans.

But now the original team has backed up its original argument. They took the hobbit's skull, along with 10 others from beings known to have had "microcephaly" -- a long word for abnormally small brains.

They did CT scans of the skulls, then used them to make computer-generated renditions of the brains that would have been inside.

"It's not showing the shape of microcephaly," says Dean Falk, an anthropologist at Florida State University who led the research. "So we nailed that, we think.

"In addition," she says, "we can say that there are other special features which are unique and set it apart from anyone else."

In other words, the "hobbit" of Flores island was not one of us -- not an early Homo sapiens who simply suffered from stunted growth.
--From abcNEWS article, “Prehistoric ‘Hobbit’ Was Definitely New Species” by Ned Potter, Jan. 29, 2007


Walt Giersbach said...

Wow, thank you for this quick brief on Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons. And to think 2% of my DNA may have come from them.

Kaye George said...

I'm 2.9 percent, Walt. I got tested. Thanks for stopping by!