New interpretations of cranial and postcranial material in Neanderthals
Guerrero, Amanda. 2019. New interpretations of cranial and postcranial material in Neanderthals -- Lambda Alpha Journal, v.49, p.118-126
Homo neanderthalensis, colloquially known as "Neanderthals", were first discovered in 1856 at the Kleine Feldhofer Grotte in the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf, Germany. Neanderthals persisted through multiple glacial-interglacial cycles in mid-late Pleistocene Eurasia (Wroe et al., 2018). Since their discovery, they have continued to puzzle and fascinate scientists due to their uniquely derived traits (Weaver, 2009). Of particular interest is Neanderthal skeletal morphology and its implication to our own evolution. Neanderthals are often described as relatively "short but massive" (Gracia-Martinez et al., 2018), heavybodied hominins with wide trunks and short distal limbs in comparison to modem humans. Neanderthals also possessed a wide pelvis (Tompkins & Trinkaus, 1987) and a wide central-lower thorax (Franciscus & Churchill, 2002). Neanderthal proportions mirror contemporary cold-adapted human populations, though comparatively heavier and more muscular (Holliday& Trinkaus, 1991). Additionally, studies have shown Neanderthals had larger brains than contemporary humans with an average cranial capacity of approximately 1300 cc for females and 1600 cc for males (Gunz et al., 2010). However, new insights suggest when body mass is considered, Neanderthals have significantly smaller adjusted endocranial capacities than contemporary anatomically modem humans (AMHs). With that being said, there are still compelling differences found in Neanderthal's brain anatomy compared to our own. Early proposals suggested Neanderthal skeletons were pathological modem human skeletons, yet the discovery of new fossils with unique features, revealed that hypothesis to be unsound (Weaver, 2009).These interpretations may have been based on the fact that pathological lesions are abundant on Neanderthal skeletons, especially healed traumatic injuries, which may have contributed to such assumptions (Weaver, 2009; Berger & Trinkaus, 1995).