Chapter 14 The Neandertal Enigma

Chapter 14 The Neandertal Enigma - Chapter 14 The...

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Chapter 14 – The Neandertal Enigma - When Neandertal remains were first discovered in the nineteenth century, they were interpreted as pathological specimens of modern people - Homo neanderthalensis evolved from H. heidelbergensis about 350,000 years ago, and continued to inhabit Europe and the Middle East until about 27,000 years ago First View of Neandertals - Paleoanthropologists first viewed Neandertals as a brutish breed, representing an insignificant side branch of the human family tree - The scarcity of fossils, error in reconstructing bone fragments, and a mistiming of discovery all contributed to the negative image of Neandertals First Discovery - The first Neandertal discovery was in 1856, not far from Dusseldorf, Germany - At the time, most believed that it represented a barbarian who lived in Northern Europe before Celtic and Germanic tribes; others thought it was a pathological specimen of a human - No one in the scientific community at the time believed that humankind lived on earth for a substantial length of time Homo neanderthalensis - Measures on the cranium of H. neanderthalensis revealed that the cranial volume was not far from the average cranial volume of modern people - William King of Queen’s College accepted the fossil as an extinct form of humanity, and gave it the name H. neanderthalensis The Neandertal Discoveries Accumulate - In 1864, a Neandertal skull was brought forward, found on Gibraltar almost 20 years earlier - A robust lower jaw lacking a chin (receding mandibular symphysis) was unearthed at La Naulette in Belgium in 1866 – the jaw was found in association with bones of mammoths and other extinct creatures - In 1886, the Belgian site of Spy produced two Neandertal skulls and other bones. These bones were found with remains of mammoths and woolly rhinos and chipped stone tools - All of the aforementioned specimens showed great similarities to the original Neander Valley remains, helping the case for an ancient hominin species and refuting the argument for the pathological theory La Chappelle-aux-Saints and Other Finds - Near the village of La Chappelle-aux-Saints, the skeleton of an old Neandertal man was discovered, and nearby at La Ferrassie and La Quina other complete skeletons were found Boule’s Reconstruction - The skeleton at La Chappelle-aux-Saints was rebuilt by paleontologist Marcellin Boule
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- Boule made a number of errors during reconstruction, a result of his biased learning, ignorance of other work, and the infancy of human paleontology - The skeleton appeared very apelike; it’s posture was extremely nonhuman - Boule also dismissed the fossil’s large cranial capacity, perceiving the long, low skull as a case of severe mental inferiority - Comparisons with the anatomically modern-looking Cro-Magnons also proved detrimental to the acceptance of H. neanderthalensis as ancestors to modern humans (differences in stone tools and the lack of evidence linking the two humans contributed to this) - Recent genetic testing has confirmed that H. neanderthalensis was of a different species
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Chapter 14 The Neandertal Enigma - Chapter 14 The...

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