Homo neanderthalensis discussion paper

The existence of Neanderthals was known from fossil specimens found in parts of Europe, western and central Asia. Neanderthals existed during the Ice Age and they took cover from the cold unpleasant weather in the limestone caves which were plentiful in Eurasia. Like other human species, the Neanderthals too originated in Africa but then migrated to Eurasia.

The word ‘Homo’ is Latin meaning ‘human’ or ‘man’ and the word’ neanderthalensis’ is after the place the Neander Valley in Germany which was the location where the first major specimen was discovered. The Neanderthals are estimates to have lived around 130,000 and 30,000 years ago. They are again divided into three groups depending on the time period they lived: early Homo neanderthalensis lived about 300,000 years ago, classic Homo neanderthalensis about 130,000 years ago and late Homo neanderthalensis about 45,000 years ago.

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DNA evidence shows that the Neanderthals and humans had interbred on a limited scale. It is estimated that the modern human bred with Neanderthals after humans left Africa but before they spread to Europe and Asia, given that Europeans and Asians share about 1-4% of their DNA with the Neanderthals, but none with Africans.

Some noticeable features of their appearance were the large middle part of the face, puffy faces, and huge nose due to enlarged sinuses for moistening and warming the cold, dry air, angled cheekbones, thick and rounded brow ridge, and a flat and receding forehead.

Another adaptation to the cold environment was their shorter and more muscular bodies compared to modern-day humans. Their thicker and larger limb joints also indicated that they had strongly muscled hands and legs. Their thick torso and wide pelvis along with shorter physique gave the proportions which minimized the skin’s surface area which enabled them to conserve heat in the colder conditions.

It is seen that people living in colder climates have larger brains than people living in the warmer areas and thus Neanderthals had larger brains than humans which averaged 1500 cubic centimeters.

Skull shape was long and low, with a rounded braincase and they didn’t have a bony chin like that of humans.

Jaws and teeth were larger than those of humans.

Height of the males and averaged at 164 cm and 155cm respectively and weights at 65 kg and 54 kg respectively.


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