Complex Neanderthal Technology Driven by Paleo Dietary Needs
Modern man’s closest human relatives were Neanderthals - that famed ancient species pronounced with a ’t’ rather than a ‘th’, - with their defining large faces, angled cheek bones and broad noses used for humidifying and warming cold, dry air. While Neanderthal’s bodies were shorter and stockier than modern man’s comparatively taller thin frames, theirs was an adaptation due to their living in colder environments. However, their brains were larger and this advantage is now becoming apparent in the discovery of ancient technologies developed by the extinct species; technologies, that demand an entire paradigm shift regarding the theories on how Neanderthals lived and died.
A model of an adult Neanderthal male head and shoulders on display in the Hall of Human Origins in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Finding the First Specimen
Neanderthals were highly-skilled pack hunters who focused on killing large animals, but they also ate plant foods, and it was in hunting animals and gathering plants that their rudimentary survival crafts led them to develop a diverse and wide range of sophisticated weapons and tools. Living in cave dwellings, Neanderthals controlled fire, made and wore clothing, and evidence suggests they buried their dead with deliberation, occasionally marking their graves with ritualistic offerings such as flowers and plants. Apart from human beings, no other species of primate had ever practiced this sophisticated behavior, which is symbolic of a developed culture.
In 1856 at the Feldhofer Cave in the Neander Valley in Germany scientists mistook the discovery of Neanderthal 1, for an early human skeleton because it had such thick bones and an oval shaped skull with receding forehead and distinct brow ridges. It was a decade later in 1864 that geologist William King suggested it was a different species and it was named Homo neanderthalensis after the location of its discovery . Drs E. Delson and E. Harvati, in their 2006 paper titled Return of the last Neanderthal, explained that several decades after Neanderthal 1 was discovered a series of prior fossil discoveries made in 1829 at Engis, Belgium and in 1848 at Forbes Quarry in Gibraltar, were reinterpreted as also being Neanderthal, but in fact these two earlier discoveries were actually the first early human fossils ever found.
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Ashley Cowie is a Scottish historian, author and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems, in accessible and exciting ways. His books, articles and television shows explore lost cultures and kingdoms, ancient crafts and artifacts, symbols and architecture, myths and legends telling thought-provoking stories which together offer insights into our shared social history. www.ashleycowie.com.
By Ashley Cowie