A New Understanding of Neanderthals
The articles, "Hard Times Among the Neanderthals" by Erik Trinkaus, and "Rethinking Neanderthals" by Joe Alper offer some insight into the existence of the Neanderthals. The articles suggest that Neanderthals may not have been the "dumb brutes" they were originally assumed to be; instead, they illustrate the ways in which Neanderthals were similar to modern humans (Alper, 146). Since the discovery of the first Neanderthal fossil remains in the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf, Germany in August of 1856 questions and controversies have been abound. Who were these "brutish" creatures, and where do they fit into the evolutionary scale? As time goes by and the research continues, there is increasingly more evidence that Neanderthals may not have been remarkably different from modern humans. With no conclusive evidence that Neanderthals were "inferior
to modern humans" in "locomotor, manipulative, intellectual, or linguistic abilities," they have been included in the same species as modern humans, Homo sapiens (Trinkaus, 140). However, since there are marked anatomical differences between the Neanderthals and modern Homo sapiens they have also been given their very own subspecies called, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. From the early skeletal analysis of the Neanderthals they were depicted as "bent-kneed and not a fully erect biped." However, we now know that Marcellin Boule, the French paleontologist who made the analysis, may have misinterpreted the specimen as having a hunched spinal posture, when it was really due to a conditional called "osteoarthritis" (Jurmain, 257). This degenerative bone-disease is commonly seen in modern humans who suffer from a deficiency in calcium. It is easy to see the effects of this condition in the elderly who suffer from it. Although upright, their spines are curved downward and they are severely hunched. In this light, it is easier to imagine that the Neanderthals were more like...
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