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Noelle Tankard For Emergence of Modern Humans University of Bristol, Dec 2010

Neanderthal type specimen
• found in Feldhoffer grotto, Neander Valley, 1857 • later excavations found associated zygomaticomaxillary fragment
Image from American Museum of Natural History, Ian Tattersall

Our understanding of Neanderthals
• Initially seen as a transitional stage through which humans passed • primitive features emphasized, compared to chimpanzees • Fossils found in other regions often labelled “Neanderthaloid” as a generic pre-Homo sapiens category in possession of prominent brow-ridges and low-vaulted brain cases •“African Neanderthal” : Broken Hill skull, Zambia •“Eastern Neanderthals” : Solo skulls from Java (Trinkaus 1979)

... and with time...
• less biased interpretations grew as body of data increased • definition based on from Western Europe; now consider the “classical” or European Neanderthals •By early 80s, commonly seen as subspecies of H. sapiens  Homo sapiens neanderthalensis • Early genetic studies influenced trend to reconsider phylogenetic place relative to H. sapiens; differences from modern H. sap emphasized

• “… one can systematically examine the large corpus of Neanderthal fossils… [with] present knowledge of the anatomical functions of bone and muscle… against a fuller chronological background… the picture that emerges is quite clear: a human population complex with a special pattern of anatomical features that extends without interruption from Gibraltar across Europe into the Near East and Western Asia.” (Trinkaus 1979, 91)

Classic Neanderthals

La Ferrassie, France: considered typical of “Classic” Neanderthals – also among largest in Europe

The Neanderthal “clade”
• Whether species or subspecies, clear morphological group with characteristic traits • “Classical Neanderthals” clearly distinct from: present day modern H. Sapiens  contemporary African H. Sapiens  European Upper Palaeolithic populations

Diagnostic traits of Neanderthals...

Neanderthal range & specimens
• “Classical” Western Europe
– France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain – specimens in Italy and Greece sometimes referred to as “preNeanderthals”

• Eastern Europe
– Croatia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Slovenia, Slovakia

•“Levantine” and Near East
– tend to be younger than “Classical” – also younger than H. sap in region

• Central / Western Asia
Teshik Tash, Uzbekistan

“Levantine” and Near Eastern Sites
• Term “Levantine” more common in non-English publications

– strictly: Israel, Palestine and

Jordan while Near East stretches from Nile to northern Iran – Those who distinguish Levantine from other Near Eastern with intention to note Levant as “entry point” (from Europe) for Neanderthal migration “deeper” into the Near East (Vandermeesch 2007)

• Tabun, Amud, Kebara (Israel)

• Shanidar (Iraq) • Dederiyeh (Syria)

Interest in the Levant…
• Long recognized as most likely place to find evidence of Neanderthal and H. sap interaction – behavioural and/or genetic • Chronologically, H. sap populations older than Neanderthal • Therefore, most analysis and study aimed at Levantine Neanderthals vs Levantine H. sapiens
– Skhul and Qafzeh: debate over classification of fossils found, number of species represented

- 9 skeletons Shanidar 1 35-40 yrs old at death survived serious injuries excavated 50s-60s ca 40-79 ky, but dates questionable

Shanidar 1

Amud 1
- 1.8 m tall, 1740 cc

Approx 25 yrs at death

ESR on mammal tooth at 40-50 kyr

Affinity to Shanidar “Mosaic” features


1.7 m 25-35 yr at death ca 60 ka Possible burial Similar to Amud, Shanidar, and Tabun but more robust Hyoid bone

• C2 Mandible
– Ambiguous, but Neanderthal affinities

• Tabun C, partial skeleton of female
– Possibly oldest Near Eastern Neanderthal – Excavated 1932; stratigraphic position controversial and dating unclear – Skull fractured

• Dederiyeh 1
– Infant – ca 60 ky

Images from Akazawa’s website, reconstruction of find and “resuscitation” of find

Computer model of maturation of Dederiyeh infant (to adult based on Amud 1)

Vandermeesch 2007
• Majority of “Classic” traits – although not all to the same “degree of development” • Several features characterized as “entering the range of modern human variation” – Higher skull – Transverse contour less oval • Suprainiac fossa larger, less deep • Less occipital bunning than “Classical” – occipital less convex and occipital torus less prominent – Overall “less stretched”

Other features described as “intermediate” between “Classic” Neanderthal and mod H. sap

Less facial prognathism Cranial capacity varies widely Males taller

From Trinkaus 1979

…. Traits to distinguish from a H. sap
• • • • • • • • Supraorbital torus Occipital bunning Facial prognathism Long low brain case Larger cranial capacity Receding frontal Suprainiac fossa retromolar space


Not all of these traits appear in the same degree and same combination
• •

Homologous or derived? Absolute or continuum?

….. And others

Same “effect” can occur as a result of various “processes”: occipital bunning (Gunz 2007)

Further questions
• What is the significance of these differences? • How to explain them?
– Temporal variation: co-evolution into Neanderthal form separate from “Classical”:
• Earlier split from pre-Neanderthal population?

– Geographical variation?
• Reversal of “cold climate” traits?

– Hybridization with moderns?

• Are the Levantine Neanderthals more Homo sapiens – or simply less “Classical”?

Comparative analyses with Levantine H. sapiens specimens….
... fail to demonstrate clear and definitive difference between Neanderthals and “moderns” Kramer 2001: tested null hypothesis of two clades in Levant (Amud/Tabun vs Qafzeh/Skhul) Wolpoff 2001: failed to disprove null hypothesis that taxonomy did not explain variation of sample overall BUT that variation within Qafzeh/Skhul was greater than variation comparing that sample to Levantine Neanderthals

• Traits generally discussed as if a complete package, the Neanderthal “pattern” - specimens lacking all or some often dismissed as unclassifiable • We are over-simplifying the situation by deliberately disregarding that which does not fit a perhaps arbitrary prefabricated designation • How much variation within what level of taxonomic clade?