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The Neanderthal Thread

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  • Wibbs wrote: »
    I read about this a while ago, didn't realise it's only gone "official". Cool stuff. I'm still wondering and waiting for more info to come out about the "neandertal dwelling" apparently discovered in the Ukraine that was "decorated elaborately with carvings and pigments". Just a couple of reports from some researchers and then nada. The feathers thing is way cool, but carvings and pigments would blow the whole neandertal/sapiens culture difference into orbit.

    You know, every time an article like this turns up, I remember our old thread about Neanderthal appearance and I remember how you said Neanderthals were hairy and with huge eyes- it makes the idea of them painting or adorning themselves with feathers so much freakier. :cool:




  • Yea the eyes thing fascinates me when it comes to reconstructions. Usually we get this kinda thing;
    Neanderthal-001.jpg
    A squinty beady eyed chap. Yet Neandertals had the largest orbits of any humans ever(and the largest visual cortex). Huge fecking Japanese Anime stylee. :) The theory goes that it's a local adaptation to lower light levels in higher latitudes. I dunno, seems tenuous to me purely on the latittude level anyway. After all they lived in the middle east and still had big eyes. We lived alongside them in the same environment and had smaller eyes*. My own take would be the bigger eyes were maybe down to different hunting strategies. They were maybe more low light explosive ambush hunters, in forests and at dawn and dusk and we were more open grassland hunters mainly in full daylight. Might explain why they never bothered much with longer range weapons while we came up with throwing spears and bows and arrows. The latter would be not nearly as much use in undergrowth. More likely to hit a tree than the prey animal. Might also explain how we co existed in one environment and not another? IE in the Levant there might have been both niches with enough food for both so no real competition and we got jiggy with each other, but when we get to Europe the hunting niches had much more of a crossover and competition increased and we avoided each other?

    *That said in modern peoples eye size does get larger the further away from the equator you get. Eskimos have bigger eyes than their more southerly cousins in Asia and America. Europeans have the biggest eyes of modern humans. Interestingly brain size also follows this general rule. The further from the equator the larger the brains. Of course these are very small diffs, but they are measurable. Different theories abound, but the main one is that low light levels require a bigger eye and more brain matter to process the info from the eyes. Neandertals really went with this it seems, having both the biggest eyes and the largest brains of any humans ever and the extra volume is mostly in the visual centres.

    On topic, heres a reconstruction of the feathered Neandertals
    6a00d8341bf67c53ef0147e2c5778b970b-300wi
    Again looks fierce modern looking to me. Brow ridges within normal modern range etc.

    Few enough were innocent in the past, few enough are innocent in the present, we just don’t know why yet.





  • Wibbs wrote: »
    Yea the eyes thing fascinates me when it comes to reconstructions. Usually we get this kinda thing;
    Neanderthal-001.jpg
    A squinty beady eyed chap. Yet Neandertals had the largest orbits of any humans ever(and the largest visual cortex). Huge fecking Japanese Anime stylee. :) The theory goes that it's a local adaptation to lower light levels in higher latitudes. I dunno, seems tenuous to me purely on the latittude level anyway. After all they lived in the middle east and still had big eyes. We lived alongside them in the same environment and had smaller eyes*. My own take would be the bigger eyes were maybe down to different hunting strategies. They were maybe more low light explosive ambush hunters, in forests and at dawn and dusk and we were more open grassland hunters mainly in full daylight. Might explain why they never bothered much with longer range weapons while we came up with throwing spears and bows and arrows. The latter would be not nearly as much use in undergrowth. More likely to hit a tree than the prey animal. Might also explain how we co existed in one environment and not another? IE in the Levant there might have been both niches with enough food for both so no real competition and we got jiggy with each other, but when we get to Europe the hunting niches had much more of a crossover and competition increased and we avoided each other?

    *That said in modern peoples eye size does get larger the further away from the equator you get. Eskimos have bigger eyes than their more southerly cousins in Asia and America. Europeans have the biggest eyes of modern humans. Interestingly brain size also follows this general rule. The further from the equator the larger the brains. Of course these are very small diffs, but they are measurable. Different theories abound, but the main one is that low light levels require a bigger eye and more brain matter to process the info from the eyes. Neandertals really went with this it seems, having both the biggest eyes and the largest brains of any humans ever and the extra volume is mostly in the visual centres.

    On topic, heres a reconstruction of the feathered Neandertals
    6a00d8341bf67c53ef0147e2c5778b970b-300wi
    Again looks fierce modern looking to me. Brow ridges within normal modern range etc.

    Not to mention the super smooth skin.




  • I would hazard a guess that neanderthals would have developed an epicanthic fold (the extra fold of skin above the eyes that some asian and african peoples have). The fold is thought to deflect sun glare from ice. I would also say that the term neanderthal is a very broad one. I would think of them as a species more diverse than humans imo.




  • I'm not liking most of the more modern "They're so much like us" recreations of neandertals. They fly in the face of pretty much everything we know about them. As you guys said, the eyes and brow ridges are too small. Even the nose sizes tend to be highly conservative. They're usually well within the realms of Homo sapiens. I'm sure if you met a neandertal for real it would be very obvious that you were confronted with a different species, not just a stocky sapiens.

    On topic: That's quite cool about the feathers. Reminds me of native American culture somewhat.


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  • Well, why not?




  • Exactly. More and more it looks like they were more like us than not on so many levels. Plus given Hobbits/Homo Erectus got to Flores across one of the most dodgy ocean straits in the world a million years ago, Neandertals getting t islands doesn't sound so far fetched. That said it shows all sorts of planning and organisation and communication, never mind huge cojones(that don't fossilise:D).

    The Cretan colony took some planning and would have required more than two or three washed up after a storm. Given their bulk I doubt swimming too far was much of an option. They must have made either rafts or actual dugouts. They were skilled woodworkers if the 400,000 year old German spears are anything to go by, but sadly like cojones wood objects rarely survive.

    I'll put money down that if a scarily rare layer is ever found where their woodworking and boneworking is found it'll rewrite the books in a big way. They've discovered they ate processed grains, so wooden bowls and implements are a real possibility. Looking at some of the stone scrapers I have, many of them show wear in precise areas, not all along one edge as one might expect from just leather preparation. Christ knows what these guys and gals were knocking up in wood and possibly bone. Impressive stuff for people whose name among most still conjures up primitive caveman and dull headed moron. The last time somebody called me a "bit of a Neandertal", I smiled back and replied "Yea, thanks, about 4%" :D

    Few enough were innocent in the past, few enough are innocent in the present, we just don’t know why yet.





  • Wibbs wrote: »
    The last time somebody called me a "bit of a Neandertal", I smiled back and replied "Yea, thanks, about 4%" :D

    Epic XD

    And that makes all the physical differences between Neanderthals/erectus and us all the more fascinating.




  • Wibbs wrote: »
    That said it shows all sorts of planning and organisation and communication, never mind huge cojones(that don't fossilise:D).

    The Cretan colony took some planning and would have required more than two or three washed up after a storm. Given their bulk I doubt swimming too far was much of an option. They must have made either rafts or actual dugouts. They were skilled woodworkers if the 400,000 year old German spears are anything to go by, but sadly like cojones wood objects rarely survive.
    they also had time on their side

    given enough time...

    being bulky means you can survive longer in water, swimming while hanging on to a log ? (but only for short distances)

    family group rafting on a full tree ?
    water is the main problem - would be far easier in winter


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  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22780717
    A Neanderthal living 120,000 years ago had a cancer that is common today, according to a fossil study.

    ...
    "It shows that living in a relatively unpolluted environment doesn't necessarily protect you against cancer, even if you were a Neanderthal living 120,000 years ago."




  • Since dinosaurs have been found to have suffered from cancer as well, this is not really surprising...




  • That's not really new thinking AK. Or at least it's been well noted before going back to the early days of antiquarians collecting handaxes/bifaces(often ignoring other tools as your handaxe is sexier to display in one's 19th century cabinet of curiosities. Even Romans were known to have collected them). Never mind the east west overall tool design, looking across northern Europe you get this kinda variation in bifaces themselves:
    624
    It seems to vary across time as well as space as one would expect of any cultural item. In my personal Mousterian collection I've only a few bifaces, most from the same area(within 40 miles in old money) and they show quite clear variation in overall design (and size).

    What I find interesting personally is possible symbolism/aesthetics in biface design. They're rare, but they do show up. EG this one found in the UK IIRC:
    tumblr_mi46o2jqJJ1r46foao1_400.png
    If that fossil in the flint isn't selected for I'm a monkeys uncle*. The guy was taking care with his strikes to stop them before they hit the shell. And they defo had that kinda skill and accuracy. I've a couple of Levallois cores(the leftover bit after reduction to make blades, scrapers and points) and in one of them there is an inclusion, a bad bit that intrudes on the material. The very last strike the guy made to release what looks like a scraper, was hit with such skill and knowledge of the material it misses the fault by a couple of millimeters. For me the "waste" stuff is more interesting. I've one where I'd put money the guy went "you %$£$**&^% bastid!!!. Right feck this, I'm gonna invent brewing cos I really need a beer after this. Actually Paddy has this root he smokes so..." :D That level of skill is very hard to build. While modern human lithics are regularly reconstructed by experimental archaeologists, hard hammer percussion stuff of a Mousterian/Neandertal nature is rarer to see and even rarer where folks attain the skill of the original guys(I've only ever seen one French dude who was up to it).

    I've two similar enough examples myself, where it very much looks like they selected for an aesthetic in the raw material. Beyond that you have the innate symmetry that seems to be strongly selected, even going way back to Erectus. To a degree that's doesn't seem, to me at least, a result of lithic reduction. You see that too, but with a few choice pieces it seems the maker took more care beyond the mundane effectiveness of a tool. There are more than a few that have been excavated that show no wear on the tool surfaces at all. Almost as if they're a talisman, or maybe a teaching aid, a "perfect" example others should follow. There are even examples of bifaces that are perfect in every way, but are quite simply too big to wield.






    *well... as Darwin might say, nah you're a monkey's nephew. :D

    Few enough were innocent in the past, few enough are innocent in the present, we just don’t know why yet.





  • Now I only post those hominid-related news to see what you can teach us about it XD




  • I dunno about that AK! :D

    Funny enough I have an example that could be the near twin of the biface on the left from the article.
    268753.jpg
    Even down to the detail that one side is a straighter edge.

    Thinking about the research I'm not so sure about some of the conclusions. While I agree 100% that they're often not just a tool, what cultural notions we can take from them is a little up in the air.

    Dr Ruebens says: "Distinct ways of making a handaxe were passed on from generation to generation and for long enough to become visible in the archaeological record. This indicates a strong mechanism of social learning within these two groups and says something about the stability and connectivity of the Neanderthal populations.

    The word in bold would be my grey area. The stability of design over long periods and in locale would suggest to me that while some exchange occurred, the "not invented here/this is how we've always done things" mentality might just as easily be in play. When you look at us later African interlopers the sheer speed of idea transmission is what stands out.

    As for vectors of transmission in Neandertal society? I'd put money it was the women. One theory has it that we became who we are because there was much more of a gender division in work and resource acquisition. In Neandertal groups the women and men were more "equal" in this. They hunted with the men. I'd bet the farm they also made tools.

    Now looking at what appears to be their MO in the landscape and how their social structures may have been IE small related family bands with a territory. Like all such animals they need to breed "out" or you'd get a load of cross eyed Neandertal banjo players. So the main point of contact in an otherwise quite territorial xenophobic mindset would likely have been for reproductive purposes. In modern humans women are far more reproductively "mobile", more acceptable in a new group than men* and often a social/political tool to cement allegiances or just to avoid intergroup aggression and I suspect that held even more true with Neandertals. So rather than an overt exchanging of cultural ideas, the ideas transmitted(or kept the stasis) when the ladies moved into a new group.

    I suspect when we bumped into them similar occurred. This might explain a couple of things too. IIRC I read that the genes we got from them were transmitted male Neandertal to female Sapiens which might be down to this practice. Now this exchange seems to have only happened early in the game in the middle east when we first met, but doesn't seem to have happened much if at all later on in Europe. Why? Maybe it's because in the middle east we were on an equal footing in population size and living cheek by jowl. We'd have needed more mechanisms to keep strife to a minimum. However, later on there was simply more of us coming in, so we didn't need to breed out nearly as much and certainly not with people who were "different" and rarer in the landscape.






    *you can even see that in historical times. When Europeans went into new colonies, quite a number of the men would take native women as wives, but if a woman took a native man as a husband, you'd have a mass outbreak of the vapours, questions in parliament and smelling salts all around.

    Few enough were innocent in the past, few enough are innocent in the present, we just don’t know why yet.





  • Thanks Adam I saw this on the tv today.




  • Was their ability to speak ever disputed?




  • Not sure it was ever discussed all that widely to be honest


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  • Well, check the recent scientific headlines and you'll find lots of Captain Obvious moments...

    All I remember reading about Neanderthal speech is that it was once thought to be higher-pitched than ours, due to the vocal cord position or something like that, but then I also have a faint memory of being told otherwise by Wibbs... oh, I don´t know.




  • Like AK said the speech thing has had a few Captain Obvious moments alright. Given they had a complex social structure, complex technology and survived in various climates for longer than modern humans have been around it would be a shock to find they didn't have speech.

    The hyoid bone seems to clinch the deal as it's identical to ours and little enough of their skeleton you could say that about. How they sounded is another area. It depends on where you place the head in relation to the neck and chest. Their barrel chests would make for some volume, though it seems they had a shorter vocal region so may have been more high pitched than us. Tongue position and mobility would affect the sound too. Maybe there were sounds they couldn't make that we can. Even there we can see with our various cultures that this can vary depending on the language. EG native German speakers can have difficulty with pronouncing the W sound in English, Spanish speakers have difficulty hearing and pronouncing certain E sounds in English and Europeans in general can have difficulty hearing and pronouncing sounds in tonal languages like say Mandarin. Same anatomy for all.

    There is little to no doubt that early modern humans could speak just like us. This adds to the pile of "other humans could speak too". After all we met and had kids with at least two different humans. In SE Asia it looks like we had lots of kids with each other. Hard to do without some levels of communication going on.

    Few enough were innocent in the past, few enough are innocent in the present, we just don’t know why yet.





  • Wibbs wrote: »
    After all we met and had kids with at least two different humans. In SE Asia it looks like we had lots of kids with each other. Hard to do without some levels of communication going on.

    Dunno about that last :pac:

    BTW, now I'm probably not going to sleep thinking about those sounds they could make but we couldn´t.








  • Maybe it was beavers.




  • If this proves the right age and not a natural formation and the evidence of fire seems to rule that out, then this is effin huge AK.

    I've long held the personal belief they had "art" and human culture, but a very different one to ours, an internal, human canvas based one. Musing on their apparently strong xenophobia and evidence of violence in their bones that may have come from territorial disputes, got me thinking that just like wolves in a landscape they needed to mark territorial boundaries and show group affiliations at some distance and/or in low light levels.

    Body art is one way of doing this. So in an area you might have the manganese black chests, the ochre red faces and the lime white arms. Groups could see and recognise the "other" at enough of a distance so wasteful internecine struggles could be kept to a minimum. There would be quite a selective pressure for better representations of group affiliation, so it might evolve over time. This might also explain why the use of predator bird bones and feathers is only found in one small group in Italy. It's an isolated case, not necessarily because only one group uniquely came up with it, but it was their groups affiliation signal, so would make no sense for other groups in the area to copy it. That would defeat its very purpose.

    The problem with this kinda stuff is it doesn't fossilise so well. If at all. Go to a body modification convention today and you will see amazing body art in the form of tattoos, scarification, piercings, but without modern methods of recording such things, when the owners leave us, so does their art. If the Maori had been wiped out by some natural disaster before outsiders recorded their body art in sketches and descriptions the world would have known of their skills as carvers, but of their body art culture all would be lost.

    This may also explain why when modern humans get to Eurasia our art really kicks off. We may have been mimicking them, not the other way around. We're far less xenophobic so it may not have been much of a pressure for us. Then we make the leap to art of the external. Where we mark the body of the ground as well as ourselves. That was our innovation. Until this site came along… Yeah huge alright. Can't wait to read more. :)

    Few enough were innocent in the past, few enough are innocent in the present, we just don’t know why yet.





  • Really interesting :) It also brought this to my mind:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3475816/Is-proof-chimps-believe-God-Scientists-baffled-footage-primates-throwing-rocks-building-shrines-sacred-tree-no-reason.html

    I wonder what things chimps would be doing if they lived in places with more rocks and caves rather than trees...




  • No surprise there but, interesting bones of four month old baby:

    http://phys.org/news/2016-05-neanderthals-stocky-birth.html

    5-neanderthals.jpg


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  • Apparently they were. I've a link saved somewhere that detailed a study that concluded that Neandertal women on average would be in the very highest percentile of modern human male strength. Neandertal men would have been significantly stronger. Early modern humans were also stronger and more robust on average than humans today.

    Few enough were innocent in the past, few enough are innocent in the present, we just don’t know why yet.



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