Re: Questions about Cro Magnon

Patricia Lynn Sothman (
22 Feb 1995 02:19:52 GMT

David Marcus Woodcock ( wrote:

: Hello Trish [may I call you Trish ?]


: 1. What do the Shanidar fossils tell about the relationship
: between Neandertal and H.sapiens ? Twenty years ago
: a secondary source reported they showed a mixture of
: traits. But I've heard nothing about them in recent
: popular acounts of the out-of-Africa vs. multiregionalist
: debate.

Most of the Shanidar material was pretty thoroughly analyzed by Erik
Trinkaus, and published in the book, The Shanidar Neandertals. That book
is informative, but hard to get through because of all the anatomical
descriptions. Basically, the material can be divided into two rough
groups, the older specimens (Shanidar 2 is an example) and a younger
group (including Shanidar 1 and 5). One problem with this material is
that it is not well dated, except that all of the specimens are older
than 45,000 bp. Ofer Bar-Yosef (another researcher) claims that the
older specimens are in excess of 100,000 years, but it is hard to
validate this claim. The older specimens have craniofacial morphology
which, in some ways, seems to resemble some other specimens like Zuttiyeh
(a Western Asian specimen dated to ~200,000). The Shanidar specimens in
this older group have forward protruding faces, not just "classic"
mid-facial prognathism typical of Western European Neandertals. The
younger group has more typical, classic Neandertal features, but all
these specimens LACK occipital buns. I do not know the exact reasons why
these specimens are not typically mentioned in the "origin" debate, but I
could give some speculations. This material is housed in Iraq, it is
hard to work in Iraq, and no one knows if these fossils survived Desert
Storm, with all the bombing of Bagdad, therefore not many current
scientists in that debate have seen the original material.

: 2. Were Neandertal groups co-existing in the same general locale
: with H.sapiens groups significantly smaller ? Was
: Neandertal group size roughly constant over Neandertal's
: history ? How did it vary with biome ?
: Or is there enough evidence to answer these questions ?

Many of those questions probably cannot be answered with current data,
and I am not up on social group reconstruction enough to answer this
question at all. You might try looking up some articles in Journal of
Human Evolution by Erik Trinkaus, he has attempted some reconstruction of
activity patterns based upon post-cranial anatomy. Other than that,
there is some evidence from some cave sites in Europe that Neandertals
and Aurignacian (an Upper Paleolithic tool tradition) people did at least
use the same caves, but at different times. The archaeological layers
interdigitated remains from these two groups, but there probably is no
way to tell how/when the material was deposited. Sorry I could not answer
this one, maybe someone else with more knowledge could give us some insights.

: 3. What specimans are available from Africa between
: 500 and 200k BP ? How would you describe them ?
: Are there specimans from Central Asia and India for
: this period ?

This one is a hard one. The specimens in Africa are not well dated, or
have no provenience. They are the ones most argued about in the
"origins" debates. I can give you the information I have.
Early African specimens:
Kabwe (aka Broken Hill or Rhodesia Man) from Zambia
date: anywhere from 200-400 ky
Saldona, Ealandsfontein and Hopefield from Republic of South Africa
these are surface finds with uncertain dates, but found with
Acheulian tools
Ndutu from Oluvai Gorge
date: Ndutu beds
Bodo from Ethiopia
very big supraorbital torus, huge face
date: >200,000
Eyasi from Tanzania
date: I don't have, but probably can be found
Cave of Hearths from Republic of South Africa
date: >200,000

These are the major specimens I have info on.

: 4. Both H.erectus and Neandertal had more robust jaws and
: more powerful biting musculature than H.sapiens ?
: Why ?

Good question, it probably relates to how they were using their jaws and
the kinds of foods they were processing. Susan Anton and B. Demes and
some other researchers have done work on craniofacial biomechanics in
Neandertals, those papers and people would be much better qualified to
answer this question.

: 5. What does tooth wear in erectus and Neandertals tell us
: about how they used their teeth ? and what they used
: them on ?

Neandertals have extreme wear on their anterior teeth (down to pulp
chamber in some instances), this relates that they were stressing their
anterior teeth a lot. Some modern aboriginal populations (Eskimos,
Australian Aborigines) also demonstrate extreme wear on their teeth.
This wear can occur through paramasticatory tooth use (using the teeth
for tools, not just processing food). There is also some evidence that
Neandertals used some kind of "toothpick" device, due to presence of long
grooves on the teeth. David Frayer has published some on this, I think.
In any event, the extreme tooth wear (and tooth buttressing such as
shovel-shaped incisors) points to using the teeth not just for
mastication, but also as tools. The wear could also indicate processing
of harder food substances.

: --David

Sorry I was delayed in answering this, I was out of town for a short
time. Hope this answers some of the questions and sorry that I do not
know particulars on other questions. Perhaps some other people could help.

Patricia L. Sothman
Dept. Anthropology
Washington University, St. Louis