Re: Archaic H. sapiens???

Michael McBroom (
Fri, 10 Jan 1997 19:35:50 -0500

Bjorn Pedersen wrote:

> I have heard and I don't know if there is any basis in the theory that
> the Neanderthal from an appearance point of view is not fundamentally
> different from many homo sapiens tribes of today. In relation to how
> we in Europe look he would be stockier and have a more "brutish"
> appearance.

No doubt what my grandfather (a German) used to call "Bohemians." :)

It has also been said, though, that if you dressed a neanderthal man in
a suit and put him in the middle of a crowd, nobody would know the
difference. Perhaps.

> I have off course seen the school book image, which ties into the
> popular image, of a neanderthal as a sort of hunchbacked creature with
> bushy eyebrows and a dull wit. But I have rarely seen a truly
> substantive explanation of what he was like.

There is actually a very interesting article in the January '96 issue of
_National Geographic_ regarding Neanderthal. What intrigued me the most
about it was that a team of researchers took a Neanderthal skull and
digitized it, then took a young man's photograph and, using morphing
software, mapped it to the Neanderthal skull. They were then able to
generate what was in effect a photographic image of a Neanderthal male.
He didn't look unusual at all, really.

> It appears after all that
> the neanderthal man coexisted with us far longer than the than we have
> been the only human species. When Homo Sapiens Sapiens and the
> neanderthal genus cohabitated for so long it surely must be a very
> important genus in our species family tree and would merit particular
> and meticulous study.

Neanderthal is probably so intriguing precisely because of the period of
cohabitation, although the evidence seems to indicate that there was no
interbreeding between the two species (or if there was, no successful
offspring resulted). A point of terminology, though: both modern humans
and neanderthals are classified as members of the same genus, which is
Homo. Thus the difference is one of species, or sub-species if you
prefer that view.

> >The evidence regarding Neanderthal burial rituals is still
> >controversial, thus, it is difficult to say just what it all means. Ian
> >Tattersall, in his book, _The Last Neanderthal_ (1995), discusses
> >Neanderthal burials somewhat. He states that there is really no clear
> >evidence of Neanderthal burial rituals. Even the famous Shanidar
> >"flower burial" is not free from dispute. There is a marked contrast,
> Are there many examples of neanderthal burials? What would be in them,
> or is that too difficult to see? If they buried ceremonially I would
> imagine they would also bury tools and weapons which were such
> integral parts of their lives.

I don't have much information on Neanderthal burials at my disposal. I
would assume that a fair amount has been written on the subject, but the
impression I've gotten, based on what I've read to date, is that the
entire notion of Neanderthal burial rituals is still far from being
settled. Tattersall mentions that, when objects were found in
association with Neanderthal burials, it was not clear if they had been
deliberately placed there, or were associated by accident.


Michael McBroom
CSUF Linguistics