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Comparing Neanderthals With Modern Humans Essay

1524 words - 7 pages

To get a sense of what it is to be human, at least in the evolutionary world, we need only to compare our modern selves to our ancestors such as the Neanderthals. The Neanderthals were our closest hominin relative and died out thousands of years ago. Like us, they walked on two legs, hunted , made fire and tools, and lived in shelters (caves). They were more advanced than many of us imagine they were thanks to the way they are portrayed in the media. They had brains similar in size to ours, they stood fully upright (not hunched over), and had a surprisingly complex culture. When asked what it means to be human, you can compare many different aspects of our lives, such as biology, culture, and even religious beliefs. We obviously have no way of comparing our relgious beliefs to those of the Neanderthals, so in this essay, I will compare modern humans to Neanderthals on a biological, behavioral and cultural basis.
Similar to other pre-human hominins, Neanderthals were found throughout Africa, Asia and Europe and their anatomical features varied by their location likely due to climate and other factors of the region. For instance, the Neanderthals of Eastern Europe and Western Asia tended to be less “robust” than those found in Western Europe likely because it wasn't as cold in those areas. Neanderthals had large brains and most were even larger than today's modern human brain, which is believed to be the result of climate adjustment and more efficient metablolism better suited to cold climates. Their skulls, again, similar to their older hominin relatives, was large and bulged out at the sides, with a forehead that rose upwards more vertically than previous hominins and had a browridge that arched over the eye sockets, rather than forming a straight across ridge as older previous hominins. Their faces projected outwards, looking almost as if someone were pulling on it. Their bodies were barrel-chested, robust and heavily muscled. Their limbs were shorter than their previous hominin relatives and both their head structure and bulky bodies have been assoicated as adapations to living in cold climates. In a skeleton found in Asia, the discovery of a hyoid bone in the the throat raised the question of whether or not Neanderthals had language capabilities. There has been much debate over this and many different theories, but the most widely accepted is that they were capable of producing human speech sounds, but whether or not they used this speech to communicate in any kind of language is still largely up for debate. In height, Neanderthals were roughly about the same size as modern humans, but did not live as long as modern humans. A Neanderthal who lived into his or her 40's was considered to be long lived, which is comparatively short to our much longer lives of roughly double that. Genetically, Neaderthals and humans differ in their DNA structure both in the mitochondrial DNA and in the nuclear DNA. The significance of the DNA...

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