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Who Were Th Neanderthals? Essay

1353 words - 6 pages

Neanderthals are modern humans closest extinct relative. They are part of the genus homo (Homo neanderthalensis) meaning they are very closely related to present day Homo sapiens, or modern humans. Fossil evidence suggests they lived from approximately 200,000 to 28,000 years ago when they became extinct. Neanderthals lived generally in central to southwest Asia and Europe. The first discovery of a Neanderthal fossil occurred in 1856. This fossil was found in Neander Valley in Germany. In German the word for valley is thal, so in 1864 geologist William King fittingly suggested naming the fossil specimen a Neanderthal. Upon further study of these fossils and others that were found it was realized that despite being in the same genus as modern humans Homo Neanderthalensis had very different features.
Neanderthals were a lot shorter and stockier than present day humans. Average heights of male Neanderthals were 5 feet 5 inches and their average weight was 143 pounds. There was some degree of sexual dimorphism in Neanderthals as Females were generally a little shorter and less heavy than males, yet not as great a difference as previous Hominids. Neanderthals lived during the Pleistocene Epoch, which was characterized by various ice ages. Therefor the Neanderthals had many adaptations for the cold. They were more robust than Homo sapiens and had very short legs and arms, making them very compact and good at conserving body heat. They also had large noses for the purpose of converting cold air. Other defining characteristics included large brow ridges and angled cheek bones. Overall Neanderthals were very strong compared to modern humans. Their bones tended to be very thick and had high density, suggesting they did a lot of strenuous physical activity. Despite their brutish appearance Neanderthal’s brain sizes were very proportional to their body size in comparison to modern humans.
Evidence suggests that Neanderthals were very sophisticated. They used tools, made their own clothing, and controlled fire. Compared to most other human ancestors who lived in tropical climates, Neanderthals were accustom to cold climates didn’t have abundant edible plant resources. This forced Neanderthals to rely heavily on hunting. Scientists believe Neanderthals generally used the thrusting of spears not the throwing of spears from a safe distance to take down their prey. Many Neanderthal bones have evidence of fractures and breaks probably from this theory of up close hunting. To support this theory scientists use the similarity with the injuries rodeo riders endure, since they to experience accidents with large animals. This along with Neanderthal’s dental arcade suggests their diet mostly consisted of meat, with the possible consumption of plants during the warmer months. Scientists have also discovered tools used for preparing animal hides. It is believed that Neanderthals used these hides as loose fitting garments to keep warm. If this...

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