Meet Wilma: The First Neanderthal Model

September 19, 2008

“Wilma” was named after the character on “The Flintstones”, history’s most famous Neanderthal family

Okay, she’s obviously no Kate Moss but Wilma has already won over the hearts of the scientific community as for the first time a reconstruction of a Neanderthal’s face has been completed based on DNA evidence. National Geographic explains:

Artists and scientists created Wilma (shown in a photo released yesterday) using analysis of DNA from 43,000-year-old bones that had been cannibalized. Announced in October 2007, the findings had suggested that at least some Neanderthals would have had red hair, pale skin, and possibly freckles.

Created for an October 2008 National Geographic magazine article, Wilma has a skeleton made from replicas of pelvis and skull bones from Neanderthal females. Copies of male Neanderthal bones—resized to female dimensions—filled in the gaps.

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Earliest Humans Had Neanderthal Qualities

September 2, 2008

On the left is a neanderthal skull from France and on the right is a modern human skull from Polynesia

Neanderthals are a hot topic in the world of archaeology. Recently on this site, we reviewed the long running debate on how the neanderthals disappeared so rapidly by asking whether they were the victims of inbreeding with early humans.

A new discovery in Ethiopia could lead to the conclusion that inbreeding occurred much, much earlier as we’re told that the earliest humans had neanderthal qualities. Here’s an excerpt:

The world’s first known modern human was a tall, thin individual — probably male — who lived around 200,000 years ago and resembled present-day Ethiopians, save for one important difference: He retained a few primitive characteristics associated with Neanderthals, according to a series of forthcoming studies conducted by multiple international research teams.

The extraordinary findings, which will soon be outlined in a special issue of the Journal of Human Evolution devoted to the first known Homo sapiens, also reveal information about the material culture of the first known people, their surroundings, possible lifestyle and, perhaps most startling, their probable neighbors — Homo erectus.

“Omo I,” as the researchers refer to the find, would probably have been considered healthy-looking and handsome by today’s standards, despite the touch of Neanderthal.

“From the size of the preserved bones, we estimated that Omo I was tall and slender, most likely around 5’10” tall and about 155 pounds,” University of New Mexico anthropologist Osbjorn Pearson, who co-authored at least two of the new papers, told Discovery News.

Pearson said another, later fossil was also recently found. It too belonged to a “moderately tall — around 5’9″ — and slender individual.”

Click here to read the rest of the article

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Neanderthals: Death Through Inbreeding With Humans?

August 11, 2008

Neanderthal Clan

Why did Neanderthals disappear?

Neanderthals died out around 30,000 years ago. Why was that? Did they die out due to breeding with humans or did our ancestors kill them off? Steve Connor of the UK Independent reviews this question as he reports on a new finding that might solve the riddle in The Neanderthal Murder Mystery.

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from the article explaining the main differences between us humans and our Neanderthal relatives:

Neanderthal Man

Heavy jawbone and beetle brow would have made him look like a rugby player on steroids. Flared rib cage meant he did not have a defined waistline. Strong muscles would have added to his thick-set appearance. Used stone tools, controlled fire and buried his dead but little evidence for more symbolic behaviour. Presence of hyoid bone in the throat suggests the use of speech, but experts doubt that language was sophisticated. Well adapted to cold conditions, with short limbs and heavy torso, which would have helped to survive the successive ice ages in Europe.

Modern Man

Graceful chin and jaw and lack of a double arch over the eyebrow gives his face a softer appearance. Tapering rib cage separated the lower abdomen from the chest, giving a marked waistline. Used sophisticated stone tools, controlled fire and buried their dead with ritual. Indicates the development of symbolic thought and being able to plan for the future. Hyoid bone indicates speech as an important feature in terms ofsocial organisation. Gracile limbs and body indicates adaptation to a warm climate.

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