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The Neanderthals - Essay Example

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The Neanderthals

The Neanderthals inhabited Europe and parts of western Asia from about 230,000 to 29,000 years ago (the Middle Palaeolithic and Lower Paleolithic, in the Pleistocene epoch) (Neanderthals 2005). Neanderthals were adapted to cold, as shown by their larger brains, short but robust builds and large nose. These features are also observed in modern day sub-arctic populations (Neandethals 2005). For many years, there was a vigorous professional debate about whether Neanderthals should be classified as Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. The latter places Neanderthals as a subspecies of Homo sapiens; however, recent evidence from mitochondrial DNA studies indicates that Neanderthals were not a subspecies of Homo sapiens (Neanderthals 2005).
On average, Neanderthals stood about 1.65m tall (just under 5' 6") and were very muscular, comparable to modern weight-lifters (Neanderthals 2005). Their relatively robust stature is thought to be an adaptation to the cold climate of Europe during the Pleistocene epoch (Neanderthals 2005). Nothing is known about their skin color, the hair, or the shape of soft parts such as eyes, ears, and lips. However, the physical traits that distinguish Neanderthals from modern humans can not be used to distinguish specific Neanderthal populations, from various geographic areas or periods of evolution, from other extinct humans. Also, many of these traits occasionally manifest in modern humans, particularly among certain ethnic groups (Neanderthals 2005).
LANGUAGE
The Neanderthals don't have complex language as modern humans. In1983, a Neanderthal hyoid bone was found at the Kebara Cave in Israel. The hyoid is a small bone that holds the root of the tongue in place, a requirement to human speech and, therefore, its presence seems to imply some ability to speak. Many people believe that even without the hyoid bone evidence, it is obvious that tools as advanced as those of the Mousterian Era, attributed to Neanderthals, could not have been developed without cognitive skills encompassing some form of spoken language (Neanderthals 2005). The base of the Neanderthal tongue was positioned higher in the throat, crowding the mouth somewhat. As a result, Neanderthal speech would most likely have been slow-paced and nasalized.(Neanderthals 2005).
HUNTING AND TOOLS
The Neanderthals' stone tools is called the Mousterian Culture, after a prominent archaeological site where the tools were first found. Their tool case consisted of sophisticated stone-flakes, task-specific hand axes, and spears. Many of these tools were very sharp (Neanderthals 2005). There is little evidence that Neanderthals used antlers, shell, or other bone materials to make tools. However, there is good evidence that they routinely constructed a variety of stone implements. The archaeological record suggests that Neanderthals lived around the edges of forests where they hunted large animals like red deer, horse and wild cattle. The forests gave them firewood, and materials to construct shelters and spears. (Neandertal 2005)
INTELLIGENCE
Their brains were roughly 20% larger than the average size of modern human's brain and the structure were identical but arranged in a different manner. Their ...Show more

Summary

In 1848, a skull was discovered in Forbes' Quarry in the Neander Valley near Dsseldorf in the Neanderthal, Germany (Neandenthals 2005). It looked like an ancient and primitive form of human but had some of the basic features of an ape. As more remains were uncovered, one thing became clear; this creature had once lived right across Europe (Neandertal 2005)…
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