10 Surprising Facts About Neanderthals

Neanderthals更像是我们的意识到。Procy / Shutterstock.

The misconception of Neanderthals as stooped, brutish, hairy and dumb comes primarily from our preconceived notions. Indeed, even the first skeletal reconstruction of a Neanderthal, which was hunched and bent at the knees, turned out to be the result of French paleontologist Marcellin Boule using bones from an old male Neanderthal with severe arthritis blended with Boule's expectation that Neanderthals were more apelike than human-like.

Butresearch published in Nature Communications显示这种长期信念,即尼安德特人亨累普拉德队是错误的。国际科学家团队分析了使用CT扫描的尼安德特人的骨架,发现脊柱比现代人类更直。此外,骨架有更宽,下胸部和水平形状的肋骨 - 表明尼安德特人具有更大的肺容量,主要用它们的隔膜呼吸。因此,研究人员得出结论,尼安德特人具有更好的姿势,而不是人类呼吸。

Additionally, a team from the University of Zurich’s Evolutionary Morphology Group discovered in January 2019 that Neanderthals had a curved lower back and neck similar to humans. Researchers used a computer model to reconstruct a Neanderthal's posture and also uncovered that they had a sacrum, a bone between the hip bones, just like humans do.


We know this because of several facts that have come to light in recent decades, and these discoveries are changing the old but persistent falsehoods about Neanderthals. Turns out they were the equals of modern humans in many ways. Here are a few things you might not know about them.

1. Neanderthals buried their dead and left grave markers.

A reconstruction of a Neanderthal who lived some 50,000 years ago in what's now Spain, by Italian scientist Fabio Fogliazza. (Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP/Getty Images)

Studying around 20 grave sites in Western Europe, researchers concluded that Neanderthals sometimes buried their dead. This might seem minor at first glance, considering how seriously we humans take ceremonies and funeral rites for the dead. Indeed, that tradition has long been considered something only modern humans do. But Neanderthals also practiced the act of purposefully burying their dead, perhaps before contact with modern humans.

They may also have left flowers and other grave markers with the deceased.

Writing forSmithsonian magazine, writer Owen Edwards describes the sites in the Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq:

From pollen found in one of the Shanidar graves, [Smithsonian anthropologist Ralph] Solecki hypothesized that flowers had been buried with the Neanderthal dead — until then, such burials had been associated only with Cro-Magnons, the earliest knownH. Sapiens.in Europe. "Someone in the last Ice Age," Solecki wrote, "must have ranged the mountainside in the mournful task of collecting flowers for the dead." Furthermore, Solecki continued, "It seems logical to us today that pretty things like flowers should be placed with the cherished dead, but to find flowers in a Neanderthal burial that took place about 60,000 years ago is another matter."

A new discovery at the site has given the theory even more credence. A partial skeleton, possibly part of the remains of grave sites uncovered in the 1960s, suggest the individually was intentionally buried, and with flowers.

"So from initially being a sceptic based on many of the other published critiques of the flower-burial evidence, I am coming round to think this scenario is much more plausible and I am excited to see the full results of our new analyses," University of Cambridge osteologist and paleoanthropologist Emma Pomeroy, lead author of the research published in the journal Antiquity,told The Guardian


“这是小说,尼安德特人的证据to develop, by themselves, some complex symbolic thought," William Rendu, a paleoanthropologist at France's National Center for Scientific Research and New York University toldLiveScience。"The behavioral distance between Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans seems to become even thinner."


Neanderthal cave art, La Pasiega Spain
这款梯形绘图来自西班牙La Pasiega洞穴,特色的水平和垂直的红线,由Neanderthals超过64,000年前制作。 P. Saura

尼安德特人不仅象征性地思考,而且根据一项在学刊的一项研究中,他们在地球上发表了最早的洞穴艺术。该研究发现,三个西班牙洞穴的画作在64,000多年前创造了64,000多年前 - 在现代同性恋者喀赛斯抵达欧洲之前。尼安德特人当时是大陆唯一的人类物种,所以这似乎排除了其他解释。它还表明,尼安德特人具有艺术性的敏感性,就像早期的同性恋者那样。

"Our results show that the paintings we dated are, by far, the oldest known cave art in the world, and were created at least 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe from Africa — therefore they must have been painted by Neanderthals," says lead author Chris Standish, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton, in astatement关于发现。

Dr. Dirk Hoffman of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology describes and explains their art in the video below.

这是第一次洞穴艺术已经如此明确地与我们自己以外的物种相关联,因为尼安德坦艺术的早期声明依赖于不精确的约会方法。新的研究通过使用名为铀 - 胸部约会的最先进的技术来克服了该问题,这将在随着时间的推移随着时间的推移在洞穴绘画上进行微小的碳酸盐沉积物。这些沉积物含有放射性铀和钍的痕迹,当沉积物形成时揭示 - 因此给出了下面的艺术的最低年龄。


"Neanderthals created meaningful symbols in meaningful places. The art is not a one-off accident," Pettitt says. "We have examples in three caves 700 km apart, and evidence that it was a long-lived tradition. It is quite possible that similar cave art in other caves in Western Europe is of Neanderthal origin as well."


来自Neanderthal工具和生活网站的证据表明他们控制了火灾的使用。 Alexandr Shevchenko/Shutterstock

The controlled use of fire is one skill that sets humans apart from all other species living today. There was a time when we weren't the only species to regularly start and use fires, however. Neanderthals were skilled at this as well, as a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showed.

The University of Colorado, Boulder, researchers looked at 141 fireplace sites in Europe and noted the kind of evidence of sustained use of fire at each site, including burned bones, heated stone artifacts and charcoal. Their conclusion is that Neanderthals had sustained use of fire starting as far back as 400,000 years ago.

Not only did Neanderthals use fire to cook food, but they also used it to make needed materials.

CU Boulder Today, talking to Paola Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, explains:

According to Villa, one of the most spectacular uses of fire by Neanderthals was in the production of a sticky liquid called pitch from the bark of birch trees that was used by Neanderthals to haft, or fit wooden shafts on, stone tools. Since the only way to create pitch from the trees is to burn bark peels in the absence of air, archaeologists surmise Neanderthals dug holes in the ground, inserted birch bark peels, lit them and covered the hole tightly with stones to block incoming air.
"This means Neanderthals were not only able to use naturally occurring adhesive gums as part of their daily lives, they were actually able to manufacture their own," Villa said. "For those who say Neanderthals did not have elevated mental capacities, I think this is good evidence to the contrary."

4. Neanderthals were extremely skilled hunters.

Neanderthal flint head, France
This flint spearhead, made by a Neanderthal roughly 35,000 years ago, was found near a mammoth skeleton in France. Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

Neanderthals didn't rely on gathering for their sustenance, but proved to be exceptional hunters with a deep knowledge of the skills needed to capture different types of game as well as strong communication skills to coordinate attacks.

Dutch researcher Gerrit Dusseldorp notes that even the most difficult-to-catch game — including herding animals that are tough to surprise, and other large, powerful animals — were all on the Neanderthal menu.The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, commenting about Dusseldorp's research, adds: "That the Neandertals were capable of hunting down such elusive game demonstrates that they had good coordination skills and could communicate well with each other...Dusseldorp demonstrated that Neandertals, thanks to their intelligence, even surpassed hyenas at capturing the strongest game."

In terms of strength, Neanderthals were not to be trifled with. Asthe Smithsonian Institution注意事项说明,“Neanderthal骨骼具有高频率的骨折,(随着他们的分布)类似于经常与大型危险的动物进行互动的专业牛仔车骑士的伤害。”

Further research published in Science Advances revealed Neanderthal hands had a much more precise grip than modern humans initially thought. It was previously believed they used their hands and arms with brutal force and not such fine-tuned movements. Scientists analyzed marks left on the bones from muscle attachments, concluding Neanderthals' manual dexterity helped them use tools for hunting.

Neanderthals were also calculated in their hunting strategies. In 2011, research showed they were意识到驯鹿迁移模式, timing their stays in certain hunting locations based on the movement of their prey.

More recent research, published in the scientific journal PLOS One in 2019, suggests another intriguing twist: Neanderthals might have also fished for food. A group of scientists studied dozens of well-preserved ear canals and discovered abnormal bony growths, often called "surfer's ear," suggesting that they might have frequently fished or hunted aquatic animals. They also may have gathered smooth clam shells from the seafloor, according to 2019 research from Villa, the University of Colorado, Boulder, researcher who uncovered their use of fire mentioned above. This suggests they may have been capable of diving because the shells, which they sharpened into tools, were not in the same shape as those that merely wash up on shore,as the BBC explains.


猛犸象Flying Puffin [CC SA 2.0}/Wikimedia Commons)" data-caption="Woolly mammoths were about the same size as modern African elephants, standing up to 11 feet tall." data-expand="300" id="mntl-sc-block-image_1-0-71" data-tracking-container="true">
Woolly mammoths were about the same size as modern African elephants, standing up to 11 feet tall. (Photo:Flying Puffin [CC SA 2.0}/Wikimedia Commons)

Neanderthals猎杀的大型动物之一是羊毛庞大的庞然大物,现在造成的现代大象的相对于毛皮覆盖,称重高达6公吨。尽管这两个哺乳动物之间存在明显差异,但是2019 study published in Human Biology发现尼安德特人和羊毛猛犸象分享了对冷环境的一些分子迹象。在适应冰夜欧亚亚洲的寒冷气候之前,这两个物种都从非洲祖先演变,而且两者也在同时灭绝。他们的遗传方形似乎是证据convergent evolution, the study's authors explain, as both Neanderthals and woolly mammoths faced similar conditions and underwent similar adaptations.

研究人员looked at three case studies of gene variants and alleles, all associated with cold-climate adaptation, found in both the Neanderthal and woolly mammoth genomes. These included genes involved with thermogenesis (production of body heat), keratin protein activity, and pigmentation of skin and hair.

"We believe these types of connections can be valuable for future evolutionary research," study co-author and Tel Aviv University researcher Meidad Kislev said in a university statement. "They're especially interesting when they involve other large-brained mammals, with long life spans, complex social behavior and their interactions in shared habitats with early humans."

"They say you are what you eat," adds co-author Ran Barkai, a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University. "This was especially true of Neanderthals; they ate mammoths but were apparently also genetically similar to mammoths."


While it's well-known thatmodern humans mated with Neanderthals, research shows the interbreeding happened far earlier and more often than we previously thought. As far back as 100,000 years ago, modern humans moving out of Africa encountered and mated with Neanderthals.



What isn't yet known is how the encounters happened. Were they peaceful meetings, or were they raids in which one group stole the females of another group?

"Eventually, geneticists should be able to show if the transfer of DNA in either direction was mainly via males, females, or about equal in proportion, but it will need a lot more data before that becomes possible," Chris Stringer, a professor and research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, told英国广播公司

New data also shows that interbreeding of humans and Neanderthals was a primary reason why Neanderthals became "extinct." A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany analyzed the DNA of Neanderthals, early humans and modern humans and discovered that the Neanderthals' genes dissipated over time as interbreeding increased until they were wiped out.

“这意味着他们被纳入,这就是为什么我们看到他们在现代欧洲人身上的许多基因,”SvantePabo在Max Planck进化人类学研究所进化遗传学教授告诉时代。"If we look at a few thousand genomes we can pick out 15,000 Neanderthal genes — so at least half their genome is walking around in people today."


A modern human skull (left) compared with the skull of a Neanderthal. hairymuseummatt (original photo

While the genetic diversity that came from these encounters may have ensured that the humans who left Africa survived to modern times, it came at a price. Many modern day genetic illnesses likely came from the Neanderthal side of the family.

A study looking at pieces of the DNA in modern humans that trace back to Neanderthals shows this inheritance includes a higher risk of blood clots and strokes, depression, skin lesions, a propensity for nicotine addiction and even malnutrition due to imbalanced thiamine.

"Ultimately, the researchers found that Neanderthal genetic variants were significantly linked to increased risk of 12 traits, including heart attack and artery thickening,"LiveSciencereported in 2016.

These traits are related to adaptations that would have been beneficial in prehistoric times when our bodies were regulated by circadian rhythms, a very different diet and the need for boosted immune systems. But in today's modern world, the once beneficial traits are now problematic.

科学杂志notes, "But however beneficial in the Pleistocene and to people living in poor conditions today, even immune-boosting genes may have deleterious effects in the United States and Europe, where people face fewer parasites: [computational biologist Janet] Kelso found that the archaic receptor genes were strongly linked to allergies."

8. Neanderthals looked after sick and elderly family members.

Paul Hudson [CC by 2.0]/Flickr" data-caption="" data-expand="300" id="mntl-sc-block-image_1-0-108" data-tracking-container="true">
Photo:Paul Hudson [CC by 2.0]/Flickr

It may be easy to assume that tough-living Neanderthals would have had a me-first mentality. But Neanderthals were loving family members, and they cared for the injured, sick and elderly.

在法国的La Chapelle-Aux-Saints埋葬坑,首先在1908年发现,揭示了一位老年人的骨头,患有衰弱的关节炎,没有牙齿,表明这个家庭在晚年时照顾他,也许甚至咀嚼他的对他的食物。来自其他网站的骨骼的证据重复了一群尼安德特人民必须关心遭受衰弱伤害的人的故事。在一个study published in 2018 in World Archeology, researchers argue that Neanderthal health care was "a compassionate and knowledgeable response to injury and illness."


"Our findings suggest Neanderthals didn't think in terms of whether others might repay their efforts; they just responded to their feelings about seeing their loved ones suffering," lead author and University of York researcher Penny Spikins said in auniversity release。"We argue that organized, knowledgeable and caring health care is not unique to our species but rather has a long evolutionary history."

9. Neanderthals大声高,高声音。

Nope, they didn't just grunt. While they might not have had particularly sophisticated vocabularies, Neanderthals were capable of complex speech thanks to the presence and position of the hyoid bone, a bone structure located in the neck that supports the root of the tongue. This is the very bone that allows modern humans to vocalize as we do.

A team of researchers modeled how the bone worked within the throat of Neanderthals.英国广播公司reports:

Stephen Wroe, from the University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia, said: "We would argue that this is a very significant step forward. It shows that the Kebara 2 hyoid doesn't just look like those of modern humans — it was used in a very similar way." He told BBC News that it not only changed our understanding of Neanderthals, but also of ourselves. "Many would argue that our capacity for speech and language is among the most fundamental of characteristics that make us human. If Neanderthals also had language then they were truly human, too."

While they could speak like us, they didn't necessarily sound like us. Their build likely gave them a higher-pitched and quite loud voice. In this video, voice experts explain how their large chests and posture likely made Neanderthals sound.

10. Neanderthals faded amid climate change and 'species drift.'

Despite their success, Neanderthals seem to have died out about 40,000 years ago. The mystery of their extinction has long fascinated our species, and scientists are still trying to figure out what happened. Of many theories floated over the years, two recent studies make interesting cases for possible factors in Neanderthals' demise.

In onestudy published in 2017 in Nature Communications, researchers suggest the extinction was a matter of population dynamics and timing. Asthe Washington Post解释道,“这是一个基本的生态学原理:两个species cannot occupy the same niche at the same time." Neanderthals shared space with Homo sapiens for a while, but over time, they couldn't endure the "slow trickle of human bands" flowing into their territories. As a result, the study's authors argue, humans slowly replaced them in a process known as "species drift."

"It's the simplest model that we can build without assuming any hard-to-prove claims, like selection or environmental change," co-author and Stanford University biologist Oren Kolodny told the Post. "What do I expect would have happened by default?"

Pietrosu Mare, Rodna Mountains, Romania, Neanderthal cave
Romania's Rodna Mountains were once home to Neanderthals, and stalagmites from caves in this region are helping scientists study the role of climate change in the species' extinction. Gavrila Stetco [CC SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons


This revealed a series of prolonged, extremely cold and extremely dry conditions between 44,000 and 40,000 years ago, the researchers report. By comparing their new climate data with archaeological records of Neanderthal artifacts, they found a correlation between the cold periods and an absence of Neanderthal tools. This doesn't prove causation, they note, but it's a compelling clue.

"For many years we have wondered what could have caused their demise," says co-author Vasile Ersek, a lecturer in physical geography in Northumbria University, in astatement。“他们是在现代人类到来的到来的边缘,还是涉及的其他因素?我们的研究表明,气候变化可能在尼安德特灭绝方面发挥着重要作用。”

So not only were Neanderthals crafty at making tools, quick to adapt to harsh conditions, and clever and strong hunters, they also may have been gravely affected by climate change. The more we study the evidence of Neanderthal life, the more we discover how alike we really are.