Comparing the Skeletal Anatomy, Technology and Culture of Homo neanderthalensis and Early Modern Humans

  • Beverley Mary Connoy


This paper will compare the overall differences in skeletal anatomy, along with the technological and cultural adaptations, between Homo neanderthalensis and early modern humans, and will show that the Neanderthals were, at least physically, very well adapted to their harsh environmental conditions and physically strenuous lifeway. Several studies have shown that the shorter, stockier and more robust body shape of the Neanderthals was advantageous for maintenance of body temperature in the cold climate of the last glacial period (Porter, 1999). Also, due to a lower centre of gravity, locomotion on the uneven, snow-covered terrain of their territories would have been enhanced (Polk, 2004; Steudel-Numbers and Tilkens, 2004). According to Holliday (1997), the overall Neanderthal body shape falls “at the extreme end of modern higher latitude groups”, and suggests that they were more similar to modern “Eskimos” than any other group. The Neanderthals were both morphologically and physiologically well suited to their environment, as evidenced by their skeletal adaptations (Holliday, 1997), and hunting skills (Hoffecker & Cleghorn, 2000). With the exception of peoples inhabiting the Earth's polar regions, as mentioned above, modern humans generally show few morphological or physiological adaptations to a cold climate, other than a slightly reduced overall skin surface area, but there is ample evidence (Hoffecker, 1999), that early modern humans were better prepared, both culturally and technologically, compared to the Neanderthals, to survive and flourish in a harsh, physically demanding environment.