Did our gay ancestors live in Staemmen
Homo neanderthalensis - the Neanderthal man
The fact that Neanderthals existed at all only came to light 150 years ago when a prehistoric man's skull was found near Mettmann in the Neandertal. Since then we have been puzzling: Who was our distant relative?
The Neanderthals are sometimes poorly offended by the critical scrutiny of scientists. For a long time, researchers argued about the place Homo neanderthalensis occupies in the family tree of modern humans.
Were the Neanderthals a regional population group of Homo sapiens, i.e. an intermediate stage in the development of modern humans? This is how the so-called multi-regionalists see it.
Or did the Neanderthals form an independent group that ended in an evolutionary impasse, as the followers of the "Out-of-Africa" theory suspect? Researchers are now trying to solve this mystery with gene analyzes.
For a long time only one thing was considered certain: Neanderthals and modern humans had the same ancestor, Homo erectus. It was from him that the "Heidelberger Menschen" developed around 800,000 years ago and finally the first Neanderthals around 300,000 years ago.
Neanderthal fossils have been excavated at more than 80 sites in many European countries and in the Middle East. These prehistoric humans lived in an area from southern Spain to Uzbekistan and from northern Germany to Israel.
A team led by geneticist Svante Pääbo gained new knowledge in May 2010. After ten years of work, the researchers succeeded in deciphering the genetic material (genome) of the Neanderthals. Lo and behold: One to four percent of our DNA was passed on to us by the Neanderthals.
So Neanderthals and modern humans must have had sex and fathered offspring while living together in Europe and the Middle East. Pääbos realization: Even today we Europeans carry a piece of Neanderthals within us.
Climatic conditions and anatomy
Neanderthals were ideally adapted to the Ice Age living conditions. However, the term "Ice Age" has to be viewed differently: In the 250,000 years of Neanderthals' existence, it was not always bitterly cold in Europe. There were also warm periods, the so-called interglacials, which lasted 10,000 to 15,000 years.
So the Neanderthals had to deal with extreme climatic changes. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Neanderthals differ anatomically from modern humans.
Modern man, Homo sapiens, who developed at the same time in the warm climate of Africa, was taller and slimmer than the primeval European. Bone finds show that the Neanderthals were small and stocky, on average around 160 centimeters tall. On the other hand, he was quite heavy at 60 to 80 kilograms.
Neanderthals were muscular and had robust bones. Her skull was particularly striking: it was elongated and flat. On average, the Neanderthal's brain was larger than ours.
The extended back of the head suggests that his hearing was better and he could possibly see better, especially at dusk. This is also indicated by the large eye sockets. The flat forehead with the mighty bulges above the eyes, the powerful chewing apparatus and the receding chin are also typical of the Neanderthals.
He also had very large sinuses, which made the cold climate a little more bearable. In them, the cool air was preheated and humidified before it reached the lungs.
Way of life of the Neanderthals
Didn't they have to put up with everything: club-wielding ape-men, brutal, dull and primitive. This picture is now out of date. Neanderthals were far more cultured than previously thought.
They made fires and were skilled big game hunters: woolly rhinos, mammoths and reindeer were among their prey. They didn't even need clubs. Neanderthals were skilled toolmakers who made stone-tipped spears especially for hunting. Some stone tools had blades - as sharp as a scalpel.
Your life was dangerous. Almost all bone finds show injuries. In Iraq, paleontologists found the remains of a crippled Neanderthal man. He had broken bones several times. He must have been blind in one eye due to a skull injury on his left side, and his right forearm was missing.
Even so, he lived to be around 35 to 40 years old, which suggests that he was cared for by his loved ones. Neanderthals were socially organized. The discovery of a hyoid bone in the Kebara Cave in Israel is an indication that they were also able to speak. However, we can no longer reconstruct whether they really spoke and what that language might have sounded like.
Some researchers also believe that they had a sense of art and music. But finds from the time of the last Neanderthals have always been assigned to Homo sapiens, which pushed to Europe around 35,000 years ago. It is difficult to prove whether rightly so.
Dealing with the dead
According to studies, the average life expectancy of Neanderthals was around 30 years. So the reproductive Neanderthals had little time to produce enough offspring to ensure the survival of their clan. Presumably only every second Neanderthal child was older than five years.
Apparently the Neanderthals buried some of their dead. Graves and small cemeteries are widely scattered in the Neanderthals' habitat between France and Israel.
However, the burials do not necessarily indicate ideas of the afterlife. Hardly any grave goods have been found. Only in the Shanidar Cave in Iraq is there a noticeable amount of pollen in the immediate vicinity of the bones. Flowers could therefore have been quite common at burials.
In addition, it was probably widespread among the Neanderthals to separate the flesh from the body of the dead and to break the bones. Human remains were sometimes broken open like animal bones.
What at first sounds like cruel cannibalism, however, is interpreted differently by many scientists: They suspect a religious rite behind this practice. In particular, the interfaces on the skull are an indication of this thesis.
The fact that mainly the heads of the dead were processed does not indicate cannibalism, as there is little meat there. The practice is therefore more an indication of ritual multiple burials. Individual bones are exhumed, removed from the meat and stored separately.
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