March 2, 2019

SO MUCH FOR SETTLED SCIENCE: We Have Been Wrong About a Key Feature of Neanderthals’ Appearance.

After more than a century of alternative views, a new study has reconfirmed that Neanderthals once walked fully upright with a posture not unlike our own. They weren’t hunched after all.

The reanalysis is based on an elderly male Neanderthal that was found in La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France in 1911. Creating a virtual reconstruction of the ancient skeleton’s pelvis and spine, the authors say that both the stress on the hip and the position of the pelvis are not so different from modern humans.

When the research was extended to other Neanderthal skeletons, the vertebrae and pelvic bones also matched this model. Once thought to be a hallmark of modern humans, this suggests that the curve of your lower back is not so unique after all.

“On the whole, there is hardly any evidence that would point to Neanderthals having a fundamentally different anatomy,” explains Martin Haeusler, a specialist in evolutionary medicine at the University of Zurich.

If Neanderthals really had a posture similar to humans, they would have needed a double s-shaped spine like our own. These curves exist to take on the majority of weight and shock that is conferred when walking.

But some recent studies using isolated vertebrae had argued that Neanderthals actually had straighter spines than we thought – backing up the idea that Neanderthals were hunched.

The new research, however, suggests this conclusion is a mistake.

Well, given all the evidence that they interbred with modern humans, they’re basically just a slight variant of the same species.

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