August 28, 2006

150th anniversary of Neanderthal Man

Neanderthal Still Posing Questions 150 Years After Discovery

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the "Neanderthal Man." An international exhibition and congress in July in Bonn brought together 220 scientists from 20 countries, to discuss topics ranging from the origin of Neanderthal man, to the species' relationship to modern humans.


"It was the first fossil man and the first clear evidence that there is some other one like modern man," said von Königswald. "It was a time when one discovered that all aborigines of the various continents in those days were absolutely human beings and they did interbreed with Europeans. With Neanderthal man, it became clear that there were other types of man in the past."


"Perhaps they have had fewer children than the anatomically modern humans, perhaps the modern humans brought diseases, or perhaps they pressured them into bad grounds for hunting," Schmitz said.

Schmitz added that the question of why Neanderthals became extinct is an important one.


"We used to think that there was a major behavioral shift, improvement in overall efficiency of and social organization between the two groups, but the more we look at them, the more we find that in many ways, Neanderthals and early modern humans are very similar to each other behaviorally, functionally," he said.

"They're not biologically identical, they look different and we can tell them apart easily, but when you look at them in terms of their behavioral patterns, the changes are fairly subtle," Trinkaus added.

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