How scientists recreated Neanderthal man


A team of scientists has created what it believes is the first really accurate reconstruction of Neanderthal man, from a skeleton that was discovered in France over a century ago.

In 1909, excavations at La Ferrassie cave in the Dordogne unearthed the remains of a group of Neanderthals. One of the skeletons in that group was that of an adult male, given the name La Ferrassie 1. 

These remains have helped scientists create a detailed reconstruction of our closest prehistoric relative for a new BBC series, Prehistoric Autopsy.

La Ferrassie 1 is one of the most important discoveries made in the field of Neanderthal research.

His skull is the largest and most complete ever found. The discovery of his leg and foot bones was hugely significant, revealing to scientists that Neanderthals walked upright, contradicting previous research.

We now know that Neanderthals were stocky with strong arms and hands, and that they had large skulls – longer and lower than ours – with sloping foreheads and no chin.

But modern scientific research methods can now probe further to help us build a more accurate picture of the Neanderthals’ look and lifestyle. The scientists used these new approaches to reconstruct La Ferrassie 1.

But how do you go about reconstructing an entire lifelike body from a collection of 70,000 year old bones?

Much of La Ferrassie 1’s frame was intact, but the thorax, ribs, pelvis and some spinal pieces were missing.

Following clues

US-based paleoartist Viktor Deak – who specialises in reconstructions and images of early man – filled in the gaps with copies of Neanderthal bones discovered at Kebara Cave in Israel in 1982. That dig uncovered a near-complete Neanderthal skeleton, missing just the cranium, right leg, and an area of the left leg.

Written By: BBC News
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  1. “The discovery of his leg and foot bones was hugely significant, revealing to scientists that Neanderthals walked upright, contradicting previous research. “

    Did I miss something?  What previous research has ever suggested that Neanderthal – or any other species of the Homo genus – did not walk upright?

  2. Gnu Atheist

    I agree.  I’ve never heard a single mention of Neanderthals being anything but upright.  And why on earth would they need the leg and foot bones to establish upright locomotion?  They have a skull.  That’s all we need to establish it.  Facial bone angles, position of the foramen magnum, etc.

  3. “La Ferrassie 1 is very strong looking, very stocky and well built. But really quite short.”

    How strong looking? How stocky and well built?  How short?  Without measurements these descriptions are useless to me.  Dammit! Could we have some data please? When people toss around subjective statements I feel disoriented!

    La Ferrassie’s arm bones are asymmetrical – the left is smaller than the right.  How asymmetrical are they?  Again, can we have some measurements here? The left humerus is flattened ok, but what about the left radius and ulna, are they normal?  The elbow and shoulder too? Could the flattened humerus be due to trauma? What about childhood trauma? This is attributed to the need for new garments every year.  So at six hides per garment X eight hours scraping each hide we have 48 hours of scraping per year and this is going to deform an adult male’s left humerus?  Or even cause the right arm to be significantly larger than the left? (assuming right handedness)  Do all the existing Neanderthal skeletons show this same deformity?  If they all spent the same amount of time scraping the same number of skins then we should see the same skeletal damage on all of them. I think I’m missing something here.

    If “Neanderthal children grew up faster than modern humans” how does this cast light on why our species survived and theirs didn’t? Sounds like an advantage for them if their offspring moved quickly into independence allowing females to produce more offspring at shorter intervals.

  4. Chuck Norris look alike contest. I thought that the article might be some kind of satire regarding the neanderthal  Chuck Norris and his 1000 years of darkness if Obama is reelected. Damn that really is a striking resemblance

  5. Strange, but if you go over to the article, and look at the full body picture, I just thought he’d have more body hair than that.  And I hate to be a wet blanket but I think they forgot to add a certain other body part.

  6. Um, ya, I actually was thinking about proportions…I guess that’s why there are no Neanderthal ladies in the exhibit.  They’re all over there at the other place.  The pub where the Devonian dudes hang out.  Those guys are more…um…proportional, actually.

  7. Mister Chuck Norris lookalike was evolved from erectus…Nariokotome Boy, the subject of last nights show was hairless 1.5 million years ago….meaning Chuck would’ve had to evolve a hairy coat back again as protection against the northern climate and elements, or use clothes. A hair coat is not great when one is sweating as a means of heat regulation. Sweating was the evolved trait for heat regulation by erectus…it was easier for Chuck to to get some clothes rather than the alternative.

  8.  Gnu Atheist wrote: “Did I miss something?  What previous research has ever suggested that
    Neanderthal – or any other species of the Homo genus – did not walk

    The La Ferrassie remains were discovered in 1909. “Previous research” means research before the discovery in 1909.

  9.  OMG (so to speak).  I wondered what you meant about Chuck Norris and the 1000 days of darkness so I looked it up on Youtube.  It was one of the most sick-making things I’ve ever seen! Truly horrendous. Give me neanderthal man any day!

  10. The BBC  has various items on the evolution of man. –

    Is that Tim Allen or Chuck Norris? With a haircut and beard trim,  he could walk down a street and no one would guess he was a different species.

    In this BBC series on geological history, Alan Titchmarsh actually did that, and was filmed walking down the street made up as a Neanderthal man.  Most people did not notice. (see the video below)

    British Isles: A Natural History

    Over eight programmes Alan Titchmarsh journeys through Britain’s natural past.  –… –
    Ice Age – Programme 3
    Alan gets under the skin of the much misunderstood Neanderthal man, examines relics from the past and discovers that an ice sheet covering most of Britain stopped at London’s Finchley Road tube station.

    The excellent video is here:-

    It is 48 minutes long but the Neanderthal section starts at 30 minutes and shows him being made up to look Neanderthal.  He walks down the street at about 36 minutes.

  11. Thanks for that link.  I just watched the whole show. I wish I’d seen it before now though.  I toured through the Scottish Highlands this past July and I could’ve put that information to good use. I’m going to watch the whole series.  I’d just love to go on a field trip on that boat and collect a few mammoth  femurs and tusks, wouldn’t you?! The Neanderthal facial features segment was fun.  I guess he really was pretty much unnoticed. This just adds to my feeling that there would be no reason why H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis wouldn’t breed in together, even though the genetic evidence is quite solidly against me.

  12. One cannot but wonder what a photo of the village of Mettman football team would look like. I have a close friend from there, and it could well be his photo. (Sorry, George, but it’s true.) While hardly documentable evidence, it leans in the direction of the “genes absorbed” rather than “genes wiped out” theory as to what finally happened to the Neanderthals.

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