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The Neandertals: Changing the Image of Mankind

Authors:
194
Evolutionary
Anthropology
ARTICLES
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should be asked to produce the allo-
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by
the
data of Figures
1
and
2,
both the slopes
and
intercepts. After
all,
the theory
dis-
cussed here does just that (and
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Neandertals: Images
of
Ourselves
ERIK TRINKAUS AND PAT SHIPMAN
*-
During the last
two
decades, paleoanthropology has focused increasingly on the
global issue
of
modern human origins, and a preeminent
part
of that process has
concerned the fate of the Neandertals
of
the northwestern Old World. Not
so
long
ago, working on the origins
of
modern humans was a niche cloaked in convenient
obscurity. Many human paleontologists were content to largely ignore, and thus
remained ignorant of, the hominid fossils of the later Pleistocene, an attitude parallel
to
that of Bordes regarding the Neolithic in comparison
to
the more glamorous
Paleolithic; he referred
to
the former simply as, “C’est de la merde!” However, the
Neandertals have become a topic guaranteed
to
attract attention, thus drawing in
scholars who until recently disdained interest in such basically human fossil horni-
nids. They are now willing
to
direct their students’ and even their own research
toward late archaic humans (such as Neandertals) and early modem humans in
whatever portion of the Old World
is
most
readily available.
This trend is a mixed blessing to the
small number of scientists who cut
their paleontological teeth on the late
Middle and Late Pleistocene hominid
fossil record when it was an unpopular
topic. These scholars saw in those re-
Erik Trinkaus is a Professor of Anthro-
pology
at
the University of New Mexico,
Albuquerque, New Mexico, and an
Associate of the Laboratoire d’Anthro-
pologie, Universite de Bordeaux
I,
Talence,
France. His research focuses on biological
and behavioral interpretations of later
Pleistocene human fossils. Pat Shiprnan is
an Associate Professor of Cell Biology and
Anatomy, Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.
She spends most of her time writing on
anthropological subjects for the public.
Key words: Paleoanthropology, Neandertals,
history of science
mains the potential to test interesting
phylogenetic and evolutionary biology
questions in an atmosphere in which
the lack of intense competition and
general interest made it possible to
discuss disagreements cheerfully and
even to collaborate with those holding
opposing views. The recent renewed
interest in the evolution
of
later Pleis-
tocene humans has indeed generated
more input of ideas and resources into
long-standing and relatively intracta-
ble questions. The shift of attention
has also generated
so
many interna-
tional symposia and edited vol~mes~-~~
as
to inhibit the primary research pro-
ductivity of those who attend and con-
tribute.
Most
of
all, it has brought into focus
an issue that has been with
us
since the
19th century, an issue that dominates
much of human paleontology and on
which all
of
us
have preconceptions. It
is an issue that addresses a more gen-
eral and
more
important point that,
au
fond,
motivates most of the research
into human origins: How
do
we define
what it means to be human, and the
inevitable corollary, to what extent are
we willing to admit into our recent an-
cestry creatures who were less human
than ourselves? The problem goes be-
yond simple phylogenetic problems
such as whether early modern hu-
mans originated in Africa, whether the
Neandertals evolved directly into
early modern Europeans, or whether
there were major biological and be-
havioral differences between the Ne-
andertals and early modern humans
in the Near East.
If
we are to emerge successfully (in
a scientific sense) from the current
controversies regarding modern hu-
man origins, we must gain some per-
spective on the ways in which we
approach this fundamental question.
This is not the appropriate forum
€or
the
nearly impossible task of conducting a
thorough
analysis
of
the collective social
psychology
of
the paleoanthropologi-
cal community and its diverse cultural
and intellectual milieus. We can only
hope that the review offered here of
the history
of
discoveries and interpre-
ARTlCL
E5
Evolutionary
Anthropology
195
tations of the Neandertal fossils and
their role in changing views on human
ancestry, will provide a more accessi-
ble path to insight.
This paper is derived in large part
from our book
The
Neandertals:
Changing
the
Image
of
Mankind.14
His-
torical issues and events are not refer-
enced here.
For
complete references
and a fuller discussion, consult
Trinkaus and Shipman,I4 Spencer,
15,16
Trinka~s,l~-’~ RadovEiC,2O Cohen and
Hublin,” and Blanckaert et al.22
THE EMERGENCE
OF
THE
NEANDERTALS
In our consciousness, the Neander-
tals are as much children of the 19th
century as they were occupants
of
Europe and western Asia during the
earlier Late Pleistocene. It was during
the 19th century that the idea of evo-
lution reached its first maturity,
through the efforts
of
Lamarck and
Geoffroy St. Hilaire, andlater Wallace,
Darwin, Schaaffhausen, Broca, and
Huxley. The battle was fought against
influential
creationistskatastrophists
such
as
Buckland and Cuvier and
against biologists such as Virchow
who believed in a predictable and
static world. Evolutionary ideas
gradually won over skeptics such as
Lye11 and thoroughly absorbed roman-
tics such as Haeckel. Throughout the
19th century, evolution remained
closely associated with the idea
of
pro-
gress, of creatures following inevitable
paths to betterment through their
own efforts and will or as a result of
the vagaries of their place in nature.
Evolutionary ideas were part of the
transformation of western society
from an established social order en-
dorsed by
a
theocracy into a sort of a
meritocracy. Visible in the cultural
evolutionary schemes of Tylor and
Morgan, this way of thinking spilled
over into biology (as evolution per se)
and human biology (or anthropology,
as physical/biological anthropology
was then known).
During the 19th century, the succes-
sion of paleontological faunas was
also deduced. Faunal composition be-
came established as a means of iden-
tifying the geological phases that now
punctuate a more refined and radi-
ometrically dated framework. The
growing archeological record of hu-
Figure
1.
Anonymous Neandertal reconstruction from an
1873
Harper’s
Week/)’,%
showing a Ne-
andertal couple as the archetypical Savage
of
the later 19th century
man activity through the Quaternary
was integrated into the later phases of
that geological sequence. As early as
1797
Frere at Hoxne-followed by
MacEnery at Kent’s Cavern in 1825-
In
our
consciousness,
the Neandertals are as
much children
of
the
19th
century
as
they
were occupants
of
Europe and western
Asia during the earlier
late Pleistocene.
~
discovered artifacts of unquestionable
human manufacture associated with
the remains
of
Quaternary animals.
Yet it took the overly imaginative
French customs agent, Boucher de
Perthes, to establish in the late
1840s
that there were indeed authentic tools
associated with extinct Pleistocene
faunas in Europe. Even then Boucher
de Perthes’ claims were regarded as
dubious until he earned the support of
a
former sceptic, Rigollot.
The existence of ancient and non-
modern humans remained problem-
atic through the first half of the 19th
century. Remains of a Pleistocene hu-
man had been discovered, but misin-
terpreted, by Buckland at Paviland in
1823.
A
Neandertal was first found at
Engis in 1829 by Schmerling, who at
least recognized that it was Pleisto-
cene in age. But it was not until 1856,
when fossil human remains were dis-
covered in the Neander Valley, and
then correctly and precisely inter-
preted by Schaaffhausen, that there
was a glimmer
of
acceptance that hu-
mans were indeed ancient and may
well have descended
from
something
rather primitive. Ironically, the an-
nouncement of the Neandertal fossil
met with the greatest opposition in its
homeland, Germany, where Virchow
was already positioned to reject evolu-
tion and especially the evolution of
humans. In France and Britain, seri-
ous
consideration of the Neandertal
fossils was delayed until the 1860s, by
which time significant segments of
the intellectual communities, led by
Darwin and Huxley
in
Britain and
Broca in France, had accepted human
evolution implicitly, if with some res-
ervations.
As
Br~ca~~ eloquently
stated in
1870,
reflecting both his evo-
lutionary stance and his belief
in
pro-
gress,
“I
would rather be a perfected
196
Evolutionary
Anthropology
ARTIKL
ES
ape than a degenerated Adam.” Thus
the main issue was whether the Nean-
dertal remains, plus the soon-to-be-
announced fossils from Forbes‘
Quarry in Gibraltar
(1
865)
and La
Naulette in Belgium
(1
866),
were suf-
ficiently distinct
from
ourselves to
provide evidence of such evolution.
In
1864
King24 felt confident in as-
signing the Neandertal fossil to a sepa-
rate species,
Homo
neanderthalensis,
on the basis
of
a phrenological consid-
eration of its calotte as testimony to its
“brute benightedness.” In
the
same
decade, an international commission
was convoked to decide
on
the antiq-
uity
of
the scrappy, modern human
mandible from Moulin Quignon,
which Boucher
de
Perthes wrongly
identified
as
the manufacturer of the
associated bifaces. Only a few scholars
were willing to accept the specimens
from Neandertal, Forbes’ Quarry, and
La Naulette as evidence
of
a truly dis-
tinct species of archaic humans; most
combined them with the growing Pa-
leolithic archeological record to repre-
sent merely a more primitive stage of
human cultural and racial evolution
than was currently known. In Mor-
gan’s terms, Neandertals were simply
representatives of an earlier phase
of
the Period
of
Savagery (Fig.
1).
What would prove
to
be historically
one
of
the more important discoveries
of fossil human remains arrived into
this intellectual context: the discovery
at Spy in
1886
of Neandertal skeletons
clearly associated with Pleistocene
fauna and Middle Paleolithic tools.
These specimens, probably burials,
convinced all but the most extreme
anti-evolutionary diehards
of
the ex-
istence
of
archaic humans in a period
that predated modern humans, and
established, once and for all, that there
was fossil evidence for significant hu-
man biological evolution.
Although Fraipont and Lohest iden-
tified these remains as ancestral hu-
mans, they nonetheless described
them as generally primitive, with
a
stooped posture and habitually bent
knees (Fig.
2).
Given the popular belief
in the inevitability of progress in the
19th century, this image posed no con-
tradictions. The same model, in up-
dated versions, was perpetuated by
Manouvrier, Schwalbe, and Gor-
janovik-Kramberger through the turn
Figure
2.
Sketch
of
a
reconstructed
Spy
Neon-
dertal,
done
by
Lohest
in
1886.
Courtesy
of
A.
Leguebe.
of
the century and was revived and re-
fined by HrdliEka in the 1920s. Nean-
dertals simply fit into a paradigm
of
human self-betterment, embedded in
some vague form of orthogenesis.
They embodied the liberal ideals of
where we had been and where we
should be going.
THE EXPULSION
OF
THE
N
E
AN
D
ERTALS
At the end of the first decade of the
20th century, as the forces that led
to
World War I were gathering strength,
two paleontologists-Keith in Britain
and Boule in France-set out to
cleanse modern human ancestry of
the brutish Neandertals. Their efforts
were semi-independent (Boule having
some influence on Keith) and the re-
sults were the same, even if their tac-
tics were different.
Boule based his conclusions largely
on the spectacular fossils from La
Chapelle-aux-Saints (discovered in
1908) and
La
Ferrassie (discovered in
1909 and 1910), plus those from Ne-
andertal and Spy. He strove primarily
to reject the Neandertals from modern
human ancestry, hence opening the
way for contemporaneous or older
(but essentially unknown) human
fos-
sils of more modern aspect to serve as
our ancestors. Fully cognizant of the
pathological lesions on the La
Chapelle-aux-Saints skeleton, Boule
used its normal portions supple-
mented by the other skeletons at his
disposal to elaborate on the image
of
apishness already portrayed
by
Frai-
pont and Lohest. Bode built his now
classic image of the semi-human
Ne-
andertal (Fig.
3)
by ignoring evidence
to the contrary which had been pro-
vided by Charles, Cunningham, Le-
boucq, Martin, and Manouvrier.
Whereas such a reconstruction would
have
fit
most late 19th centuryprecon-
ceptions
of
an ancient human ances-
tors, Boule’s reconstruction was the
chief weapon used in expelling the Ne-
andertals from modern human ances-
try. He was more than happy to have
primitive creatures in our ancestry
but, please, not
so
recently
at
the later
Pleistocene!
Keith provided what Boule lacked:
sufficiently modern human remains
of apparent antiquity. He resurrected
a rogue’s gallery
of
questionably an-
cient modern human fossils, includ-
ing those from Ipswich, Galley Hill,
and even Moulin Quignon. And, what-
ever his role in the famous forgery,
Keith earnestly embraced the Pilt-
down remains as impeccable support
for his claims
of
an ancient, sapient
human lineage.
Despite the readily apparent flaws
in Boule’s and Keith’s arguments-
many
of
which were recognizable
even in the
early
20th century-few
objected to and most enthusiastically
embraced their central thesis. The
consensus was simply that modern
humanity was
too
special to have
evolved from something anatomically
(and, by inference, mentally and be-
haviorally) primitive if that form had
lived
as
recently as the Late Pleisto-
cene. In France, this view was explic-
itly couched as a rejection
of
the
ARTICLES
Evolutionary
Anthropology
197
progressive ideas
of
Manouvrier and
de Mortillet of the Ecole d’Anthro-
pologie. Elsewhere, the sociopolitical
context of the acceptance of the Boule-
Keith thesis is less transparent. In any
case, it represented a reaction against
the liberal views of the 19th century, a
retreat
to
a more secure world in
which things that
should be
have long
since been.
This pre-Sapiens view was clearly
very attractive. With few exceptions-
HrdliEka being the most notable-the
anthropological community eagerly
adopted the views
of
Boule and Keith
and perpetuated them into the mid-
20th century. New fossils and occa-
sional new analyses refined or
corrected details in their schemes, but
there was little wholesale reinterpreta-
tion. Keith described new fossils from
Kabwe, Zuttiyeh, and later Tabun and
Skhul, but Boule saw little need
to
do
so.
Both
of
them functioned as judge
and jury on matters regarding human
paleontology, wielding tremendous
authority through successive editions
of
L’Anthropologie,
Les
Hommes
Fos-
siles,
and
The Antiquity
of
Man.
Their
pronouncements went largely unchal-
lenged, because most were comfort-
able with their general premises and
uncomfortable with the idea that our
recent ancestors might have been as
primitive as the Neandertals.
THE RENAISSANCE
OF
THE
N EAN DERTALS
If the political problems that led to
World War
I
rendered attractive a re-
treat to the security
of
a pre-Sapiens
view
of
human ancestry, the depres-
sion and the early phases
of
World
War I1 induced another reconsidera-
tion
of
the nature of the Neandertals.
True, the growing samples of
Australo-
pithecus
from South Africa and
of
H.
erectus
from eastern Asia, combined
with new Middle and Late Pleistocene
human remains from
Europe
and the
Near East, made simplistic pre-Sapi-
ens schemes harder to maintain. Yet,
Austrulopithecus
was still generally
dismissed as an unusual ape, and the
seminal monographs on the Zhouk-
oudian and Sangiran
H.
erectus
re-
mains were not disseminated until
after the war. Nonetheless, things be-
gan to change.
In
1938
Kleinschmidt seriously
Figure
3.
1909
reconstruction
of
the La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neandertal
by
Kupka published in
L’lllusfrafion.26
based explicitly
on
the study
of
the
specimen
by
Boule.
questioned Bode’s postural recon-
struction, the first scientist to do
so
since Schwalbein
1914.
In
1939,
Coon
published an unforgettable drawing of
a Neandertal (Fig.
4),
bathed, shaved,
and suitably attired in a business suit,
emphasizing the similarities to mod-
ern humans. In that same year, a car-
nivore-gnawed human cranium was
discovered lying on the surface
of
a
Late Pleistocene hyena den in the
Grotta Guattari. The find, and failure
to recognize the hyena den, inspired
Blanc to create an elaborate scenario
of
Neandertal life (and death) featur-
ing ritual cannibalism and spiritual-
ism. The “brute benightedness” of the
Neandertals was fading rapidly. All
that remained to prepare for their re-
birth was for the Neandertals to be in-
cluded once again in
H.
sapiens
and
for the reconstruction
of
their posture
as
stooped and shuffling to
be
for-
mally rejected.
Both events occurred during the
1950s. The reintegration of the Nean-
198
Evolutionary
Anthropology
ARTICLES
Figure
4 A
re-reconstructed Neandertal, pub-
lished
by
Coon27
In
1939
to
illustrate the influ-
ence
of
clothing
on
our
perceptions
of
human
variation
dertals into our species was per-
formed primarily by nonanthro-
pological evolutionary biologists,
Dobzhansky and Mayr. They used neo-
Darwinian evolutionary theory rather
than the phrenology
of
King to make
their taxonomic assessment, but like
King they still neglected any serious
consideration of the fossil evidence.
The postural rehabilitation occurred
between
1955
and 1957 as Aram-
bourg, Patte, Toerien, Straus, and
Cave, largely independently, con-
verged on the conclusion that Boule
had chosen to deny: that Neandertals
were fully upright, capable walkers.
With these elements in place, the time
was ripe for the Neandertals to be re-
born.
Admittedly, few scholars were will-
ing to accept the Neandertals into the
direct line of modern human ancestry;
particular objection was raised to the
morphologically extreme specimens
from western Europe. But a growing
host of non-European fossils of ar-
chaic humans, from the Late and Mid-
dle Pleistocene, provided convenient
and acceptable non-Neandertal ances-
tors for modern humans. The accep-
tance
of
H.
erectus
and even
Australopithecus
as remote human an-
cestors eased the process of restoring
Neandertals into the human fold, as
did the ample evidence of human bes-
tiality and brutishness provided by
World War
11.
The behavioral horrors
~~
made it psychologically more plausi-
ble to accept physically archaic hu-
mans among our not-so-remote
ancestors. Yet there was interesting
twist here on the 19th century view
that the Neandertals were Savages;
they were no longer savage.
As
the centenary of the discovery at
the Neander Tal passed, Neandertals
were being transformed into modern
humans in archaic bodies. Not only
could they walk and talk like
us,
but
they shared our spirituality (as re-
flected in their burials and mortuary
rituals), our caring side (as shown in
the survival of injured individuals like
those from La Chapelle-aux-Saints
and Shanidar), our nastiness (as at-
tested to by traumatic injuries during
life and cannibalistic feasts), and our
intelligence (as evidenced by their
large brains and the complexity of
their lithic technology). They were im-
ages of ourselves, lacking only our re-
duced faces and feeble limbs, waiting
for anatomical evolution to catch up
with behavioral advances. The culmi-
nation of this trend of thought was the
identification in the late 1960s of Ne-
andertals
as
“the first flower people.”
An
interesting shift in anthropologi-
cal attention occurred about this time.
The Late Pleistocene was left behind,
and Pliocene and initial Pleistocene
fossils from Africa became the center
of
intensive research. What caused
this shift
of
focus? It was not merely
the impressive discoveries
of
remains
of
Austrabpithecus
and early
Homo,
for these were rarely as complete as
those of the Neandertals from the lat-
ter’s first recognition. Heated debates
over the number
of
species and the va-
lidity and behavior of
H.
habilis
cre-
ated interest and attention. Yet the
wholesale intellectual abandonment
of the Neandertals had not occurred in
the
1940s,
when equally spectacular
H.
erectus
remains were emerging
from eastern Asia. Were Dart and the
Leakeys simply more charismatic
than Weidenreich and von Koenig-
swald had been?
More probably, the shift
of
atten-
tion followed the migrating percep
tion
of
when humans really became
human. This was associated with
a
persistent uncomfortableness with
being derived from anything much
less human than ourselves. In the
1940s,
the Neandertals were still seen
as very primitive, contrasting with
modern humans whowerestillseenas
something very special. By the
1960s, humanness-albeit in ar-
chaic bodies-had been extended
back through the Middle Pleisto-
cene. The origins
of
ourselves, or
of
what was perceived as most impor-
tant about ourselves, was thus pushed
back to the earliest Pleistocene
or
even the Pliocene. The real issues
of
human evolution seemed to reside
there, not with the Neandertals. This
completed the transformation of the
pre-Sapiens view from an anatomical
basis to a behavioral one.
THE
RESURRECTION
OF
THE
NEAN
DERTALS
In this context, a new trend of Ne-
andertal studies was quietly ignited.
Out of the limelight, researchers
struggled with ever more abundant
fossils to define clearly who were the
Neandertals and their temporal and
spatial neighbors. With increasing
precision, scholars investigated the
Neandertals’ similarities to and differ-
ences from early and recent modern
humans of Europe and the Near East.
There was also a growth in
a
trend
started by Weidenreich, who had seen
the Neandertals as but
a
single, re-
gional representative of late archaic
humans; the origins of modern hu-
mans was seen as
a
phenomenon that
occurred across the Old World. Qui-
etly started in the early
1970s,
this
trend fluoresced through the mid-
1980s.
The resultant insights into the Ne-
andertals revealed that their overall
anatomical pattern, and that
of
other
late archaic humans, bore witness to
behavior significantly different
from
our own. Kinesiological analyses and
measures of cranial capacity and
brain development suggested that the
Neandertals were capable of the full
range of behavior typical of modern
humans. Yet, their bodies had obvi-
ously been used far more strenuously
than ours. The skeletal hypertrophy
and level of pathological lesions were
such as to indicate an habitual effort
to perform tasks by brute force and
stamina, with daily stresses that
matched the highest levels known
for
modern humans. There were even
ARTICLES
Evolutionary Anthropology
199
hints of contrasts in growth rates, re-
productive patterns, and landscape
use-features that aligned the Nean-
dertals more closely with earlier
Homo
than with modern humans.
This positioned the Neandertals as the
most recent representatives of a long
line
of
archaic
Homo
ancestors. Could
these Neandertals have been
so
differ-
ent from ourselves, and if
so,
what
might that imply?
In the later
1980s,
research on
hominids from the Pliocene and early
Pleistocene began to question the hu-
manness ofAustralopithecus and early
Homo.
The cozy models
of
Oldowan
home bases were dismantled by ta-
phonomic and paleoecological stud-
ies. Analysis of the fossils raised
questions about whether
Australo-
pithecus
or even early
Homo
pos-
sessed such human hallmarks
as
a
prolonged developmental period. The
improved richness of the fossil record,
the recognition that
H.
habilis repre-
sents at least two and probably three
species
of
early hominid, and the lack
of an exclusive association between
any one hominid species and early
tools, made models of a single, cul-
ture-bearing lineage untenable. The
result was a reduction in the intellec-
tual sex appeal of early hominid pale-
ontology.
As
the earliest hominids
began to seem less human, opinion
swung to the idea that the develop
ment
of
those precious human hall-
marks must have emerged more
recently-perhaps in tandem with the
origins of modern humans. In short, if
the pivotal problem in human evolu-
tionary studies is to capture the origin
of humanness, then the Pliocene and
earliest Pleistocene were beginning to
look less and less attractive as a hunt-
ing ground. The Late Pleistocene
might well prove more fertile.
THE
RESOLUTION
OF
THE
NEAND
ERTALS
The current debate on the origins of
modern humans has emerged from
this background. More than a century
of
investigation into the place of the
Neandertals in our ancestry might be
expected to allow some resolution of
ongoing issues, or at least a general
consensus on their overall signifi-
cance for modern human origins. In
contrast, current phylogenetic posi-
tions have become highly polarized,
primarily into the extreme positions
of Regional Continuity versus Re-
placement.28-33 Although this polari-
zation has been fostered by media
attention, it has been maintained by
both
a
perceived testability
of
the ex-
treme positions and a persistent ten-
dency of the paleontological
adversaries to attribute polar posi-
tions to each other and to more casual
~
As
the
earliest hominids
began to seem less
human, opinion swung
to the idea that the
development
of
those
precious human
hallmarks must have
emerged more
recently-perhaps in
tandem with the origins
of
modern humans.
participants in the debate, most
of
whom support intermediate posi-
A
little distance, however, shows
that the apparent unresolvability of
these debates revolves chiefly around
three deeper dichotomies within hu-
man paleontology, dichotomies that
are interrelated and ultimately are
more important than whether the Ne-
andertals contributed to the gene
pools of later populations.
The first dichotomy contrasts two
approaches: the traditional morpho-
typological one and the more com-
plex, population biology-based one.
Morpho-typological approaches strive
to characterize the morphology of pa-
leontologically defined samples.
Usu-
ally only the few complete specimens
are employed and/or
a
restricted
ana-
tomical region is considered. This
leads to assessments
of
the degrees of
similarity of the samples, performed
either phenetically
or
cladistically. On
that basis, phylogenetic statements
are made regarding the origins of
modern humans. Since humans
clearly changed morphologically
tions.
1429.3639
through the Late Pleistocene, this ap-
proach tends to emphasize differences
betweenentities (e.g., species, popula-
tions or samples). It
also
produces tan-
gible results
-
a most parsimonious
answer-even if only isolated speci-
mens are employed.
In contrast, population biology ap-
proaches emphasize the temporal and
spatial fluidity of populations and re-
gional lineages within species. They
focus on variation within and between
samples, clinal patterns in time and
space, gene flow, fluctuating distribu-
tions of morphological characters,
and the effects of demographic insta-
bility. The advantage of such ap-
proaches is that they are likely to be
far
more realistic, given the nature of
variation and evolution within a
spe-
cies, particularly when the focal
spe-
cies is as widely dispersed and mobile
as
H.
supiens. Unfortunately, popula-
tion approaches are also more diffi-
cult to apply to the fossil record.
Sample sizes for Pleistocene hominids
are small and thus hinder attempts to
assess degrees of within- and between-
group variation. Application
of
such
approaches demands that the
mor-
phological traits be carefully selected
and defined to reflect the underlying
genotype. It also necessitates a con-
stant appreciation of probable pat-
terns of variation, requiring the
selection of (presumably) appropriate
models from the modern world.
The second dichotomy concerns the
geographical side of modern human
origins. Can it be understood in terms
of
a single origin, marking the appear-
ance of an early modern human popu-
lation ancestral to all subsequent
human populations? Or was there a
diffuse emergence of the genetic vari-
ation that lies at the base of modern
human biology out of an already wide-
spread and varied ancestral group?
Proponents of the single origin model
would argue that the genetic under-
pinning of the total morphological
pattern
of
modern humans
is
suffi-
ciently unique to have arisen only
once. This implies a single, localized
region
of
origin and a single ancestral
population
of
archaic humans. Where
that population was and which fossil
sample might represent it are secon-
dary issues. The presumed selective
advantage of that modern genotype
200
Evolutionary
Anthropology
ARTICLES
would have ensured its spread across
the Old World, with the archaic to
early modern transition probably oc-
curring relatively rapidly outside of
the region of origin. The single origin
model tends to be congruent with
a
morpho-typological approach, but it
is by no means invariably paired with
it. In contrast, adherents of the diffuse
emergence model maintain that the
genetic patterns of modern humans
arose, piecemeal through mutation
andfor recombination, in diverse re-
gional lineages of late archaic hu-
mans. The full complement of modern
human traits emerged
as
a
result of
gene flow between these different
groups. Accordingly, the search for
a
single ancestral population of modern
humans is
a
fool’s errand, doomed to
failure. This model would make no
a
priori assumptions about the rate of
change associated with modern hu-
man origins. Also, given its emphasis
on variation and gene flow,
a
diffuse
emergence model tends to be favored
by those who prefer an approach
based on population biology.
A
final dichotomy concerns differ-
ent expectations about the amount of
gene flow between late archaic and
early modern human populations. In
morpho-typological analyses, gene
flow is usually assumed to be trivial,
since it is conceptually difficult to in-
corporate gene flow into
a
model in
which variation is not the primary ba-
sis
of
analysis. In the diffuse emer-
gence model, gene flow would be
important before, during, and after
the transition to modernity, although
proponents disagree about whether
gene flow increased at the time of
modern human emergence. Both the
single origin model and the popula-
tion biology approach can accommo-
date little or no gene flow between
a
spreading early modern human gene
pool and regional late archaic ones, or
they can incorporate major amounts
of
gene flow between neighboring
groups of these humans.
Related to the issue of levels of gene
flow, and hence degrees of regional
continuity between late archaic and
early modern humans, is the identifi-
cation of regional morphological
characters. All paleontologically
based discussions of modern human
origins must determine whether there
are indeed regional features that con-
tinue within geographical areas across
the transition. In a morpho-typologi-
cal approach, this problem is rela-
tively simple; it consists primarily of
determining whether
a
feature is
uniquely, or primarily, present in one
region and whether it continues
across the transition. In
a
population
biology approach, the issue is far more
complex. Regional features can be
identified or, more appropriately, the
frequency distributions of constella-
tions of traits can be assessed and then
examined for continuity through time.
Yet, within widespread and diverse
species, most trait complexes have
mosaic frequency distributions in
space and time; this is less true of eco-
geographically patterned complexes,
but it still applies to them within eco-
logical zones. It therefore becomes
difficult to determine whether any fea-
tures or complexes are indeed re-
gional,
a
task made even harder by
small samples sizes.
All three of these dichotomies re-
volve around the degree to which
modern humans are perceived
as
unique: How special are we? At one
extreme,
a
morpho-typological analy-
sis, encompassing
a
single origin, will
postulate
a
major biological and be-
havioral disconformity between ar-
chaic and modern humans. At the
other extreme,
a
population biology
approach favoring a diffuse emer-
gence fits best with
a
slow and gradual
shift in cultural and anatomical pat-
terns,
as
genetic patterns emerge and
merge across groups. The Neandertals
play different roles in these contrast-
ing scenarios. In neither case, how-
ever, is it necessary to invoke modern
human descent from behaviorally ar-
chaic Neandertals: If Neandertals are
viewed
as
behaviorally archaic, they
are
also
an evolutionary dead end; if
Neandertals are perceived
as
behav-
iorally modern-r
as
modern as their
anatomically modern contemporar-
ies-then they are
also
full
partici-
pants in modern human ancestry.
However, these are not the only pos-
sible permutations
of
positions on
these theoretical dichotomies. For ex-
ample, a single origin might
also
in-
corporate extensive gene flow
between regional populations of late
archaic and early modern humans
outside of the area of origin. Similarly,
belief in extensive gene flow around
the time of modern human emergence
does not negate the possibility of ma-
jor adaptive shifts and changes in ana-
tomical patterns between archaic and
modern groups, Indeed, such a syn-
thesis would explain both the extent of
anatomical change that renders mod-
ern human emergence paleontologi-
cally recognizable and the more
recent human “racial” variation
among regional groups. Such
a
sce-
nario would incorporate the relatively
rapid spread
of
selectively advanta-
geous traits combined with regional
continuity of neutral or ecogeographi-
cally patterned characteristics.
The point is not to identify one of
the possible permutations of these
paired issues as the best solution to
questions about modern human ori-
gins or recent human variation. The
point is that our perception of theplzy-
logenetic
and
anatomical
origins of
modern humans is frequently linked
to our beliefs about the
behavioral
ori-
gin of modern humans, andvice versa.
Such links can be traced throughout
most of the paleoanthropological re-
search
of
the 20th century. This pat-
tern of thought is supplemented by
shifting interest between later and
earlier phases
of
hominid evolution in
response to changing ideas
as
to when
people “just like us” first appeared.
The history of paleoanthropology
shows that there is
a
real tendency to
see the human fossil record predomi-
nately in terms of what is important
to
us,
rather than in terms of what was
important to the biological entities we
call extinct hominids. Consequently,
much of the value of the study of
hominid fossils,
as
an anatomical and
behavioral outgroup for under-
standing ourselves, is lost
as
long as
this tendency persists.
Shifting views and shifting fashions
of thought have thus characterized
the study of the Neandertals and mod-
ern human origins through the last
century and
a
half, since the Neander-
tals first became a near-empty vessel
in which anthropologists could mix
the elixirs of their preconceptions. As
Hooton40 observed
of
fossil speci-
mens, and might have said of theories
about them,
ARTICLES
Evolutionary
Anthropology
201
In
order
to
survive, an animal must
be
born
into
a favoring
or
at
least
toler-
ant environment. Similarly, in order to
achieve preservation and recognition,
a
specimen
of
fossil
man must be discov-
ercd in intelligence, attested by scien-
tific knowledge, and interpreted by
evolutionary experience. These rigorous
prerequisites have undoubtedly caused
many still-births in human paleontology
and
are
partly responsible
for
the high
infant mortality
of
discoveries
of
ge-
ologically ancient man.
Despite a major change from the
19th century emphasis on progress
and betterment
to
the 20th century
emphasis on isolating ourselves from
all but our most remote near-human
ancestors, the themes in Neandertal
studies have remained relatively con-
stant.
Lest our thesis be misunderstood,
we wish to assert that our view of pa-
leoanthropology is not, ultimately, a
deconstructionist one. Although there
can be no doubt that social, religious,
professional, and personal factors
have influenced scientists’ views and
interpretations, there can also be no
question that a more rigorous
and
ac-
curate understanding of the Neander-
tals has emerged over time. None of
that interpretation has been fact-free
and wholly subject to personal eccen-
tricity. Indeed, the most influential hy-
potheses have been not only grounded
in paleontological data but also sub-
jected
to
further, factual testing with
new specimens, techniques, and per-
spectives. This process has occasion-
ally undermined theories that were
deeply embedded in contemporary
beliefs. Yet there is always a danger
that one interpretation may be substi-
tuted for another, in the guise of scien-
tific progress, when the underlying
motivation derives not
from
scientific
advancement but from the changing
of
a priori perceptions about ourselves
and our past.
Thus, we need to remember that the
Neandertals were Neandertals and not
simply distorted images
of
ourselves.
Only by freeing ourselves from an ego-
centric view will we come to under-
stand prehistoric and extinct
evolutionary entities like the Neander-
tals. And only through that will we,
perhaps, come to understand some-
thing of ourselves.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We would like to thank the many
individuals who have shared their
thoughts, insights and anecdotes re-
garding the history
of
human paleon-
tology and the current status
of
the
field. The perspective here, however,
remains ours.
A.
Leguebe kindly fur-
nished the Lohest reconstruction
of
the Spy Neandertal, and
K.M.
Trinkaus provided helpful comments
on earlier versions
of
this paper.
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Inc.
... Neanderthals have long fascinated scientists and historians, seemingly occupying a liminal space between human and nonhuman (Corbey 2005;Corbey and Theunissen 1995). The fossilized bones of Neanderthals have been examined by scientists longer than any other prehistoric human and, indeed, much has been written about the history of these objects (Tattersall 1995(Tattersall , 2015Drell 2000;Spencer 1984;Trinkaus and Shipman 1993b;Schmitz and Thissen 2000;Reader 2011;Sommer 2007;Wiber 2006;Haraway 1989;Corbey and Roebroeks 2001;Delisle 2007). Yet, works that discuss the Neanderthal image have not taken seriously the Feldhofer specimen's role-or, indeed, the role of any Neanderthal fossil from the nineteenth century-in the construction of the creatures' brutish image, instead focusing on the conception beginning with Boule. ...
... The discussion of race in the context of this paper is somewhat vague, just as it was often unclear in nineteenth and twentieth century naturalists' own minds. Here, race refers more closely to variety of human-but not a variety that strayed so far from the norm as to be labeled a separate species other than Homo sapiens. 2 In this context, the Feldhofer skeleton is generally considered interesting only insofar as it failed to be interpreted in an evolutionary framework, despite its close contemporaneity with Charles Darwin's publication of On the Origin of Species (Drell 2000;Trinkaus and Shipman 1993b). It was merely part of nineteenth-century naturalists' "tendency to comfortably integrate most … human fossils at the base of, or within the history of, the living varieties of humankind" (Bowler 1986, p. 546). ...
... A talented paleontologist, the story goes, made a massive mistake in his misinterpretation of a skeleton, dooming Neanderthals to a lowly image. This narrative appears in a wide range of literature, from popular histories to scholarly works by historians and sociologists of science (Trinkaus and Shipman 1993b;Wood 2011;Brace and Montagu 1977). Seeking explanations of Boule's mistake, scholars have attempted to explain his work by examining factors such as the social context of France, Boule's institutional setting, and his research paradigm (Hammond 1980;Hammond 1982;Van Reybrouck 2002). ...
Article
Full-text available
The extinct human relatives known as Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) have long been described as brutish and dumb. This conception is often traced to paleontologist Marcellin Boule (1861–1942), who published a detailed analysis on a Neanderthal skeleton in the early twentieth century. The conventional historical narrative claims that Boule made an error in his analysis, causing the Neanderthals to be considered brutish. This essay challenges the narrative of “Boule’s error,” arguing instead that the brutish Neanderthal concept originated much earlier in the history of Neanderthal research and was, in fact, an invention of the earliest analyses of the first specimen recognized as a Neanderthal in the mid-nineteenth century. I argue that temporally relocating this conception of Neanderthals allows for a better understanding of the interconnected nature of the study of fossil humans and the science of living human races during the nineteenth century. This new view of the brutish Neanderthal sheds light on the earliest phases of the science that became paleoanthropology, while examining the racial, cultural, and political attitudes about race and extinction that accompanied the science at that time. By inspecting the ways in which the Neanderthals’ image was a product of a particular time and place, we gain a perspective that provides a new basis for thinking about the conceptions of hominin fossil species.
... These restricted mobility, ability to perform manual tasks, and perception . Solecki (1971), and later Trinkaus and Shipman (1993), argued that he could not have survived without daily provision of food and assistance. Trinkaus and Zimmerman even commented (1982: 75) that Neanderthals 'had achieved a level of societal development in which disabled individuals were well cared for by other members of the social group' . ...
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In Hidden Depths, Professor Penny Spikins explores how our emotional connections have shaped human ancestry. Focusing on three key transitions in human origins, Professor Spikins explains how the emotional capacities of our early ancestors evolved in response to ecological changes, much like similar changes in other social mammals. For each transition, dedicated chapters examine evolutionary pressures, responses in changes in human emotional capacities and the archaeological evidence for human social behaviours. Starting from our earliest origins, in Part One, Professor Spikins explores how after two million years ago, movement of human ancestors into a new ecological niche drove new types of collaboration, including care for vulnerable members of the group. Emotional adaptations lead to cognitive changes, as new connections based on compassion, generosity, trust and inclusion also changed our relationship to material things. Part Two explores a later key transition in human emotional capacities occurring after 300,000 years ago. At this time changes in social tolerance allowed ancestors of our own species to further reach out beyond their local group and care about distant allies, making human communities resilient to environmental changes. An increasingly close relationship to animals, and even to cherished possessions, appeared at this time, and can be explained through new human vulnerabilities and ways of seeking comfort and belonging. Lastly, Part Three focuses on the contrasts in emotional dispositions arising between ourselves and our close cousins, the Neanderthals. Neanderthals are revealed as equally caring yet emotionally different humans, who might, if things had been different, have been in our place today. This new narrative breaks away from traditional views of human evolution as exceptional or as a linear progression towards a more perfect form. Instead, our evolutionary history is situated within similar processes occurring in other mammals, and explained as one in which emotions, rather than ‘intellect’, were key to our evolutionary journey. Moreover, changes in emotional capacities and dispositions are seen as part of differing pathways each bringing strengths, weaknesses and compromises. These hidden depths provide an explanation for many of the emotional sensitivities and vulnerabilities which continue to influence our world today.
... Not less strikingly is the invariance of themes, crossing different cultures [1,29] and linking different disciplines (ethology, psychopathology and anthropology). Moreover, ritual behavior is a constant tendency of every culture [141], remarkably persistent through the history of mankind [142], going back to the earliest human groups and down to Neanderthals [146,172]. Therefore, an evolutionary framework, able to explain ritual behavior in the light of its phylogenetic continuity is intriguing. Previous evolutionary models have focused on supposed highly conserved systems of our brain: for example, a specific "psychological immune system" [173], responsible to "fixed" risk-avoidance behaviors; a "security motivation system", evolved to handle the uncertainties of potential "disordering" threats [174,175]; a "Hazard-Precaution system", i.e. a specific safety-motivation system dealing with potential danger [24]. ...
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... This technological period is called the Middle Paleolithic in much of Eurasia and the Middle Stone Age in sub-Saharan Africa (see Stringer and Gamble 1993;Trinkaus and Shipman 1993;Mellars 1996;Stringer and McKie 1997;Roebroeks and Gamble 1999;McBrearty and Brooks 2000;Mellars et al. 2007;Klein 2009). We will refer to this period as the Middle Paleolithic. ...
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... It is not until 1864 that a separate taxon, Homo neanderthalensis was suggested by William King (King 1864). It is not our aim to present a detailed overview of these early debates on the find (for discussions see Trinkaus and Shipman 1993; Cartmill and Smith 2009), but, rather, to emphasize the mind-set at the time of the discoveries at Krapina. As noted by Klaatsch (cited in GorjanovićKramberger 1918), it is unclear when the debate on the age or biological significance of Neandertals would have been solved without the discovery at Krapina. ...
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In this chapter, we discuss Croatian sites that have yielded human skeletal remains from the Pleistocene. These include the well-known Neandertal localities Hušnjakovo (at Krapina) and Vindija cave, as well as the Late Upper Paleolithic hominin fossil site Šandalja II cave in Istria. The Krapina site played an important role in the historical development of paleoanthropology and is still the Neandertal site with the largest known minimum number of skeletal individuals to date. Finds from Vindija cave belong to one of the latest Neandertal groups in Europe and provide data for the study of both their behavioral, as well as biological characteristics (including genomics studies). The Šandalja II cave in Istria is the only site in Croatia with direct association of human skeletal finds and the late Paleolithic, an Epigravettian industry, providing us with data on the anatomy and behavior of the Late Paleolithic inhabitants of this region.
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