I’ve spent a few years slowly learning to spot the occasional Neanderthal like feature in “modern man”. It’s a highly speculative pastime; it is not “hard science”. I first started pondering this back in about 1965, so I’ve been at it for a while. I’ve held the belief from long before the time that we found Neanderthal genes in our modern genome. (Before we could even read DNA at all, for that matter).
My thesis was just that Europeans had some Neanderthal DNA in them and that maybe I had bit more than most.
The reason for thinking this was rather simple. I’d noticed several traits that tended to match in myself. A very high iliac crest and being lousy at throwing things, for example.
This is part of why the Neanderthals could not throw as well as Cro Magnons. They also had a ‘barrel chest’ and somewhat differently shaped shoulder blades. So if you can’t throw well, don’t twist well, have a more barrel chested body build, and great upper body strength, well, maybe it’s not a recent evolution of Cro Magnon.
Europeans and Neanderthals both have more body hair. Often you hear this phrased as Asians or Africans not having very much chest or body hair, or having only modest beards. One could just turn this around to “Europeans picked up some body hair from their Neanderthal ancestors”. I’m sure someone will point out the “Foo Manchu” moustache and Asians with beards. We’ve recently also shown some independent crossing of Neanderthals with Asians. This isn’t an ‘all or none’ deal. More of a ‘degree’. Asians are not known for their large amounts of chest hair, for example… It is also quite likely that in different crosses, different genes survived. So Asians rarely have the heavy boned barrel chested short leg build of some Europeans. One of the Neanderthal skull shape genes has been so advantageous that it is found in something like 70%+ of all modern humans. Genes move all on their own once they cross over to a new group.
OK, is there a more ‘structured’ way of looking at this? A better way to ‘train to see the modern Neanderthal’ in you and your friends and families? Yes and no. Some of it is fairly easy to show. Some more circumstantial and speculative.
We’ll start with the skull shape and how that influences the facial ‘look’. As different genes will have moved on their own after mixing, you can see any one “feature” in isolation or mixed with others. So if uncle Abraham has a real beak nose on him, remember that Neanderthals lived side by side with Cro Magnon in the middle east a bit longer than in many other areas. So what leads to that “beak”? Lets look at the skulls:
This image is from http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=105253
That article does not give attribution for the original image, but it looks like an academic creation to me. I think that as an educational use and from a likely state sponsored academic source it falls under fair use doctrine here.
First off, notice that it’s just big. Neanderthals have bigger brains than moderns. Bigger overall. Europeans also tend to be big.
The Cro style face tends to be small, in the lower half of the head, and tucked under the rounded brain case. The Neanderthal face is longer and larger, covering about 2/3 of the front of the head. Folks with long or tall faces, and what looks like a short or ‘sloping’ brow, have Neanderthal traits. But notice that the Neanderthal brain case is really just set back more. A longer more oval shaped space. So look for folks with a longer, wide but low scull. At the rear of the Neanderthal skull is a minor protrusion called the “occipital bun”. If you have a nearly flat back of the head, this isn’t you. Feel above the neck join and if it’s more of a ‘bump’, that’s an echo of the occipital bun.
Next notice the very large bone around the eyes. Both a heavy brow ridge and the heavy ridge to the eye socket edges. This leads to ‘owl eyes’. Larger more soulful eyes set in large surrounds. Often wide set. Cro Magnon have more narrow set eyes in a lighter shallower surround.
Has this interesting snippet:
Current scientific literature prefers the term “European Early Modern Humans” (or EEMH), instead of “Cro-Magnon”. The oldest definitely dated EEMH specimen with a modern and archaic (possibly Neanderthal) mosaic of traits is the Cro-Magnon Oase 1 find, which has been dated back to around 45,000 calendar years before present.
I find it fascinating evidence for the ‘blending’ thesis as well as illustrating some of the ‘definitional’ problem. An old hybrid is being called a Cro Magnon ‘mosaic’… So even the more recent Cro Magnon that blended in with Neanderthals might themselves have been partial blends already. Some day I need to find what was just before THEM in the chain… I note in passing that they, too, were built pretty strongly and had larger brains than us. Does sound like a bit of a blend already…
The earliest known remains of Cro-Magnon-like humans are radiometrically dated to 35,000 years before present.
Cro-Magnons were robustly built and powerful. The body was generally heavy and solid with a strong musculature. The forehead was straight, with slight browridges and a tall forehead. Cro-Magnons were the first humans (genus Homo) to have a prominent chin. The brain capacity was about 1,600 cc (100 cubic inches), larger than the average for modern humans.
By that 35,000 year date, there had been over 100,000 years of overlap with Neanderthals… I suspect that if you look at the Homo Erectus and / or Homo Sapiens Idaltu (who were about 1450 cc brain case) and compare them to Neanderthals, they were likely not much competition. But with some Neanderthal blend into THEM… So who knows where the robustness and brain size of Cro Magnon came from, but it was living next door to the even older Homo types…
But back to the skulls:
Next notice how the bone of the nose meets the skull. Much more ‘straight out’ in the Neanderthal. From the front, the nasal opening is wider too. These guys have a large prominent nose. No petite “button nose” here. No Asian flat between the eyes with a tiny nose nor any African nose with a flare at the nostril end, but not much near the eyes. No, this is a Real Beak of a nose. And what do we find in Europeans and folks from The Levant? Why, that Lebanese Nose is nearly legendary as is the Roman Nose and the Gallic nose and… I think you get the picture.
You can see some more of those features in a face like Edward Teller:
Note the “owl eyes” (accentuated by heavy brows) along with the prominent nose and face that covers more than the lower 1/2 of the head. In this picture you can also see the large thick fingers, heavy hand structure, complete with wide fingers and with significant hair visible on the backs of the hands.
Compare those eyes and that nose to a more Cro Magnon look:
Not a ‘pure’ example, but still illustrates the lighter brow ridge, lower nasal bridge, and that the face in on the lower 1/2 of the head.
Here is an African tribesman:
Note the lack of ‘chest hair” along with the more modern brow ridge. The nose bone exits the skull more ‘downward’. The face is ‘tucked under’ the brain case, with a high forehead.
IMHO, Anthony Quinn also shows the Neanderthal influence.
You see a lot of that look on the Iberian Peninsula and over into France. IMHO, this is not an accident. It is where the last pure Neanderthal populations existed, and where the last and possibly strongest, “blending in” happened. Oh, and that has some data to back it up.
But even before that, back at the earliest arrival of Cro Magnon, we find evidence for mixing in.
Scientists believe the jawbone of a caveman found in Romania is the oldest fossil of modern humans to be uncovered so far in Europe.
The jawbone, believed to be 34,000 to 36,000 years old, has reignited debate about whether our ancestors interbred with Neanderthals.
Other human bones, including a facial skeleton and partial brain case, were found in the same cave but have yet to be fully analysed.
Erik Trinkaus, of Washington University in St Louis, said the other bones were likely to be of the same age as the jawbone, and together they presented the first picture of what modern humans looked like when they spread into Europe.
Most of their features were similar to those of early humans whose fossils have been found at sites in Africa, the Middle East, and later in Europe. But other characteristics were more archaic, which fitted the idea that they had interbred with Neanderthals, a different species of homo sapiens then living in Europe.
“Not only is the face very large, but so are the jaws and teeth, particularly the wisdom teeth,” Professor Trinkaus said.
“In the human fossil record, you have to go back a half a million years to find a specimen that has bigger wisdom teeth.”
Early humans, or Cro-Magnon, and Neanderthals lived side by side in Europe for thousands of years, with the Neanderthals eventually dying out. Separate research challenges the idea that the reason our ancestors survived was that they were more cunning and skilled at hunting than their thick-browed neighbours.
Researchers examined more than 7200 bones and teeth from mammals recovered from a cave in south-western France that was inhabited by Neanderthals and then Cro-Magnon. Donald Grayson, also of Washington University, said this record covering 50,000 years showed the two had similar tastes for animals including reindeer, red deer and horses.
“We could detect no difference in diet, the animals they were hunting and the way they were hunting, aside from those caused by climate change,” he said.
“The idea that Neanderthals were big, dumb brutes is hard for some people to drop. Cro-Magnon created the first cave art, but late Neanderthals made body ornaments, so the depth of cognitive difference between the two is just not clear.”
Now look back up at those two skulls. Notice how the Neanderthal has 3 molars and no problems? They even have a bit of a gap behind the ‘wisdom teeth’. Plenty of room. Notice also the size of those teeth. Very large. So, you get some slightly larger teeth and a somewhat smaller jaw… Yeah, that’s gonna be a problem. (That was likely manageable up until we started eating a soft diet and our jaws shrunk even more). So folks like my wife have small jaws (and only got 2 wisdom teeth) while I had 4 wisdom teeth, two of which came in fine and two of which would have, but I ate a soft diet so they were just a bit too crowded. (One of the lowers came in about 1/2 way and got stuck).
Also note the chin. Some folks call this receding. To me it looks more like a curved face outline vs the ‘modern’ and with more of a protruding mid-face as opposed to flat. Ever notice some folks have a more protruding middle face?
Not visible in the picture is that Neanderthals have more ‘shovel’ shaped incisors. I’m one of the moderns that has them though not as pronounced. I’d always noticed that there were small ridges on them, but thought it was normal. Just this week I found out that’s a Neanderthal trait too. Cro Magnon teeth are more peg shaped. The “shovel” form is seen in some Asian and many North American Indian populations.
The highest frequencies (greater than 90%) are found amongst Asians and Native Americans and lowest amongst Europeans. Shovel shaped incisors appear in Homo erectus, suggesting that this is a very ancient trait.
As there was also some Neanderthal crossing in Asia, it’s not a big surprise to me that we find some dentition similarities in the same area. Now take a look at an Indian face (Sitting Bull, in this case) and note the nose size and shape too:
I’d speculate that the early crossings from Siberia into North America most likely had a good dose of that Neanderthal cross in it (that happened in roughly the same area where the Siberian migrations are thought to have originated). Might explain, too, how the original North American Natives were so comfortable crossing the Bearing Land Bridge during fairly severe cold weather with lots of ice and snow. A Neanderthal mix would feel right at home there… This is likely also a good time to point out the ‘cheekbone angulation’ in the comparison of the skulls above…
This particular Neanderthal tooth poster is rather extreme, but you get the idea:
With a h/t to Verity Jones, I’d point folks at this link:
Finally someone recognizing that maybe our Neanderthal ancestors were not dumb, nor killed off by ‘superior’ Cro Magnon, but ‘blended in’. They still make what I think it a mistake by thinking that Neanderthals DID “die out”. My thesis is that we are still alive and well, thank you very much. When Cro Magnon and Neanderthals mixed, the inevitable Hybrid Vigor happened. In Asia. In Europe. In The Levant. Wherever it happened. Shortly after that we had an explosion of advancement by humans. I think that is directly owed to the Hybrid Vigor that is Modern Man. Homo Sapiens. We are all hybrids, to some degree or another.
Experimental breeding of humans is considered unethical, so any evidence of heterosis in humans is derived from observational studies It has been suggested that many beneficial effects on average health, intelligence and height have resulted from an increased heterosis, in turn resulting from increased mixing of the human population such as by urbanization.
If even the very PC Wiki is willing to admit that maybe hybrid vigor is real in humans and that one person can have more performance than another… then imagine just how much the blend of Neanderthal with Cro Magnon would have experienced.
We've found (link discussed below) a cave in Iberia with skeletons that show clear mixing into the last batch of Neanderthals. Don't think that mixing went both ways? We also have the Basque language, an isolate from before Indo-European languages arrived in the area. Spoken by a people with long faces, strong noses, and large eyes… I'd also point out that in the places likely to have had the most mixing have the most wonderful Tenors.. Italian, Irish, Spanish… The Neanderthals have smaller voice boxes than Cro Magnons. Now think about singing groups… Choirs. Who has the deep rich voice? The blacks. Who make the best "top tenors"? Um, er, those folks from the Neanderthal influenced areas. So take a look at the 'Adams Apple' on males. Some folks are hard to see at all (like me), while others have 'big lumps'. An easy way to hear the Neanderthal influence in some of us.
Remember in doing this that the genes move on their own and diffuse over time. Fewer folks will have a collection of most or all of the Neanderthal traits and it's quite possible to have just one of them. So don't be surprised if you see a Neanderthal Type Face on a deep base singing white guy. Over a few million years, the best bits will be wide spread, the worst ideas lost.
As soon as Cro Magnon blended with Neanderthal, BOTH ceased to exist. We are now all part of each. "How much" is an interesting thought game, but "which parts" is more interesting. It is likely that the entire cold adapted package was picked up and selected for in Europe. White skin, light hair and eyes. Short legs and bigger chests with long strong arms. In other areas where short legs in snow would be less valuable, it might have been only the larger brain case (so you get Arabs with a very Neanderthal nose and brain case, but tiny frail hands, very non-Neanderthal ;-)
We all know someone who has the short legged barrel chested body form and a tenor scale voice, but you can also find the same body form with deeper voice. It is this blending and re-sorting that is how evolution works. How new types are made and find their niche.
It is widely accepted that Upper Palaeolithic early modern humans spread westward across Europe about 42,000 years ago, variably displacing and absorbing Neanderthal populations in the process.
However, Middle Palaeolithic, presumably Neanderthal, assemblages persisted for another 8,000 years in Iberia. It has been unclear whether these late Middle Paleolithic Iberian assemblages were made by Neanderthals, and what the nature of those humans might have been.
New research, published 8 December in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is now shedding some light on what were probably the last Neanderthals.
The research is based on a study of human fossils found during the past decade at the Sima de la Palomas, Murcia, Spain by Michael Walker, professor at Universidad de Murcia, and colleagues, and published by Michael Walker, Erik Trinkaus, professor of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues.
The human fossils from the upper levels of the Sima de las Palomas are anatomically clearly Neanderthals, and they are now securely dated to 40,000 years ago. They therefore establish the late persistence of Neanderthals in this southwestern cul-de-sac of Europe. This reinforces the conclusion that the Neanderthals were not merely swept away by advancing modern humans. The behavioural differences between these human groups must have been more subtle than the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic technological contrasts might imply.
In addition, the Palomas Neanderthals variably exhibit a series of modern human features rare or absent in earlier Neanderthals. Either they were evolving on their own towards the modern human pattern, or more likely, they had contact with early modern humans around the Pyrenees. If the latter, it implies that the persistence of the Middle Palaeolithic in Iberia was a matter of choice, and not cultural retardation.
From the Sima de las Palomas, other late Neanderthal sites, and recent discoveries of the earliest modern humans across Europe, a complex picture is emerging of shifting contact between behaviourally similar, if culturally and biologically different, human populations. We are coming to see them all more as people, flexibly making a living through the changing human and natural landscapes of the Late Pleistocene.
Genes were flowing both ways. Technologies were moving both ways. SOME of the individuals liked to continue to live in the old caves (and how many more mixed populations were NOT living in caves where the bones would be preserved?) SOME of the individuals were living outside of the caves and were likely also mixed. Eventually we learned to build caves wherever we wanted them (stone castles in Europe, anyone?) and folks stopped living in the caves.
That doesn’t mean they went extinct. Any more than that when MY ancestors left Iberia for Ireland, and later left Ireland to go to North America, eventually resulting in my Irish ancestry Niece marrying a Hispanic Guy; that her linage is going ‘extinct’ from ‘blending in’ to a flood of Mexicans into California. Why? Well, those Hispanic genes also came from Iberia…
We took different paths to get to California. One has a Spanish language background, the other Gaelic. Both now speaking English. But both have large understanding eyes, strong faces, large teeth, and some pretty decent strength. Oh, and he has a strong brow ridge with that classical Hispanic look. She has red hair to his black, but the kids are mixed. So call it Iberian ancestry shared a few thousand years ago, or perhaps some Neanderthal blend from 40,000 years ago. Nobody is ‘blending away’ in the union.
Now, or “then”…
He’s not quite as good looking as Antonio Banderas, but shares a lot of similarities. Can you pick out any Neanderthal traits in this Hispanic Heart Throb?
Wide set eyes. Strong brows and nose. Slightly angular cheek bones. Large cranium (hidden by all that hair ;-) along with a hairy chest.
Once you start looking for it, there are an immense number of ‘connections’. From Santa Clause (a harry barrel chested guy typically portrayed with strong cheeks and a tall face, short legs, etc.) to the stereotypical “mother type” shown as a bit dumpy in an apron, often too with short legs and large eyes; the clues to our cultural past are as strong as the ones in the genotypes and phenotypes. Very few of us have the idealized Tall Slim Cro Magnon type. Few of us would stand a full comparison to the old fossils (with our longer faces and strong brow ridges, our higher pitched voices, and our short legs with broad hips).
So if we are a blend, what did we get from whom?
I’ll go into this more in other posts, but my basic observations lead me to think that from Cro Magnon we did get a very important thing. Neanderthal lived in small family bands, barely tribes. They did not, near as we can tell, indulge in organized warfare or have hierarchical social structures (of much depth?). There is some evidence that the women went on hunts with the men. (Where do we see a culture of women being welcome in power? Women who fight too? Oh, yeah, those Celtic areas of Iberia and other areas with Neanderthal influence…). From Cro Magnon it looks like we got the organized army, the drive to dominance and power, to Empire, if you will. It came with some tendency for a male dominated hierarchy and with a tendency to central authority and “strong man” dominance of an empire.
That did lead to “modernity” (after a few thousand wars with hundreds of millions dead) and to living in large urban structured groups. There is some evidence that the ‘advantage’ brought with Cro Magnon was one of violence, aggression, and warfare. Along with the urge to centralized power and dominance. I think we see echos of that to this day in the struggle between the self reliance and freedom / libertarian ideals of some peoples (most strong in America via our Celtic root cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and France … all places with significant Neanderthal markers) vs the Empire style we see in places like China. (The Han Chinese came from a more southern area than where the Neanderthal / Asian crosses were thought to happen). We did learn some of the dominance and empire skills and styles (largely from Rome… who learned it from the Greeks and Egyptians), so when we ran into the American Indians (still practicing what, IMHO, was a more Neanderthal cultural style, of hunting and tribal groups with only modest warfare – some of it symbolic.) we were well equipped to dominate and absorb them.
IMHO, looked at through that lens we see something of an ongoing reflection of that original ‘absorption’. Violent socially devious Cro Magnon meets relatively peaceful and smarter, larger and stronger, but none too devious Neanderthals. After some mixing, you get some fairly devious and violent folks who have more smarts than either parent, and the ‘drive’ to use it.
The result is our long history of warfare and violence and cultural domination of our “competition”. We also got great voices for Opera, some astounding skill at things like Physics, extra musculature and a bit of insensitivity to pain, and the drive to the colonial empire era once our total technology level let us leave the local area.
Now we have “multiculturalism”. Some folks worry this will mean our being ‘absorbed’ and lost in the genetic flood. I don’t think so. I think we’re just in the process of spreading those Neanderthal genes around the rest of the world a bit more. Eventually the ‘best mix’ will come to dominance (that’s what Darwin assures). The Selfish Gene theory would assert that those genes are just finding the best path to mix in with the best available additions. We’re just along for the ride. Blacks, for example, have 10% more dense bones with muscles that make more power per pound. Add that to the Neanderthal tendency to large upper body build, you get the kind of folks we see on American Football Fields. Long body and short legs (unlike most original African body forms) with incredible strength. You get the George Foreman boxer (dashing the Great White Hope.. but folks don’t mention that a typical Bushman could not stay one round with him either…). The genes have moved to explore new grounds…
No, Neanderthals did not ‘die out’. They just ‘went walk about’ genetically speaking…