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The Neanderthal Should Be Classified As A Subspecies Of Modern Man

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The debate on Neanderthal man's place in human evolution has continued unabated since the discovery of the first Neanderthal fossil in 1856. One camp believes Neanderthal man is a human ancestor and should be classified as a subspecies of modern manÐ'--homo sapien neandertalis. The opposition argues that Neanderthal man is a distinct species, homo neandertalis, entirely separate from modern humans. This paper seeks to prove that Neanderthal man is indeed related to modern humans by looking at key elements of Neanderthal physiology, behavior, and culture.

DNA Evidence

Recent findings on the mitochondrial DNA taken from the right humerus of a Neanderthal skeleton failed to show significant similarities with the mitochondrial DNA of modern humans. According to the study, one sequence of Neanderthal DNA shows significant variances from the same sequence in moderns. From this, researchers concluded that Neanderthals diverged about 600,000 years ago to form homo neandertalis, a genetic line separate from that of the modern homo sapien sapiens. (The Washington Post, 1997)

The study, however, was based solely on DNA from one Neanderthal individual because the genetic material is scarce and difficult to extract. One individual's DNA may be an inadequate indicator of the genetic variability within an entire species. (Shipman, 2002) Until more Neanderthal genetic material becomes available, fossil evidence remains the best source of study for on Neanderthal man's physiology and culture.

Neanderthal Anatomy

Neanderthals shared key physical characteristics with modern humans. They both have the same skeletal structures. Their brains were roughly the same size in relation to their bodies. Based on their joint structures and cranial capacities, anthropologists believe that Neanderthals were capable of doing many activities that modern humans could do. (Trinkaus and Shipman, p. 412)

Proponents of the homo neandertalis argue that Neanderthal bones were much thicker. They also point out how Neanderthal limbs were shorter in relation to a stocky torso. However, the body mass of modern humans who live in colder climates also show a similar ratio. Eskimos, for example, are typically larger and have shorter limbs compared to people from warmer climates. Similarly, animals who live in cold climates have shorter tails, ears or beaks than their counterparts in warmer areas. The shortened limbs help retain body heat. (Holliday, p. 248) Instead of evidence of a different physiology, the stocky build and shorter limbs of Neanderthal man are adaptations to their arctic living conditions, an adaptation they share with modern humans.

The Neanderthal brain volume ranges from 1200 to 1750 ml, making it 100 ml larger than the average brain of a modern human. The larger Neanderthal brain can be explained by their larger physique. (Trinkaus and Shipman, p. 144) Even today, human brain size varies according to a person's body size.

Neanderthal Culture

In addition to physiology, fossil evidence also sheds light on the human-like social behavior and cultural practices of Neanderthal man.

A study of a Neanderthal skull shows flexations at the base of the skull similar to modern humans. This means that Neanderthals had a larynx situated in the same place as humans. Unlike chimpanzees, Neanderthals had the power to enunciate a full range of vowel sounds. Like modern humans, they had the physical capacity for language. (Trinkaus and Shipman, p. 356)

Neanderthal man also engaged in a number of activities that distinguish modern humans from the rest of the animal world. For example, Neanderthal remains have been unearthed in burial sites all over Eurasia. The position of the remains demonstrates that the corpses were not simply thrown into the ground. Some graves have stone tools, animal bones and flowers buried in the ground along with the remains. In Uzbekistan, the grave of a young Neanderthal boy was encircled by mountain goat bones, horns and tools. (Trinkaus and Shipman, p. 255)

The fossil evidence shows that Neanderthals had burial rituals. This suggests an awareness of an after life. Each person had an identity that was distinct, whose passing was probably met with a sense of loss.

Adult skeletons with crippling injuries were also



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