Neanderthals & Archaic Homo sapiens Early archaic H. Sapiens & later Neandertals



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Neanderthals & Archaic Homo sapiens

  • Early archaic H. Sapiens & later Neandertals

  • Middle Pleistocene evolutionary trends

  • Middle Pleistocene culture

  • The Neandertal mystery


I. Early Archaic Homo sapiens

  • Some dispersed Homo erectus evolved

  • Large variation within & between samples

  • All the specimens are classified Homo sapiens



II. Middle Pleistocene Evolution (CIRCA 400,000-125,000 y.a.)

  • Fossils exhibit a mosaic of traits (primitive & modern)

  • While the fossils from each continent differ, the physical differences are not extraordinary.

  • Common physical trends:



II. Middle Pleistocene Evolution



II. Middle Pleistocene Evolution



III A. Middle Pleistocene Culture: Tools

  • African and European archaics invent the Levallois technique for tool making.

  • Acheulian tools are still around but the Mousterian becomes more common

  • More variety in tools (burins, scrapers, etc.)

  • Regional variety, no particular “types”



III A. Mousterian

  • Named after

  • le Moustier, France

  • Flake-based

  • Pressure flaking

  • Retouching common



III B. Middle Pleistocene Culture: Dwellings

  • Definitive dwellings with fire show for the first time by 400 kya

  • Terra Amata and Mezin



III C. Middle Pleistocene Culture: Hunting

  • Many early H. sapiens probably drove large animals off cliffs.

  • Weapons large and clunky.

  • No missiles.

  • Some suggest “encounter strategy”.

    • Shipman & Trinkhaus and fractures
    • Site location


III D. Middle Pleistocene Culture: Burials

  • Neanderthals flexed the bodies of their dead

  • We later see deliberate burials containing grave goods like animal bones and stone tools, even flowers at Shanidar.

  • All by 100 kya



III E. Middle Pleistocene Culture: Complex Symbolic Behavior

  • Burials and grave goods indicate something

  • Cave bear skull collections

  • Fires over some burials

  • Possible evidence of music?

    • (undated bear femur flute)
  • Compassion

    • La Chapelle (Elderly)
    • Shanidar1 (Disabled)


III E. Middle Pleistocene Culture: Complex Symbolic Behavior





Taxonomic Issues

  • The classification of individual fossils in "archaic Homo sapiens" is viewed by many as imprecise, since this is an ill-defined evolutionary group.

  • Several early archaic specimens are interpreted by paleoanthropologists as showing derived features different from Homo sapiens.

  • Neanderthals are viewed by numerous researchers as representing a distinct species, Homo neanderthalensis.




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