Official: Neanderthal Man was not a hairy oaf but a sensitive kinda guy

The world's archetypal cave-man is being reborn, 150 years after he was first discovered in a cave in north-western Germany.

A team of American scientists have reconstructed the most complete Neanderthal ever. And instead of the angry, ape-like figure of popular imagination, he emerges as a family man, in touch with his emotions. But a dislike of long-distance travel may eventually have consigned him to extinction.

The "new" caveman - built using bones from seven incomplete skeletons discovered in six different countries - has been constructed just months ahead of the official celebrations to mark the Neanderthal anniversary.

Although bits of at least 100 Neanderthals have been discovered by archaeologists over the past 15 decades, nobody has ever found a complete skeleton.

Put together by physical anthropologists Gary Sawyer and Blaine Maley at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, the reconstruction is helping to change the balance of academic argument as to how the most mysterious of our near relatives lived their lives.

The new work is helping to confirm that Neanderthals were almost certainly inferior to anatomically modern humans in long-distance mobility. Indeed some archaeologists are now beginning to think that this handicap was ultimately partially to blame for them becoming extinct. It backs up those scholars who have argued that Neanderthals were poor long-distance runners and were likely to have been unsuited to pursuing prey efficiently over long distances.

By showing how all the bones fit together and function as a whole - and by comparing the reconstructed skeleton with skeletons of our own species, Homo sapiens - it will now be easier to formulate ideas as to how Neanderthals must have functioned economically and socially in different ways to anatomically modern humans.

Whereas Homo sapiens was able to pursue prey over very long distances, Neanderthals appear to have been markedly less able to do so and would probably therefore have had to have been more confrontational with their potential dinners.

As a consequence, Neanderthal males were probably away from their families for shorter periods than Homo sapiens - and it is likely that family structures and relationships between males and females may well have been markedly different.

"The reconstruction strengthens the case for regarding Neanderthals as representing a different species with their own survival strategies compared to those of Homo sapiens," said Professor Chris Stringer, head of the Human Origins Research Programme at London's Natural History Museum.

"The work shows how different strategies resulted from and reinforced different evolutionary paths," said Professor Stringer, author of a recent book on hominid prehistory, The Complete World of Human Evolution.

Teams of archaeologists from Britain, France, Spain, Japan, Russia and Syria are investigating Neanderthal sites in the Caucasus, Western Europe, the Middle East and North Africa - and their researches are likely to shed further light on Homo neanderthalensis in the near future.


Date of birth: The earliest Neanderthals arrived around 400,000 years ago.

Place of birth: Location unknown.

Address: Spread over Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Average height: 5ft-6ft. Weight: 140-180lbs.

Average build: Squat and broad.

Athletic prowess: Poor long-distance runner and walker.

Lots of brute strength. Right arm significantly stronger than left.

Intellect: Not too brainy, but capable of much love and care .

Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home