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Reconstruction: How Neanderthal People Hunted
January 19, 2011 20:34

Russian anthropologists and biotechnologists have studied peculiar features of Neanderthal skeletons, which differed from skeletons of modern human beings, and reconstructed walk patterns and hunting strategies of ancient humans.

The fact, that walk patterns of ancient human beings was different from that of modern ones, has been discovered as long as 100 years ago. However, not much attention was paid to this fact, and researchers have concentrated on similar features of two human species, instead. Only recently scientists have returned to study the differences between Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens.

Researchers from Moscow have studied models of hip bones and leg bones of ancient people, courtesy of the anthropology department of Moscow State University, as well as examined images and drawings of Homo neanderthalensis remains from various collections. They also had about 80 full skeletons of modern people of both sexes at hand. Scientists have compared peculiar features of musculoskeletal system, belonging to modern people and to Neanderthals, and found out, that human ancestors had been excellent sprinters, able to run as fast as 45-50 kilometers per hour. Modern human body best fits for long slow runs, sitting and long-time standing. Neanderthals had walked and stood with legs slightly bound, that is why they rapidly got tired of long-term standing. As for sitting, ancient people preferred squatting to sitting, because they had had no intermediate layer of fat and muscle on their ischiadic bones.

A Neanderthal hunter
What kind of life could people with such body structure have led? Archeologists very rarely report about finding bones, belonging to birds and small animals, on sites, where ancient Neanderthals had lived. Homo neanderthalensis had successfully hunted large animals, including such species as mountain goats and wild sheep, which are extremely cautious and difficult to hunt even with modern fire arms. Neanderthals had had short and heavy spears, which could have not been thrown far. Skeletons of ancient hunters often contain fractures in upper part of a body, not on legs, which can indicate that Homo neanderthalensis had hunted without using any throwing javelins or traps.

Scientists gave consideration to four possible strategies of ancient humans hunting. A large animal could be killed by a javelin from the distance of 30-40 steps. However, it is hard to defeat the target from such a distance, and it is easy for an animal to escape, since it takes a javelin 1-1.5 seconds to hit it. Another strategy is hunting in a small group and throwing 3-4 javelins at the same time for one to hit an animals and others to distract animals attention. Well, such strategy is a difficult one to fulfill. One more strategy is entrapping hunting, but it requires a large number of participants and some specific patterns of local relief. Could that be that a Neanderthal man could have hunted on his own?

Yes, he could, Russian anthropologists believe. The ancient hunter could have crawled towards an animal as close as possible, and then had run as fast as he could, throwing a javelin, while running. However, a heavy spear is much more effective at small distances, than a light javelin. Calculations show that Neanderthal men had been able to cover 15-20 meters within 1-2 seconds, which is enough for a unexpected and successful attack. This means that Homo neanderthalensis were fast and accurate hunters, not clumsy snails as some may think.

Source: Science News

Kizilova Anna


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