How To Think Like A Neandertal

NeanderthalEva McGuire at Dublin Review of Books:

One of the most famous Neandertal individuals, and the most complete Neandertal skeleton that has been found, is Shanidar 1, who lived and died in Iraqi Kurdistan about fifty thousand years ago. Shanidar 1 was male, between thirty and forty when he died, about 5’8” tall. His skeleton also reveals the many physical traumas he suffered during his life. His right arm had been injured beyond use or else amputated above the elbow many years prior to death. Several bones in his right foot had been badly broken leading to serious arthritic degeneration in his right ankle and knee, while his left leg, knee and foot were normal. He had received a devastating blow to the left side of his face which had crushed his left cheekbone, the left side of his cranium and probably blinded him in his left eye. This facial trauma had also healed many years before his death. He had received a separate wound to his right scalp, deep enough to cut the bone. This too had healed before his death. Whether these injuries occurred due to a single incident or separate events is not known. They may have been the result of a hunting accident or have been due to a violent interaction with another Neandertal. After all, interpersonal violence is a characteristic not only of modern humans but of many non-human primates, including chimps, our closest cousins. While his injuries demonstrate that Shanidar 1 had a very tough life, perhaps what is most significant about them is the fact that he survived them. He must have been cared for and this is a huge clue to the Neandertal mind. He would have, for some time at least, been incapacitated, unable to take part in hunting and unable to care for or feed himself.

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