Neanderthals Were No Knuckle-draggers. They Employed Skillful Hunting Techniques.

Posted: Jun 26 2018, 1:38pm CDT | by , Updated: Oct 22 2019, 9:35pm CDT , in Latest Science News

Neanderthals were no knuckle-draggers. They employed skillful hunting techniques.
Credit: Eduard Pop, MONREPOS and Johannes Pfleging, ETH Zurich

Today the term ‘Neanderthal' tends to be used as a derogatory description for people exhibiting brutish behavior. Think neo-fascists or football hooligans. Applied in its historical context, its still conjures images of crude individuals, knuckles dragging along the ground, communicating in primeval grunts. However, recent research has demonstrated a far more accurate picture of Neanderthal man would be of sophisticated hunters who deployed collective strategies to entrap their game.

A study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution focused on an analysis of the skeletal remains of two 120,000-year-old deer from Germany. These creatures fell victim to bands of marauding Neanderthals and bore cut marks revealing how the animals died. In evidence terms, these ‘hunting lesions' have been described by anthropologists as a ‘smoking gun' pointing to the methods used to bring down the animals at the climax of a hunt.

Microscopic imaging techniques were used to examine the wounds on the deer bones, together with ballistic experiments to recreate the impact of blows administered by the attacking Neanderthals. The conclusion of the investigative team was that at least one of the blows came as a result of a thrusting impact from a wooden spear, aimed at low velocity.

According to Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser, Professor at the Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, and Director of the Monrepos Archaeological Research Centre: "This suggests that Neanderthals approached animals very closely and thrust, not threw, their spears at the animals, most likely from an underhand angle. Such a confrontational way of hunting required careful planning and concealment, and close cooperation between individual hunters."

Gaudzinski-Windheuser's studies have highlighted other anomalies concerning these misunderstood early humans. Neanderthals were prevalent throughout Southern Europe from around 300,000 years ago until their extinction 30,000. The most recent Neanderthal remains were unearthed in caves on the island of Gibraltar, indicating they were pushed to the westernmost extremes of Europe before eventually being overtaken by Homo Sapiens.

There is evidence that Homo Sapiens interbred with Neanderthals – the more robust of the two sub-species, who were better equipped to cope with the often demanding climate fluctuations of prehistoric Europe. Modern Asians and Europeans have around two percent of Neanderthal DNA. But the more research conducted into the behavior of Neanderthals, the clearer the impression of a species with far more intelligence and sophisticated socialization.

Among the traits which completely contradict the notion of knuckle-draggers are the fact they buried their dead ritualistically. They also fashioned tools for specific tasks, not least the hunting of valued meat for their platters. Even more strikingly, they painted elaborate frescos on the walls of their dwelling places up to 64,000 years ago: some 20,000 years prior to Homo Sapiens making their way to Europe.

It's estimated that early humans first started hunting with weapons 500,000 years ago. Between 300,000 and 400,000 years ago, wooden staves were discovered in England and Germany, the oldest known spears used to strike prey.

When we think of prehistoric hunters and the struggle for supremacy between Neanderthals and the Homo Sapiens who eventually encroached on their territory, of the two species the former are more commonly regarded as cavemen. By comparison, the humans who eventually ousted them from Europe, were the classic hunter-gatherers, the logical forerunners of western society that has evolved into a domain of Nobel Prize winners and websites where today's Europeans can meet singles.

But this recent analysis of the deer bones has added a crucial piece to the jigsaw. Bringing down lithe quadrupeds at close range required a well-coordinated attack, with strategically placed combatants. The short-range attack reveals a successful strategy being deployed by intelligent beings. Neanderthals were just as sophisticated as their European neighbors.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Manfred "Luigi" Lugmayr () is the founding Chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 25 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets, tech and online shopping. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology news and tech and toy shopping hub.
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