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Neanderthals Would Have Been Return (and Return) Patients

April 9, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Musculoskeletal Radiology
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When anthropologists pieced together a Frankenstein-like skeleton from various Neanderthals, researchers could put another two and two together. Neanderthals were built to work hard, they did work hard, and they sustained plenty of fractures in doing so.

The body building anthropologists used the limb bones and skull from the 70,000-year-old La Ferrassie 1 skeleton, which was discovered in France in 1909. They used the rib cage, pelvis and vertebrae from the 60,000-year-old Kebara 2 skeleton, which was found in Israel in 1983.  They borrowed other replacement bits from several other Neanderthals, and they got a few little pieces from false human bones.

When the various parts were assembled, they revealed a much squattier profile than was before suspected in Neanderthals, with a round torso, flared ribcage, broad pelvis and plenty of muscle, according to an article and photographs of the skeleton in Live Science. The resulting body style was such a surprise that “it’s almost like making my own fossil discovery,” said Gary Sawyer, one of the anthropologists, from the American Natural History Museum in New York. “They had very strong hands,” he said “If you shook hands with one, he would turn your hand into pulp.”

But the prehistoric race usually fought it out instead of shaking on it. In a publication from the University of Illinois at Chicago, the author writes, “Studies of Neanderthal skeletons reveal that the pattern of fractures correlates well with those seen in contemporary rodeo riders. This implies close contact of the dangerous kind with large animals,” but “the size, stature, and robustness of adult individuals declined with the adoption of farming.”

And while the stoutly shaped males were beginning to farm and starting to heal from the broken bones, the women were bulking up doing chores. They, according to the UIC work, were spending a great deal of time grinding corn and began to “develop deltoid tuberosities similar to those that develop among modern bodybuilders.”

The amalgamated skeleton, with its “robust fingers and toes,”  is on permanent display at the  American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Related seminar: Sports Medicine Imaging

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