Prehistoric Humans Collection
homo sapiens neanderthalensis

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homo sapiens neanderthalensis homo sapiens neanderthalensis homo sapiens neanderthalensis homo sapiens neanderthalensis homo sapiens neanderthalensis homo sapiens neanderthalensis

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Middle Paleolithic Period 60,000 years ago


Original Discovered August 3, 1908 Le Chapelle aux Saints, France

Our previous misconceptions of Neanderthals being stooped, knuckle-dragging ape-men go back to the discovery of the famous and first Neanderthal skeleton - "The Old Man" of La Chapelle-aux-Saints. Fortunately, with the subsequent discovery of the skeletons at La Ferassie, were we able to accurately understand that the original reconstruction of what Neanderthals looked like was completely wrong.

The Neanderthal skeleton known as "The Old Man" of La Chapelle-aux-Saints was discovered by A. and J. Bouyssonie and L. Bardon on August 3, 1908. The remains were found in a purposeful burial in the limestone bedrock floor of a small cave near La-Chapelle-aux-Saints, France. Discovered was the first ever found nearly complete Neanderthal skeleton - a well-preserved skull with mandible, most vertebrae, several ribs, most primary arm and leg bones as well as some small bones of the hands and feet. The bones belonged to an elderly male but the old age of the individual was not known at the time of reconstruction.

Typical for the Homo neanderthalensis species , the skull of La Chapelle-aux-Saints had a pronounced browridge and receding forehead. Many of the teeth were missing and their respective sockets were in various states of closure from healing after the loss of the teeth when the man was alive. These missing teeth comprise all of the right side cheek teeth of the lower jaw, the molars on the left and at least the molars of the upper jaw. It is probable that this individual was cared for by others in his elder years. The evidence of this would suggest that Neanderthals possessed a communal mindset and cared for their injured and infirmed.

As previously mentioned, "The Old Man of La Chapelle-aux-Saints" was the first nearly complete skeleton of a Neanderthal individual ever discovered. The original incorrect reconstruction done by the noted paleontologist Marcellin Boule overlooked the fact that the skeleton was quite elderly when deceased. The bones were in such a degenerative stage because of the advanced age of the individual that the reconstruction of the skeleton depicted the Neanderthal in a stooped-over pose and possessing a frame that would have had an ape-like gait. This wrongly influenced our perception of Neanderthals in both science and popular culture for so many years despite other discoveries of skeletons that disprove this early belief. These misconception of the primitiveness of Neanderthals has remained with us even today.

Dating analysis of the La Chapelle-aux-Saints shelter indicates that the skeleton may be as old as 60,000 years.