Neanderthals, other Archaic Homo sapiens, and the Mousterian Tradition

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Neanderthals, other Archaic Homo sapiens, and the Mousterian Tradition

Chapter 12
Archaic Homo sapiens

cross between characteristics of H. sapiens (large brain) and H. erectus (robust).

•“Muddle in the Middle” : hard to distinguish from H. erectus and H. sapiens.

large brow ridges

low and thick cranial vault

large face

Smaller molars

large brain (1,000-1,400 cc)

Modern but robust post cranium

ancestral to H. sapiens?

European Archaic H. sapiens (Homo heidelburgensis)

400-150 kya

site of Sima de los Huesos ( “the bone pit”) in Spain.

May be ancestor of Neanderthals with derived features (occipital torus and midfacial prognathism)

African Archaic H. sapiens

400-125 kya

Bodo, Ethiopia 600 kya. Broken Hills, Zambia 125 kya

likely not ancestors of Neanderthals

Asian Archaic H. sapiens

200-125 kya

in Asia at same time as H. erectus.

Larger vault size


similar to H. erectus behavior

Fire, hunting large game, camp sites with circular tent structures, wooden tools.

Acheulean tradition or Chopping tools in Asia, and Levallois technique (like Neanderthal).


classification still disputed. Why?

150-27 kya

overlap in time and geographic location with modern H. sapiens

Europe, Near and Middle East, Western Asia

ice age: areas where environment was very cold


brain case

Large like modern humans (1400cc)

fully modern organization

long and low appearance

sloped forehead

Large brow ridges (supraorbital torus)

occipital bun

widest part the middle


mid-facial prognathism-projecting mouth

large nasal cavity and orbits. Why?

no chin


teeth as tools

incisor wear- faceted

cut marks on teeth

tourodontism (hollow molars)



short and stocky build.

What kind of adaptation?

thick bones with heavy muscle attachment.

physically demanding lifestyle.

growth patterns similar to modern humans

health and disease

many lived to old age (40 yrs)

most skeletons have healed trauma

Shanidar Cave example

close contact with hunting animals

healed breaks resemble modern bull riders

head and neck injuries

Middle Paleolithic Culture (200 kya-40kya)

Levallois technology

prepared a core for removal of predetermined size and shaped flake.

more cutting edge for the amount of stone.


spear points, scrapers, knives, notches.

wood spears and antler and bone into handles.

lived in cold environments

lived in caves, rockshelters, open areas

used fire: simple hearths

buried dead

Shanidar Cave, Iraq

found burial ritual with flowers.

sick and elderly were cared for by other group members.

Use of certain caves as burial grounds: La Ferrassie rockshelter and Shanidar.

hunters, scavengers, and gatherers

large game (reindeer, bison, mammoth, bear, rhino), small game (rabbit and tortoise), birds, molluscs

hunted large game at close range

relied heavily on animals for food


Kebara Cave: charred wild pea, grasses, acorns, pistachio nuts

art work small and personal

pendants, drilled bone

ochre- symbolic purposes, found in burials

bone flute?


Neandertal hyoid bone at Kebara Cave, Israel (voice box)

brains fully developed.

Gene controlling facial muscles

Neanderthal DNA

mtDNA and nuclear DNA suggests evolved from archaic Homo sapiens in Europe roughly 365 or 853 kya.

Some alleles (30%) may be derived from anatomically modern Homo sapiens suggesting gene flow.

Where did they go?

Climate too cold between 28-30 kya?

Unable to maintain large enough population

Long birth spacing?

Females and juveniles hunting large animals= high mortality rates?

Relied mainly on large animals for subsistence?

Old Technology and little ritualistic behavior?

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