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from the trenches
Neanderthals on the Hunt Volume 60 Number 2, March/April 2007

The Neanderthals didn't disappear because they were slouches when it came to hunting. According to a new study based on material from the Republic of Georgia, Neanderthals were as good at hunting as early modern humans. But it may have been gender equality that put them at a disadvantage to their Homo sapien neighbors. Anthropologists observed that Neanderthals focused primarily on large game for food, while the frequency of healed fractures present in both genders and all ages suggests everyone participated in the hunt. Neanderthal shelters lacked evidence of gathered foods, such as seeds, as well as signs of skilled craft. The ability of female modern humans to stay at home, collecting berries and sewing weather-resistant clothing with bone needles, the anthropologists argue, allowed their species to live at higher, more advantageous population densities. Meanwhile, recent comparative analysis of the mandibles of Neanderthals from Spain and Britain have led researchers to conclude that not all Neanderthals looked alike, with southerners having distinctly broader faces and lower foreheads than their northern counterparts, suggesting physical variability across geographic regions.

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© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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