Neanderthals are our nearest extinct family. This link keeps Neanderthals a hot research topic. Fresh finds include the dangers they faced, skills that helped them to survive for millennia, why they looked so different, and how Neanderthals possibly saved humans from extinction. anthropology, anthropology, anthropology
There remains a lot that researchers want to know. This desire has spawned experiments with living tissue that revived Neanderthals in a truly weird way.
10. Mysterious Faces
From the first moment that researchers became aware of the extinct hominids, the question was asked: Why do Neanderthal faces look so different? Compared to modern humans, their protruding faces had distinctively high cheeks and big noses.
One prominent theory suggested that the features gave Neanderthals a stronger bite. Past evidence of dental damage showed that they used their jaws like a third hand to hold on to something, perhaps while making weapons or garments.
However, a 2018 look at human and Neanderthal skulls blew that theory out of the water. Modern humans turned out to have the stronger bite and yet owned finer features.
As it turns out, the differences may have something to do with physical needs. Neanderthals had more powerful bodies that used more energy, up to 4,480 calories daily. They traveled a lot and sometimes lived in cold environments.
The study found that Neanderthal facial features accommodated nasal passages 29 percent larger than those of humans. This allowed a vastly better intake of oxygen and warm air, both of which could have helped to sustain the highly active hominids during winter.
9. Human-Neanderthal Split Mystery
The human family tree is stunningly complex. Despite all the fossils and DNA technology, scientists still do not know the full evolution story of hominids. One tough nut to crack is the unknown common ancestor to modern humans and Neanderthals. Besides this, it remains unclear when they split into different species.
The fossil record indicates that modern humans evolved 300,000 years ago, but the oldest Neanderthal evidence is tricky. The most ancient remains date back 400,000 years, while some genetic studies found traces of a split from humans as far back as 650,000 years.
In 2018, researchers viewed fossil teeth that surfaced in two places on the Italian Peninsula. Before the detailed examination, the hominid species they belonged to was a mystery. However, the study found distinctive features of the Neanderthal lineage.
Both teeth were also 450,000 years old. This backed up DNA findings suggesting that the split happened over half-a-million years ago. The exact era when humans and Neanderthals forked apart remains unknown, but this closes the gap a little.