Spanish scientists help make breakthrough on Neanderthals

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NEW FINDINGS: Neanderthals may have walked upright CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

SPANISH scientists working with researchers from Israel and the United States have said their reconstruction of a Neanderthal skeleton sheds new light on how our ancestors moved and breathed.

The team, led by an academic from the Basque Country, scanned a roughly 60,000-year-old skeleton which allowed them to create the first ever 3D reconstruction of a Neanderthal ribcage.

The researchers said in the study, published in Nature Communications, their findings showed a posture very different from the stereotypical hunched-over ‘caveman’ image of Neanderthals.

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The study claimed that instead of walking with a slouch their findings showed Neanderthals may have walked upright and that their spines might have been straighter than modern humans.

Asier Gomez-Olivencia, an Ikerbasque Fellow at the University of the Basque Country and lead author of the study, said the ribcage was key to the findings.

Studying the thorax and upper spine which make up the ribcage allowed scientists to find out how Neanderthals moved, breathed and kept their balance.

Patricia Kramer, an anthropology professor at the University of Washington in the United States, said researching Neanderthals allowed us to understand our own evolution better.

“Neanderthals are closely related to us with complex cultural adaptations much like those of human humans, but their physical form is different from us in important ways,” she said.

The team has been working on creating virtual reconstructions of Neanderthal skeletons for almost two years.

They have previously modelled a spine from the same ‘Kebara Two’ skeleton used in the latest study. The remains, also dubbed ‘Moshe’, were found in Israel in 1983.

The Neanderthals were members of the hominid family that first emerged around 400,000 years ago before going extinct about 40,000 years ago.

Neanderthals were traditionally depicted as mentally inferior to modern humans but recent research has found they have been more social and that the two species likely interbred.

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