New Manners of Thinking

Today I came across an article from the November issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology regarding Neanderthals and the reasoning for why some anthropologists think they possessed shorter limbs. Like many of you who studied anthropology, I was taught that Neanderthals shorter limbs were adaptations to colder climates. In logical sense shorter, more robust limbs, which would be closer to one’s core body and regulate heat conservation more efficiently than that of an individual with longer, thinner limbs. However the articles proposes an alternative thesis as well as throws out the commonly accepted idea I just mentioned. Their thesis states that:

“(1) Neandertals, despite exhibiting shorter lower limbs, would have been able to use similar stride frequencies per speed as longer-limbed modern humans on sloped terrain, due to their lower crural indices; and (2) shortened distal limb segments are characteristic of bovids that inhabit more rugged terrains, regardless of climate. These results suggest that the shortened distal lower limb segments of Neandertals were not a locomotor disadvantage within more rugged environments.”

Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Moreover, much of their data is based on animals found in similar environmental conditions. They found that animals in a similar terrain possess shorter limbs to help benefit their locomotion despite the climate.

I think it is important as an archaeologist to have an open mind. Also to question what we are taught. I am not saying what we are usually taught is incorrect; rather I am saying to take what you have learned and explore it further, incorporating your own ideas. And maybe you just might discover something entirely new.

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Ashley Brown

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9 responses to “New Manners of Thinking

  1. It was always an unlikely hypothesis given that modern humans, although more cunning, survived the ice-age.

    So, the notion that Neanderthals were cold-adapted creatures can be dispelled. Neanderthals were therefore adapted to rugged environments, and as a by-product of shortened limbs were suited to a cold climate with their lesser extremities? Or can no inferences be made as to their cold-resisting credentials without empirical support!?

  2. As a tutor of cultural anthropology in the past, I couldn’t agree with you more when you say:

    I think it is important as an archaeologist to have an open mind. Also to question what we are taught. I am not saying what we are usually taught is incorrect; rather I am saying to take what you have learned and explore it further, incorporating your own ideas. And maybe you just might discover something entirely new.

    It is important in *all* academic work. Most teachers at university level dislike the attitude that some students exhibit when they say “I am hear to learn, tell me how it work”. If it was that simple, you could buy any “xxx for Dummies” book. We aim to teach students how to think, and these days assessment tasks are usually aimed at thinking not just facts.
    ( mikebarnesanth.wordpress.com )
    ps: Thanks for liking one of my recent posts, Feedback is important to writers.

  3. Well the Eskimos are Homo s.s. not Homo s.n. Therefore there are many factors that come into play. However I would not say it is far fetched to apply such a thesis to that of Eskimo physicality adaptation. Like I said, ” I think it is important as an archaeologist [or anyone] to have an open mind. Also to question what we are taught.” I think I will look into the biological anthropology of the Eskimos further and send you my thoughts.

    Thanks for the response, they are always appreciated!
    🙂

    • Thanks, that would be great.
      I also wrote a post about the Neanderthals recently, check it out if you’re interested.

      Regards

  4. Pingback: Final Project: Archaeology and the Age of Technology | Introduction to Digital Humanities·

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