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.
Article in full digital text
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