Ancestors of Neanderthals had more brawn, less brain
MADRID (AP) The ancestors of the Neanderthals were taller and heavier than previously thought, leading scientists to speculate that brawn over brains may have contributed to their extinction.
Anthropologists from Madrid's Complutense University reached their conclusions after a five-year study of a 300,000-year-old fossil pelvis. The pelvis was put together from fragments found in 1994 in the key Atapuerca caves in northern Spain, according to the study published Thursday in the journal Nature.
Complete pelvis fossils, which are quite rare, provide detailed information about the person as a whole, including dimensions, reproduction and locomotion.
Team director Juan Luis Arsuaga told the daily El Mundo that the pelvis belonged to a pre-Neanderthal male between 173 cm to 180 cm tall who weighed at least 100 kg.
Arsuaga, coauthor of the study, said the width of the pelvis suggested that pre-Neanderthals suffered far less pain giving birth than their direct descendants, or modern humans.
The pelvis belongs to an ancestor of the classic Neanderthals that date from between 100,000 and 35,000 years ago, when they died out, Antonio Rosas said. Rosas is an expert in prehistoric jaw bones who has also worked at Atapuerca.
"It is undoubtedly the most complete pelvis ever found from the period and an important contribution to the field," Rosas said.
The Nature article said that despite their "armored car" build, the Neanderthals became extinct because they failed to look after each other, whereas their weaker cousins, the descendants of modern man, were more social.