The debate on Neanderthal man’s place in human evolution has continued unabated since the discovery of thefirst Neanderthal fossil in 1856. One camp believes Neanderthal man is a human ancestor and should be classified as a subspecies of modern man-Homo sapiens Neanderthals. The opposition argues that Neanderthal man is a distinct species, homo Neanderthals, entirely separate from modern humans. This paper seeks to prove that Neanderthal man is indeed related to modern humans by looking at key elements of Neanderthal physiology, behavior, and culture.
Recent findings on the mitochondrial DNA taken from the right humerus of a Neanderthal skeleton failed to show significant similarities with the mitochondrial DNA of modern humans. According to the study, one sequence of Neanderthal DNA shows significant variances from the same sequence in moderns. From this, researchers concluded that Neanderthals diverged about 600,000 years ago to form homo Neanderthals, a genetic line separate from that of the modern homosapiens.
The study, however, was based solely on DNA from one Neanderthal individual because the genetic material is scarce and difficult to extract. One individual;s DNA may be an inadequate indicator of the genetic variability within an entire species. (Shipman, 2002) Until more Neanderthal genetic material becomes available, fossil evidence remains the best source of study for on Neanderthal man;s physiology and culture.
Neanderthals shared key physical characteristics with modern humans. They both have the same skeletal structures. Their brains were roughly the same size in relation to their bodies. Based on their joint structures and cranial capacities, anthropologists believe that Neanderthals were capable of doing many activities that modern humans could do. (Trinkaus and Shipman, p. 412)
Proponents of the homo neandertalis argue that Neanderthal bones were much t…