Non-metric variation in recent humans as a model for understanding Neanderthal-early modern human differences: just how “unique” are Neanderthal unique traits?

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Using living humans as an extant referent, this paper examines the probability that the frequency differences in Neanderthal “unique” non-metric traits observed between Neanderthals and Upper Paleolithic modern humans could be sampled from two major populations of the same species. Neanderthal-like features occur in very low frequencies in living humans, if present at all. Rather, other features distinguish major human populations. The population frequency differences of these features are used as a model by which the Neanderthal — Upper Paleolithic frequency differences are assessed using a resampling simulation. This methodological approach tests the null hypothesis that the observed Neanderthal — Upper Paleolithic differences are not greater than what can be sampled from between two major human populations (Amerindians and Euroamericans). Results of the analysis fail to falsify this null hypothesis. Implications of these results for Neanderthal taxonomy are examined.