Human Evolution

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 331–342 | Cite as

Obstetric implications of neanderthal robusticity and bone density

  • N. J. Friedlander
  • D. K. Jordan


Neanderthal pelvic morphology is not well understood, despite the recent find and analysis of the Kebara 2 pelvis. Many of the proposed hypotheses focus on the possible need for a larger birth canal. A previously unexplored aspect involves possible direct obstetric implications of bone robusticity and density. These characteristics ocan affect obstetrics in modern humans, especially the molding of the neonate's head during parturition: engineering studies have shown that denser neonate cranial bones undergo less deformation, and thicker (more robust) cranial bones would also be expected to deform less during the birth process. These bone characteristics may also result in a less flexible birth canal. Thus, more robust or denser bones could result in the need for a larger birth canal or a smaller neonate head, due to decreased flexibility.

Examples from modern populations are discussed and the conclusions applied to Neanderthals, who are known to have had high bone robusticity and may have had high bone density, given their heavy musculature. (A positive association between muscle mass and bone density has been observed repeatedly in modern humans.) We conclude that bone robusticity and density may have obstetrical implications for Neanderthals, with particular importance for neonate head molding during birth.

Key words

birth bone density Neanderthal obstetrics robusticity 


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Copyright information

© International Institute for the Study of Man 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. J. Friedlander
    • 1
  • D. K. Jordan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JallaUSA

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