The distinctiveness and systematic context of Homo neanderthalensis

  • I. Tattersall
  • J. H. Schwartz
Part of the Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology book series (VERT)

The “packaging” of the diverse living world is untidy, with the result that there are no absolute criteria for recognizing in all contexts the bounded historical entities we call species. However, there is no doubt whatsoever that Homo neanderthalensis is as clear-cut a morphological entity as any in the hominid fossil record: one that is characterized by a whole host of cranial apomorphies. Further, a recent full-skeleton reconstruction further emphasizes just how different Neanderthal body structure was from that of Homo sapiens, not simply in numerous anatomical details, but in the proportions of the thorax and its relation to the pelvic region. These bodily proportions would have given these extinct hominids a very distinctive appearance on the landscape, and enhance the likelihood that we are dealing here with a reproductively differentiated entity. Still, Homo neanderthalensis is not unique in all those features that distinguish it from Homo sapiens. Many “Neanderthal” cranial features are shared with various middle Pleistocene European hominids, notably the Steinheim specimen and, to a lesser extent, the Sima de los Huesos hominids from Atapuerca. Indeed, it appears that, far from being an isolated phenomenon, Homo neanderthalensis formed part of a larger endemic European hominid clade. This clade seems to have existed contemporaneously in Europe with at least one other hominid lineage or clade, exemplified by the Homo heidelbergensis fossils from Mauer, Arago and Petralona.


Homo neanderthalensis Neanderthals Homo heidelbergensis Mauer Arago Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos reconstructed skeleton 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adam, K.D., 1989. Alte und neuer Urmenschenfunde in sudwest-Deutschland-Eine kritische Wardigung. Quartär 39/40, 177-190.Google Scholar
  2. Antón, S.C., 2003. Natural History of Homo erectus. Yrbk. Phys. Anthropol. 46, 126-169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arsuaga, J.L., Bermudez de Castro, J.M., Carbonell, E., 1997. Special issue on the Sima de los Huesos hominids and site. J. Hum. Evol. 33 (2/3), 105-421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Asfaw, B., Gilbert, W.H., Bayene, Y., Hart, W.K., Renne P.R., WoldeGabriel G., Vrba, E.S., White, T.D., 2002. Remains of Homo erectus from Bouri, Middle Awash, Ethiopia. Nature 416, 317-320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bailey, S.E., 2002. A close look at Neanderthal postca-nine dental morphology: The mandibular dentition. Anat. Rec. (New Anat.) 269, 148-156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bailey, S.E., 2005. A morphometric analysis of maxillary crowns of Middle-Late Pleistocene hominins. J. Hum. Evol. 47, 183-198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bailey, S.E., Lynch, J.M., 2004. Diagnostic differences in mandibular P4 shape between Neandertals and anatomically modern humans. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 126, 268-277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bermúdez de Castro, J.M., Arsuaga, J.-L., Carbonell, E., Rosas, A., Martínez, I., Mosquera, M., 1997. A hominid from the lower Pleistocene of Atapuerca: Possible ancestors to Neandertals and modern humans. Science 276, 1392-1395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bischoff, J.L., Shamp, D.D.,Aramburu, A., Arsuaga, J.L., Carbonell, E., Bermúdez de Castro, J.M., 2003. The Sima de los Huesos hominids date to beyond U/Th Equilibrium ( 350 kyr) and perhaps to 400-500 kyr: New radiometric dates. J.Archaeol. Sci. 30, 275-280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boule, M. 1911-13. L’homme fossile de la Chapelle-aux-Saints. Ann. Paléontol. 6, 1-64; 7, 65-208; 8, 209-279.Google Scholar
  11. Cherdyntsev, V., 1971. Uranium-234. Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Tel-Aviv.Google Scholar
  12. Condemi, S., 1996. Does the human fossil specimen from Reilingen (Germany) belong to the Homo erectus or the Neanderthal lineage? Anthropologie 34, 69-77.Google Scholar
  13. Cook, J., Stringer, C.B., Currant, A P., Schwarcz, H. P., Wintle, A.G., 1982. A review of the chronology of the European Middle Pleistocene hominid record. Yrbk. Phys. Anthropol. 25, 19-65.Google Scholar
  14. Cracraft, J., 2002. The seven great questions of systematic biology: An essential foundation for conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 89, 127-144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Czarnetzki, A., 1989. Ein archäischer Homini-dencalvarium aus einer Kiesgrübe in Reilingen, Rhein-Neckar-Kreis. Quartär 39/40, 191-201.Google Scholar
  16. Day, M.E., 1986. A Guide to Fossil Man, 4th Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  17. Dean, D., Hublin, J.-J., Holloway, R., Ziegler, R., 1998. On the phylogenetic position of the pre-Neandertal specimen from Reilingen, Germany. J. Hum. Evol. 34, 485-508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Frayer, D.W., 1984. Biological and cultural change in the European late Pleistocene and early Holocene. In: Smith, F.H., Spencer, F. (Eds.), The Origins of Modern Humans: A World Survey of the Fossil Evidence. Alan R. Liss, New York, pp. 211-250.Google Scholar
  19. Ghiselin, M.T., 1974. A radical solution to the species problem. Syst. Zool. 23, 536-544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grün, R., 1996. A re-analysis of electron spin resonance dating results associated with the Petralona hominid. J. Hum. Evol. 30, 227-241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Harvati, K., Frost, S.R., McNulty, K.P., 2004. Neanderthaltaxonomyreconsidered: Implications of 3D primate models of intra-and interspecific differences. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 101, 1147-1152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hey, J., 2001. Genes, Categories and Species. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  23. Howell, F.C., 1960. European and northwest African middle Pleistocene hominids. Curr. Anthropol. 1, 195-232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hublin, J.-J. 1978. Le torus occipital transverse et les structures associées. Thesis, Université de Paris. Hublin, J.J., Spoor, F., Braun, M., Zonnefeld, F., 1996. A late Neanderthal associated with Upper Paleolithic artifacts. Nature 381, 224-226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hublin, J.J., 1998. Climatic changes, paleogeography, and the evolution of Neandertals. In: Akazawa, T., Aoki, K., Bar-Yosef, O. (Eds.), Neandertals and Modern Humans in Western Asia. Plenum Press, NewYork, pp. 295-310.Google Scholar
  26. Iacumin, P., Cominotto, D., Longinelli, A., 1996. A stable isotope study of mammal skeletal remains of mid-Pleistocene age, Arago Cave, eastern Pyrenees, France. Evidence of taphonomic and diagenetic effects. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 126, 151-160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jolly, C.J., 2001. A proper study for mankind: Analogies from papionin monkeys and their implications for human evolution. Yrbk. Phys. Anthropol. 44, 177-204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Krings, M., Stone, A., Schmitz, R.W., Krainitzki, H., Pääbo, S., 1997. Neandertal DNA sequences and the origin of modern humans. Cell 90, 19-30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Krings, M., Capelli, C., Tschentscher, F., Geisert, H., Meyer, S., von Haeseler, A., Grossschmidt, K., Possnert, G., Paunovic, M., Pääbo, S., 2000. A view of Neandertal genetic diversity. Nat. Genet. 26, 144-146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mallegni, F., Carnieri, E., Bisconti, M., Tartarelli, G., Ricci, S., Biddittu, I., Segre, A., 2003. Homo cepranensis sp. nov. and the evolution of African-EuropeanMiddlePleistocene hominids. C. R. Palévol. 2: 153-159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mania, D., 1983. Homo erectus von Bilzingsleben-Seine Kultur und Umwelt. EAZ Ethnogr. Archäol. Z. 34, 478-510.Google Scholar
  32. McCown, T.D., Keith, A., 1939. The Stone Age of Mount Carmel: The Fossil Remains from the Levalloiso-Mousterian, Vol. 2. Clarendon Press, Oxford. Morant, G.M., 1938. The form of the Swanscombe skull. J. R. Anthropol. Soc. 68, 67-97.Google Scholar
  33. Ovchinnikov, I.V., Gotherstrom, A., Romanova, G.P., Kharitonov, V.M., Liden, K., Goodwin, W., 2000. Molecular analysis of Neanderthal DNA from the northern Caucasus. Nature 404, 490-493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rak, Y., Hylander, W.L., 2003. Neandertal facial morphology and increased jaw gape. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 120, (Suppl. 36,), 174.Google Scholar
  35. Rightmire, G.P., 1990. The Evolution of Homo erectus. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Santa Luca, A.P., 1978. A re-examination of presumed Neandertal-like fossils. J. Hum. Evol. 7, 619-636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sawyer, G.J., Maley, B., 2005. Neanderthal reconstructed. Anat Rec. (New Anat.) 283B, 23-31.Google Scholar
  38. Schmitz, R.W., Serre, D., Bonani, G., Feine, S., Hillgruber, F., Krainitzki, H., Pääbo, S., Smith, F.H., 2002. The Neandertal type site revisited: Interdisciplinary Investigations of skeletal remains from the Neander Valley, Germany. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 99, 13342-13347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schott, L., 1990. “Homo erectus reilingensis” - Anspruch und Wirklichkeit eines Schädelfundes. Biol. Rundsch. 28, 231-235.Google Scholar
  40. Schwarcz, H.P., Latham, A.G., 1990. Absolute age determination of travertines from Vérteszöllös. In: Kretzoi, M., Dobosi, V. (Eds.), Vérteszöllös: Site, Man and Culture. Akadémiai Kiado, Budapest, pp.549-555.Google Scholar
  41. Schwarcz, H.P., Latham, A.G., Mania, D., Brunnacker, K., 1988. The Bilzingsleben archaeological site: New dating evidence. Archaeometry 30, 5-17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schwartz, J.H., 1999. Sudden Origins: Fossils, Genes, and the Emergence of Species. Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  43. Schwartz, J.H., 2005. The Red Ape: Orangutans and Human Origins. Revised Edition. Westview Press, Boulder, CO.Google Scholar
  44. Schwartz, J.H., Tattersall, I., 1996a. Toward distinguishing Homo neanderthalensis from Homo sapiens, and vice versa. Anthropologie (Brno) 34, 79-88.Google Scholar
  45. Schwartz, J.H., Tattersall, I., 1996b. Significance of some previously unrecognized apomorphies in the nasal region of Homo neanderthalensis. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci., U.S.A. 93, 10852-10854.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Schwartz, J.H., Tattersall, I., 2000. What constitutes Homo erectus? Acta Anthropol. Sinica 19, Suppl., 18-22.Google Scholar
  47. Schwartz, J.H., Tattersall, I., 2002. The Human Fossil Record, Vol. 1: Terminology and Cranial Morphology of Genus Homo(Europe). Wiley/Liss, New York.Google Scholar
  48. Schwartz, J.H., Tattersall, I., 2005. The Human Fossil Record, vol. 4: Craniodental Morphology of Early Hominids (Genera Australopithecus, Paranthropus, Orrorin) and Overview. Wiley/Liss, New York.Google Scholar
  49. Smith, F.H., Spencer, F. (Eds.), 1984. The Origins of Modern Humans: A World Survey of the Fossil Evidence. Alan R. Liss, New York.Google Scholar
  50. Spoor, F., Hublin, J.J., Braun, M., Zonnefeld, F., 2003. The bony labyrinth of Neanderthals. J. Hum. Evol. 44, 141-165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Straus, W.L., Cave, A.J.E., 1957. Pathology and the posture of Neanderthal man. Quart. Rev. Biol. 32, 348-363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stringer, C.B., 1989. A neglected Middle Pleistocene comparison for the Bilzingsleben hominid material. EAZ Ethnogr.-Archäol. Z. 30, 492-496.Google Scholar
  53. Stringer, C. B., Gamble, C., 1993. In Search of the Neanderthals. Thames and Hudson, London.Google Scholar
  54. Stringer, C.B., Hublin, J.-J., 1999. New age estimates for the Swanscombe hominid, and their significance for human evolution. J. Hum. Evol. 37, 873-877.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Stringer, C.B., McKie, R., 1996. African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity. Henry Holt, NewYork.Google Scholar
  56. Stringer, C.B., Howell, F.C., Melentis, J., 1979. The significance of the fossil hominid skull from Petralona, Greece. J. Archaeol. Sci. 6, 235-253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stringer, C.B., Hublin, J.-J., Vandermeersch, B., 1984. The origin of anatomically modern humans in western Europe. In: Smith, F., Spencer, F. (Eds.), The Origins of Modern Humans: A World Survey of the Fossil Evidence. Alan R. Liss, New York, pp. 51-135.Google Scholar
  58. Tattersall, I., 1986. Species recognition in human paleontology. J. Hum. Evol. 15, 165-175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Tattersall, I., 1994. How does evolution work? Evol. Anthrop. 3, 2-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tattersall, I., 1995. The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution. Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  61. Tattersall, I., Eldredge, N., 1977. Fact, theory and fantasy in human paleontology. Am. Sci. 65, 204-211.Google Scholar
  62. Tattersall, I., Schwartz, J.H., 2000. Extinct Humans. Westview Press, Boulder, CO.Google Scholar
  63. Trinkaus, E., 1973. A reconsideration of the Fontéchevade fossils. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 39, 25-36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Trinkaus, E., 1983. The Shanidar Neandertals. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  65. Vandermeersch, B., 1981. Les Hommes Fossiles de Qafzeh (Israel). CNRS, Paris.Google Scholar
  66. Vallois, H., 1949. L’origine de l’Homo sapiens. C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris 228, 949-951.Google Scholar
  67. Vlček, E., 1993. Fossile Menschenfunde von Weimar-Ehringsdorf. Konrad Theiss Verlag, Stuttgart.Google Scholar
  68. Vlček, E., Mania D., 1987. Homo erectus from Bilzingsleben (GDR)-His culture and environment. Anthropologie 25, 1-45.Google Scholar
  69. Wolpoff, M., 1980. Paleoanthropology. Knopf, New York.Google Scholar
  70. Wolpoff, M., Thorne, A. G., Jelinek, J.,Yinyun, Z., 1994. The case for sinking Homo erectus: 100 years of Pithecanthropus is enough! Cour. Forschinst. Senckenberg 171, 341-361.Google Scholar
  71. Ziegler, B., Dean, D., 1998. Mammalian fauna and biostratigraphy of the pre-Neanderthal site of Reilingen, Germany. J. Hum. Evol. 34, 469-484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Tattersall
    • 1
  • J. H. Schwartz
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of AnthropologyAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Anthropology the History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations