Neanderthals Weren't Human
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MEET THE NEANDERTHALS
By Helen Briggs
Thursday, 2 August, 2001
[Visit the link above to see graphics that compare humans and Neanderthals.]
Reconstructions of Neanderthal skulls add to growing evidence that the
creatures were not close relatives of modern humans.
The distinctive features of the Neanderthal skull were established in early
infancy -- possibly even in the womb -- say researchers in Switzerland.
Their conclusion is based on sophisticated computer graphics charting the
cranial development of Neanderthals, from babyhood to adult life.
The findings support the idea that Neanderthals did not interbreed with
early modern humans and contributed little or nothing to the present human
Christoph Zollikofer and Marcia Ponce de León of the University of Zürich
used fossils to construct 3D virtual computer images of the skulls of
Neanderthals and early modern humans.
Physical differences in skull development -- such as the Neanderthal's
receding chin and low, sloping forehead -- were fixed by the age of two
years, said Dr Zollikofer.
"Most of what makes a Neanderthal and what makes a modern human is already
present in the infant," he told BBC News Online.
This suggests that Neanderthals were a separate "sister" species from modern
"We don't see any evidence of gene mixing at all," he said. "But we can't
Neanderthals were an ancient group of hominids that lived in Europe, the
Near East, Central Asia, and probably western Siberia more than 100,000
Their mysterious demise about 30,000 years ago has been the subject of much
debate and speculation.
Some believe that the Neanderthals were killed off by a new type of human,
which began to take over their hunting grounds during the middle of the last
Another theory is that the Neanderthals disappeared through interbreeding
Recent DNA analysis of three Neanderthal skeletons suggests that they were
not our ancestors but a sidebranch of human evolution.
The Swiss research, published in the scientific journal Nature, seems to
support that view.
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