Example of an A+ Essay 2016
Who were the Neanderthals? Describe their similarities and differences to anatomically
modern humans (Homo sapiens) from an archaeological perspective. Do they appear to be
significantly different in behaviour from Homo sapiens sapiens? What are the possible
implications for the timing of the development of culture capability?
Who were the Neanderthals and how different were they from anatomically modern humans (Homo
sapiens)? There were certainly similarities between these two hominins who lived for a period at the
same time, however there were also differences; debate rages with regard to the degree of difference,
particularly the degree to which the Neanderthals demonstrated “modern” behaviour, that usually
associated with Homo sapiens. In common they were both populations who engaged in hunting and
gathering, and both developed technology to assist them with this way of life. They were omnivores,
eating animal product and some plant based foods, who used fire, made shelters and buried their
dead, all of these at least on occasion and with debate surrounding some evidence in the
archaeological record associated with the Neanderthals. Within this essay there is an examination of
some of the differences, including their behavioural differences; and ultimately what impact those
differences may have had on the two populations, starting with an examination of how they came to
be living contemporaneously.
Between 1.8 million and perhaps 600,000 years ago, the hominin Homo ergaster, also referred to as
African Homo erectus, evolved in Africa. Homo ergaster, in examples of adaptive radiation, moved
within Africa and on into Eurasia, in an unknown number of dispersal events, to take advantage of new
niches and resources. One of these dispersals saw the descendants of Homo ergaster known as
Homo heidelbergensis, established around 600,000 years ago in Europe, with possible sporadic
colonisation before this time (Klein, 2013:110). Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthals), a descendent
of Homo heidelbergensis, established populations by at least 300,000 years ago and Early
Neanderthals developed by 150,000 years ago with Classic Neanderthals in Eurasia by 70,000 years
ago. (Pettitt 2013:125). The Neanderthals lived in the period known as the Middle Palaeolithic. Most
Neanderthal finds are dated between 130,000 and 50,000 years ago, however one exception is the
site of St Cesaire, France, where they are thought to date as recently as 35,000 years ago. This meant
that for a period of time Neanderthals existed contemporaneously with our ancestor Homo sapiens,
who, having come out of Africa in a second wave of African migrants expanding into Eurasia around
60,000 to 50,000 years ago, eventually replaced Neanderthals and all other hominins on the earth.
There is no disagreement about the contrasts of Neanderthal physical morphology from Homo
sapiens. Neanderthals were shorter and stockier t...