Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Neanderthal life no tougher than that of ’modern’ Inuits

03.09.2004


The bands of ancient Neanderthals that struggled throughout Europe during the last Ice Age faced challenges no tougher than those confronted by the modern Inuit, or Eskimos.



That’s the conclusion of a new study intended to test a long-standing belief among anthropologists that the life of the Neanderthals was too tough for their line to coexist with Homo sapiens. And the evidence discounting that theory lies with tiny grooves that mar the teeth of these ancient people.

Neanderthals, Homo neanderthalensis, were the dominant hominid inhabiting most of what is now Europe and western Asia. Remains have been found as far south as Iraq and as far north as Great Britain. Fossil skulls reveal the distinctively prominent brows and missing chins that set them apart from later humans.


They thrived from about 200,000 to 30,000 years ago until their lineage failed for as-yet unknown reasons. Most researchers have argued that their life in extremely harsh, Ice Age-like environments, coupled with their limited technological skills, ultimately led to their demise. Homo sapiens arrived in Europe about 40,000 years ago and survived using more advanced technology. But the short lifespans of Neanderthals and evidence of arthritis in their skeletons suggests that their lives were extremely difficult.

That’s where Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg’s work comes in. An assistant professor of anthropology and evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University, she published a recent study in the Journal of Human Evolution that changes our view of the Neanderthals’ unbearable lives.

Guatelli-Steinberg has spent the last decade investigating tiny defects -- linear enamel hypoplasia -- in tooth enamel from primates, modern and early humans. These defects serve as markers of periods during early childhood when food was scarce and nutrition was low.

These tiny horizontal lines and grooves in tooth enamel form when the body faces either a systemic illness or a severely deficient diet. In essence, they are reminders of times when the body’s normal process of forming tooth enamel during childhood simply shut down for a period of time. “Looking at these fossilized teeth, you can easily see these defects that showed Neanderthals periodically struggled nutritionally,” she said. “But I wanted to know if that struggle was any harder than that of more modern humans.”

To find that answer, she turned to two collections of skeletal remains: One was a collection of Neanderthal skulls at least 40,000 years old from various sites across Europe; the other was a set of remains of Inuit Eskimos from Point Hope, Alaska. The Inuit remains, some 2,500 years old, are maintained by the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

She microscopically examined teeth from the Neanderthal skulls for signs of linear enamel hypoplasia, as well as other normal growth increments in teeth called perikymata, and compared their prevalence with those from the Inuit skulls.

“The evidence shows that Neanderthals were no worse off than the Inuit who lived in equally harsh environmental conditions,” she said, despite the fact that the Inuit use more advanced technology. “It is somewhat startling that Neanderthals weren’t suffering as badly as people had thought, relative to a modern human group (the Inuits).”

Guatelli-Steinberg’s examination of perikymata offered snapshots of Neanderthal survival. Smaller than the linear enamel hypoplasia, perikymata are even tinier horizontal lines on the teeth surface. Each one represents about eight days of enamel growth so by counting their number, researchers can gauge the speed of tooth development – more perikymata mean slower growth of the tooth surface.

Guatelli-Steinberg counted perikymata within linear enamel hypoplasias, and was able to gauge how long these episodes of physiological stress lasted. The perikymata showed that periods of up to three months of starvation for both the Neanderthals and the Inuit were not uncommon. In fact, Guatelli-Steinberg found that Inuit teeth showed significantly more perikymata than did the Neanderthals, suggesting that the Inuit experienced stress episodes that lasted slightly longer than did those of the Neanderthals.
She is looking ahead to do a similar comparison of tooth defects among the European Cro-Magnon who thrived after the Neanderthals disappeared. Coupled with the results of this project, and that of earlier work with non-human primates, she hopes to improve researchers’ understanding of just what information these tooth defects might reveal.

Along with Guatelli-Steinberg, Clark Spencer Larsen, professor and chair of anthropology at Ohio State, and Dale Hutchinson, associate professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina, worked on this project. Support for the research came from the L.S. B. Leakey Foundation.

Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Real-time feedback helps save energy and water
08.02.2017 | Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>