The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Reconstructing the craniofacial maturation of Neandertals


Anthropology, Georgia State University

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Neandertal immature craniofacial remains are well preserved, providing a unique diachronic perspective on their growth and development. To infer the craniofacial maturation of Neandertals, a large sample (n = 42) of fossil infants, juveniles, subadults and adults is compared to an ontogenetic sequence for modern humans (n = 294) using an interpolation of growth trajectories generated from piecewise regression. Modeled growth trajectories and shape changes in the calvarium, face and mandible are subsequently explored in a multivariate framework. The two species of Pan (P. troglodytes, n = 156 and P. paniscus, n = 151) provide a benchmark upon which to evaluate the differences between Neandertals and modern humans. Craniofacial changes during the postnatal maturation of Neandertals and modern humans are complex and no single description can adequately characterize differences in growth rates and the duration of the growth of traits. Although Neandertals are larger at birth for many craniofacial features, modeled growth curves indicate Neandertal life cycle maturation was accelerated only for some mandibular and palatal dimensions. For dimensions of the calotte, such as upper cranial height and cranial length, it is modern humans who exhibit a more rapid growth rate but with a shorter duration of growth compared to Neandertals. To the extent that life cycle age can be reconstructed from dental eruption, modeled growth curves for Neandertals imply that they achieved craniofacial maturation at ages comparable to those characterizing modern humans suggesting fundamental patterns of human life history arose in an ancestor of archaic and modern Homo.

This research was supported by the Fulbright Foundation, the Belgian American Educational Foundation and Sigma Xi.

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