PACEA, University of Bordeaux
March 26, 2015 2:45, Grand Ballroom E/F/G
Birth is a major biological event, with many issues at stake. In the anatomically modern Human, it is also a fundamental cultural moment, with various practices and rituals. Biologically speaking, the modern delivery (named rotational birth, because of the movements made by the fetus during the expulsion) has long been considered an exception among human lineage but several recent studies has re-opened the debate.
At the end of the years 2000, the technical progresses of virtual anthropology as well as the discovery of new materials have led to a new rise of paleo-obstetrical works applied to Neandertal population. Various hypotheses have been suggested which can all be summarized in one question: did this population have modern-type obstetrical mechanics?
This study uses a paleo-obstetrical approach to analyse three Neandertal pelvises (Regourdou 1, Kebara 2 and Tabun C1) linked with four neonates (Mezmaiskaya 1, Le Moustier 2 and two estimates calculated from the children of Roc de Marsal 1 and Pech de l’Azé 1). Using the tools of modern obstetrics (confrontation of pelvic and cephalic diameters) and geometric morphometrics (in particular Procrustes analyses), we attest the presence of a rotational birth in Neandertal population. However, some characteristics of this birth differ from the modern Human, for example concerning the risk of dystocia or the timing of rotation.
The existence of modern-type obstetrical mechanics in Neanderthal raises different issues of physiological, demographical but also cultural nature. It also offers the opportunity to question the notion of bio-cultural modernity.