A new discovery in Spain, the Sima de los Huesos or “Pit of Bones” cave in Sierra de Atapuerca, has some paleontologists noting that Neanderthals most likely evolved their distinctive facial features in a chaotic Game of Thrones manner. The features would have happened as their ancestors clashed and competed in a harsh Ice Age environment.
TribLive reported that a team of scientists has retrieved the remains of 28 prehistoric humans, members of an enigmatic species that could be described as a little bit Neanderthal. The species was not fully Neanderthal, but rather had specific Neanderthal features. They had Neanderthal faces, with heavy brows and protruding noses. They had powerful mandibles and mouths that could open extremely wide, indicating they used their teeth as gripping tools. But they didn’t have the large skulls or other robust skeletal features seen in the prototypical Neanderthals.
These were apparently ancestors of Neanderthals. They were still developing their distinct features we would find in later Neanderthal species. These would have been inhabitants of a line that, many thousands of years earlier, had split from the ancestors of modern humans. It wasn’t until about 30,000 years ago that all other species of the Homo genus went extinct leaving only the Homo Sapiens. Though modern humans are not direct descendants of Neanderthals, our ancestors would have lived for many thousands of years with other Homo species.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Juan-Luis Arsuaga, a professor of paleontology at the Complutense University of Madrid, portrayed the findings and evolution of the human species as an exciting Game of Thrones process. He notes that there would have been nothing boring about the evolution of our species, but rather many different species of human competing with one another. In his Game of Thrones analogy, Arsuaga said:
“As in the famous saga, there was never a unified and uniform middle Pleistocene kingdom, but a number of houses living in different regions and often competing for the land.”
The paleontologists who discovered the mass grave in the cave were trying to come up with all the reasons so many corpses would have been in one place. Arsuaga said there is one logical explanation:
“They were thrown… or made to fall from the top of the shaft by other hominins. This is the explanation we consider as the most possible.”
It is hard for humans today to imagine a world rife with Neanderthals or other Homo species, but Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, notes, “If you look back on the fossil record, you realize it’s totally routine to have several different types of species of Homo in the world, trying to exist at the same time. What is unusual is for us to be on our own.” It wasn’t until relatively recently in terms of the human species, that we have been left alone, with no opposing human species living.
This isn’t the only recent Neanderthal find. Neanderthal tools suggest that they had more advance skills than previously thought. The 50,000-year-old bone tools were discovered in southwestern France and added a new layer to the evolution process of the Homo genus.
What do you think of this new find? Can you imagine a world with Neanderthals, modern humans, and pre-Neanderthal species all living together, fighting for domination?
[Image Credit: NBC News]