Anthropologists in the UK have constructed a remarkably life-like model of a Neanderthal man from a 70,000 year-old skeleton that was discovered in France over a century ago.
In 1909, scientists discovered the remains of a group of Neanderthals at La Ferrassie cave in the Dordogne region. One of the Neanderthals, which they named La Ferrassie 1, had a skeleton that was particularly well preserved — and it was this skeleton that served as the template for the reconstruction. The missing parts — the thorax, ribs, pelvis and some spinal pieces — were replaced by the bones of a Neanderthal discovered at Kebara Cave in Israel in 1982.
What makes LF1's remains particularly unique is that it features the largest and most complete Neanderthal skull ever found. His leg and foot bones were a revelation to anthropologists at the time as it proved that these hominids walked upright. The skeletal remains also revealed that they were stocky, had strong arms and hands, and they had large skulls that were longer and lower than ours — including a sloping forehead and virtually non-existent chin.
The reconstruction itself was performed by a multi-disciplinal team that was comprised of both anthropologists and model makers. And as the BBC reports, the attention to detail was second to none:
The team studied the ways Neanderthals hunted their prey and carried out domestic chores, noting the impact those actions had on their bodies.
They concluded that they would have repeatedly stabbed their prey - the woolly mammoth - with spears, but that the really intense work would have been making garments to survive the cold climate.
A Neanderthal would have needed a new garment every year, which would have been made up of approximately five or six hides. They would have needed to scrape each hide for eight hours to make it wearable.
On the basis of this evidence La Ferrassie 1's muscles, including those in the strong right arm, were reconstructed accordingly and layered on in clay.
And it went on like this for each phase of the project. The end result is nothing short of spectacular — an incredibly accurate model of a Neanderthal man — one that even exudes a kind of presence.
Be sure to watch a sneak peak of the BBC show Prehistoric Autopsy where the anthropologists and model makers get to see the finished product for the very first time. But just be warned — the poor fellow wasn't given so much as a loin cloth, so it's potentially NSFW.
Source and images: BBC.