Neanderthal man was a ‘domestic god’

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Associated Press

Europe was once dominated by Neanderthals, but they disappeared after modern man was thought to have emerged 60 000 years ago.

London - After a hard day’s woolly mammoth hunting, Neanderthal man could have been forgiven for putting his feet up by the fire in his cave.

But not for long. For, contrary to his brutish image, it appears the hairy hunter was a bit of a whizz on the domestic front.

A Neanderthal new man, in fact.

Scientists now believe the Neanderthals spent most of their time carrying out domestic chores.

Cavemen’s remains show they had huge right arms – 50 percent stronger than their left ones – which had been attributed to the demands of hunting big game with spears.

However, a Cambridge University study suggests hunting would not have had this effect at all, and the bone structure is more likely to be the result of hours spent scraping animal hides to make clothes.

As Neanderthals roamed Europe during the Ice Age, they would have needed the furs to survive.

And if they spent the majority of their time at home making skins, Neanderthal men may also have been far more involved in cooking and child care than first thought.

Dr Colin Shaw, a Cambridge archaeologist, said: “The skeletal remains suggest that Neanderthals were doing something intense or repetitive, or both, that had a significant role in their lives. The question is, what was it?

“The main theory until now is it was hunting mammoths and deer, which has coloured our view of the Neanderthal as a hunter. But we have shown it would not have had the effect we’ve seen on the bones.”

The researchers said the shape of Neanderthals’ humerus bones – which run from the shoulder to elbow – show their right upper-arms were unusually strong.

Most right-handed people have right arms 10 percent stronger than their left, but the disparity in Neanderthals is only seen in the likes of tennis players. The journal PLoS ONE reports that Dr Shaw’s team used right-handed volunteers to throw spears and scrape, and measured their muscle activity using electrodes.

“During the scraping task we saw activity consistent with their arm shape,” Dr Shaw said.

One of the tools most often found with Neanderthal remains in Europe is scraper used to remove soft tissue from an animal hide. The task took about eight hours.

Neanderthals would have required about six skins for one outfit, which would need replacing every year. - Daily Mail

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