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Morphology, pathology, and the vertebral posture of the La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neandertal

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Haeusler Martin, Trinkaus Erik, Fornai Cinzia, Müller Jonas, Bonneau Noémie, Boeni Thomas, Frater Nakita,
Project Birth and human evolution - implications from computer-assisted reconstructions
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume (Issue) 116(11)
Page(s) 4923 - 4927
Title of proceedings Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1820745116

Open Access

URL https://www.pnas.org/content/116/11/4923
Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)

Abstract

Although the early postural reconstructions of the Neandertals as incompletely erect were rejected half a century ago, recent studies of Neandertal vertebral remains have inferred a hypolordotic, flat lower back and spinal imbalance for them, including the La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 skeleton. These studies form part of a persistent trend to view the Neandertals as less “human” than ourselves despite growing evidence for little if any differences in basic functional anatomy and behavioral capabilities. We have therefore reassessed the spinal posture of La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 using a new pelvic reconstruction to infer lumbar lordosis, interarticulation of lower lumbar (L4-S1) and cervical (C4-T2) vertebrae, and consideration of his widespread age-related osteoarthritis. La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 exhibits a pelvic incidence (and hence lumbar lordosis) similar to modern humans, articulation of lumbar and cervical vertebrae indicating pronounced lordosis, and Baastrup disease as a product of his advanced age, osteoarthritis, and lordosis. Our findings challenge the view of generally small spinal curvatures in Neandertals. Setting aside the developmentally abnormal Kebara 2 vertebral column, La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 is joined by other Neandertals with sufficient vertebral remains in providing them with a fully upright (and human) axial posture.
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