Science in Christian Perspective



James 0. Buswell III, M.A.

From JASA 9 (June 1957): 13

Neanderthal Man Straightens Up!

On December 27, 1956 in New York City, section H (anthropology) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science commemorated "the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the Neanderthal man" by a symposium presented at the 123rd annual meeting of the association.

Papers were presented by well-chosen leaders in the field of human paleontology. Loren C. Eisely, University of Pennsylvania, commenced with an excellent historical orientation "Neanderthal Man and the Dawn of Human Paleontology." The material culture associated with Neanderthal was the subject of Hallam L. Movius, Jr., of Harvard.

With unusual breath, and brilliance for his years F. Clark Howell of the University of Chicago discussed the ticklish problem of the Neanderthaloid of Southwestern Asia and their relationship to classic types of Western Europe.

"Some Observations on the Pathology of the Neanderthal Man" were made by William L. Straus, Jr., of John Hopkins University. The session was concluded by a brief discussion of the significance of alledged "American Neanderthaloids" by T. Dale Stewart of U. S. National Museum in Washington.

Of greatest significance was Professor Straus's presentation of the results of recent re-examinations of the famous "old" man of La Chapelle aux Saints. These were the remains upon whose reconstruction Boule, in 1911-13, based his long-famous picture of the Neanderthal posture: stooped, with head thrust forward, knees bent, stupid expression and all. No cervical curvature and very slight, if any, lumbar curvature of the spinal column was long believed to be the chief explanation for this.

Straus reported, however, that there was abundant evidence of advanced osteo-arthritis in La Chapelle mandible and throughout the post-cranial skeleton. The vertebrae not only revealed marked "lipping" and deformation, but indicate as well, significantly faulty repair on the part of the investigators. It was pointed out that recently Aramburg and Schultz have seriously questioned the "naturalness of semi-erect posture in an habitually bipedal stance." Furthermore, Aramburg has shown that modem man has frequently the same form of vertebrae as La Chapelle proving that it was not a Simian feature as Boule had thought.

Professor Straus concluded by stating that "there is nothing about Neanderthal man that would necessarily cause him to walk any differently than ourselves.". ..

This new development in human paleontology will no doubt have some serious implications for some evolutionist's theories. An entire "stage" of human evolution for some, will be automatically eliminated.

For the creationist position, however, it merely necessitates reappraisal of the data at hand, and allows for a strengthening of the position that man has always been "man" as far back as the evidence goes.

Of course, there are some who have always included the Neanderthal man with the Homo sapiens, but this recent re-examination by Professor Straus would seem to make entirely unnecessary the taxonomic creation of a separate species for Neanderthal man. Of course the distinctive skeletal features of the skull: the extreme supra-orbital ridge, the heavy bones, no chin, etc. still remain as the hallmarks, so to speak, of early man. These are in no way indicative of any qualitative differences.

Wheaton College
Wheaton, Illinois
February 4, 1957