Sunday, January 10, 2010

Did We Mate Or Murder Neanderthals?

Aiming his crossbow, Steven Churchill leaves no more than a two-inch gap between the freshly killed pig and the tip of his spear. His weapon of choice is a bamboo rod attached to a sharpened stone, modeled after the killing tools wielded by early modern humans some 50,000 years ago, when they cohabited in Eurasia with their large-boned relatives, the Neanderthals. Churchill, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University, is doing an experiment to see if a spear thrown by an early modern human might have killed Shanidar 3, a roughly 40-year-old Neanderthal male whose remains were uncovered in the 1950s in Shanidar Cave in northeastern Iraq. Anthropologists have long debated about a penetrating wound seen in Shanidar 3's rib cage: Was he injured by another Neanderthal in a fight-or was it an early modern human who went after him?

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