Ancestors of Neanderthals found in Spain
According to a new study published in the journal Science, Neanderthals evolved as a distinct group of their ancestors, who viciously fought for survival and power. The study analyzed 17 skulls from a collection of 430,000-year-old remains found at the base of an underground shaft in Spain.
The distinct and first prominent feature of the pre-Neanderthals was a big jaw, so much so that their mandibles were large enough to gnash meat. They could open wide and be used like a tool or a third hand. This feature helped them adapt to the eating needs in the cold environment that they lived in.
Further, their skull was found to be compact indicating that they had a small brain. This means that the development of the larger brain seen in Neanderthals came much later in the evolutionary process. Mitochondrial DNA testing on one of the fragments shows that these people were not Neanderthals and in-fact dated 200,000 years before the Neanderthals are known to have existed.
The findings of these pre- Neanderthals skulls make it clear that the full set of the Neanderthal characteristics did not evolve at the same pace. Further, the study suggests that these skulls offered great insight into the evolution as they belonged to the Neanderthal ancestors. The authors of the study report that these ancestors are yet to be ascribed an official name.
The reason of finding so many skulls in one place has left many questions unanswered. Scientists believe that they were pitched into the site by their conquerors.
Lead researcher Juan-Luis Arsuaga from the Complutense University of Madrid described this story in terms of “Game of Thrones,” a popular fantasy television series based on novels by George R.R. Martin. “We think that a Game of Thrones scenario probably describes hominin evolution in Eurasia and Africa in the Middle Pleistocene period,” he told reporters.
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