Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Man of La Chapelle-aux-Saints

Man of La Chapelle-aux-Saints, also called the Old Man, was a fossilized skull of a Neanderthal which was discovered in La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France, by A. and J. Bouyssonie, and L. Bardon in 1908. The physical traits included a 1,600cm3-capacity cranium and heavy thick browridge typical of Neanderthals. Estimated to be about 60,000 years old, the specimen was severely arthritic and had lost all his teeth, with evidence of healing. For him to have lived on would have required that someone process his food for him, one of the earliest examples of Neanderthal altruism.

The remains of La Chapelle-aux-Saints were first studied by Marcellin Boule, whose reconstruction of Neandertal anatomy based on la Chapelle-aux-Saints material shaped popular perceptions of the Neandertals for over thirty years. The La Chapelle-aux-Saints specimen is typical of 'classic' Western European Neandertal anatomy.

This specimen had lost many of his teeth, with evidence of healing. All of the mandibular molars were absent and consequently, some researchers suggested that the 'Old Man' would have needed someone to process his food for him. This was widely cited as an example of Neanderthal altruism, similar to Shanidar 1. However, later studies have shown that La Chapelle-aux-Saints had a number of incisors, canines and premolars in place and therefore would have been able to chew his own food, although perhaps with some difficulty.