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Neanderthals on Trial  

Two skulls

Skull session: How many anatomical differences can you discern between the skull of a Neanderthal (left) and that of a Cro Magnon? Click either image to test your mettle.

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Close your eyes and picture a Neanderthal. You're probably imagining heavy browridges, a big, broad nose, perhaps a jutting midface. If so, you're right on, though those are only the most obvious differences between your face and that of your extinct relative. In this feature, compare the skulls and jawbones of a Neanderthal and an early modern human and see if you can ferret out the many anatomical dissimiliarities that paleoanthropologists use to distinguish between the two. (Hint: We highlight 13 differences.)

On the following page (and in miniature above), we present casts of two famous ancient skulls and associated jawbones housed in the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. (The originals are at the Musée de l'Homme in Paris.) The Neanderthal skull and jawbone (above, at left) belong to the so-called "Old Man" of La Chapelle-aux-Saints, a nearly complete skeleton found inside a cave in southwestern France in 1908. The early modern skull and jawbone (above, at right) come from Cro-Magnon I, one of several individuals whose remains turned up in a rockshelter in the Dordogne in 1868. The Neanderthal is 47,000 to 56,000 years old, the Cro-Magnon 30,000 to 35,000 years old.

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