Neandertals: A Cyber Perspective
by Carlina de la Cova, Ph.D.

In 1856 at Feldhofer Cave, near Dusseldorf Germany, Neandertal Man informally introduced himself to the world. Named after the valley in which he was discovered (Neander Tal), this hominid would drive anthropologists mad for over 100 years. Intially regarded as dim-witted, beast-like brutes, Neandertals were the ancestors that nobody wanted. This misconception was due to French paleontologist Marcellin Boule. Upon examining the remains of the La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neandertal from France, also known as the 'old man' of La Chapelle-aux-Saints, Boule declared that these hominids were unintelligent due to their low-browed brains. He ascertained that the only thing they could produce was their crude tools and not much else. Boule also believed that "the beast had walked with bent knees and a shambling gait, his head slung forward on a squat neck, his big toe splayed out chimpanzee-like to the side" (Shreeve 1994:18). Of course later we would learn that this interpretation was incorrect. Boule's prejudices got in the way of his examination of the elderly hominid. In reality, the 'old man' of La Chapelle-aux-Saints was crippled and extremely arthritic, which Boule somehow managed to overlook. Some anthropologists believe it was merely impossible to miss the evidence of the 'old man's' arthritis because it was so obvious to see. Regardless, Boule's analysis left a permanent scar on the Neandertals image that would not begin to heal until many years later.

Boule's depiction of Neandertal Man remained in the mind of many scholars for years to come. It still lingers to this very day. The Feldhofer cave Neandertal, found in1856. After its discovery, other Neandertal remains were recognized.


The 'old man' of La Chapelle-aux-Saints. 
These were the original remains that Marcellin 
Boule studied and declared that Neandertal man 
was a bestial hominid  that could not walk upright.

Today we know that Boule's predictions about Neandertals are not true. With twentieth century scientific advances and modern interpretations a new views of Neandertals and their culture have been provided. This is the world of Neandertals, this is their life and their story, but in order to properly understand it, we must first understand them. Journey with me into their world as we go in search of the truth about these hominids.


Examining skeletons at the Smithsonian Institution
Examining two skulls for sale at Sangiran, Java, Indonesia
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Copyright by Carlina de la Cova, 1997