Science

Neanderthals having disabilities survived with the help of social support

Neanderthals, our so-called ancestors, have always fascinated researchers and scientists and at the same time, given the much-needed information about human evolution and growth pattern. Recently, a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal skull was re-analyzed, and it was discovered that in addition to enduring multiple injuries and debilitations, the male skull was also profoundly deaf. But the shocking thing is that with all these disabilities, the male Neanderthal still managed to live well into his 40s, which is considered as a quite old age as per Palaeolithic standards.

But the new research indicated that this astonishing feat could have only been possible by the support of others. Actually, the remains of this old male Neanderthal was found at Shanidar Cave in Iraqi Kurdistan way back in 1957. At that time the researchers saw many physical injuries and disabilities present in the Neanderthal fossil, and when they analyzed the skull, they found out that the Neanderthal suffered a crushing blow to the head near his eye socket when he was young, likely causing some visual impairment. His right hand and forearm were missing. He might have walked with a serious gait and also suffered from hyperostotic disease.

But recently, when the Neanderthal specimen dubbed as Shanidar 1 was analyzed again, scientists found out yet another shocking disability. They discovered that the bony growths found in the Neanderthal’s ear canals would have resulted in serious hearing loss that means the Palaeolithic-era hunter-gatherer was profoundly deaf. Anthropologists Erik Trinkaus from Washington University in St. Louis and S√©bastien Villotte of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, carried out this updated analysis and found out this hearing disability in Shanidar 1. The authors informed that it would have been essentially impossible for Shanidar 1 to maintain a sufficiently clear canal for adequate sound transmission. Hence, he would have been effectively deaf in his right ear, and he likely had at least partial CHL(conductive hearing loss) in the left year.

The authors also added that this hearing disability is a serious sensory deprivation Pleistocene hunter-gatherer. But despite his deafness, the Neanderthal died between 40-50 years of age and by Palaeolithic standards, he was an old man when he died. So, scientists believe that Shanidar 1 managed to live long by taking help of others or by social support. Because his inability to hear would have resulted in less communication and coordination, and he would have been more vulnerable to ubiquitous carnivores. So, social support was the key to his long survival.

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