"I love footprints because they’re a moment in time"
September 12, 2019 7:32 AM   Subscribe

We know what we know about Neanderthals from a sparse fossil record and a healthier lithic one, but a new discovery, published [recently] in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (abstract only), has advanced our knowledge by baby steps—many, many baby steps. Ossified in the escarpments of Le Rozel, in Normandy, France, are hundreds of footprints of our close relatives (Anthropology.net), including those of children. [...] Formed 80,000 years ago, the prints were made by about a dozen Neanderthals, who occupied the site seasonally. Found: A Windfall of Neanderthal Footprints in France (Atlas Obscura)

More from Anthropolgy.net:
Prior to this, we knew that Neanderthals were symbolical beings who decorated and produced music, art and jewelry. From Shanidar, we now understand they mourned and buried their dead. Furthermore, they probably took care of their ill and elderly. Lastly, what they consumed, what tools they used and how they made their tools is not entirely foreign knowledge to us. They were complex humans.

What has been largely unknown is the size and organization of their groups. We have used conjecture from hunter gatherer groups, that their social groups were similar in structure. This find gives us the best possible snapshot to Neanderthal social structure aside from a census.
(All links above to other Anthropology.net articles)
posted by filthy light thief (13 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
What the heck does this sentence mean: "This gives us a good idea who deep Neanderthals rolled."

In my mind the evidence presented in the Anthropology.net article doesn't say anything about Neanderthals "of the deep" or who they preferred to ambush in an alley, so that's clearly not what it means...
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:38 AM on September 12, 2019


The minimum number of individuals based on the different prints at Le Rozel is believed to be between 10 and 13 Neanderthals. Curiously, the group seems to have been mostly children and teenagers, who outnumbered the adults by at least four to one with the youngest probably being around two years old. This gives us a good idea who deep Neanderthals rolled. Again, this is strong work from Duveau and colleagues.

Can anyone explain what the highlighted sentence means?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:39 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,

Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt...


Crossing Brooklyn Ferry“ by Walt Whitman
posted by sallybrown at 7:40 AM on September 12, 2019 [5 favorites]


I would guess “who” is a typo for “how,” and could mean “how deep they rolled” as in generally how many friends and family they traveled around with. When you roll deep you’ve got a lot of people with you who are on your side and have your back. It means you’re with your pack.
posted by sallybrown at 7:43 AM on September 12, 2019 [12 favorites]


Icnology (the study of the fossils of traces left by organisms) is a field that never gets as much kudos as it deserves.
It's not just Neanderthal or dinosaur footprints. Palaeontology even has separate classifications for traces left by a stationary animal (Russophycus) or a moving one (Cruziana) - those are usually, but not exclusively, used for trilobite traces.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:58 AM on September 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


Yeah, my mom still has my baby footprints, wasn't aware how valuable they'd be.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:44 AM on September 12, 2019 [8 favorites]


I like imagining Neanderthal tots ("I'm only eighty thousand and three and a half years old"), but I hope the climate was good in their part of France. I don't like to think of their hairy little feet being cold.
posted by pracowity at 8:46 AM on September 12, 2019 [6 favorites]


While the article is behind the paywall, the supplementary material is not. There's some great reading and photos in there for those who are interested.
posted by wollaston at 9:07 AM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


I don't like to think of their hairy little feet being cold.

I'm going to get so many pairs of socks at quonsar aren't I?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:29 AM on September 12, 2019 [6 favorites]


Formed 80,000 years ago, the footprints were made by about a dozen Neanderthals, who occupied the site seasonally

It was then that the Neanderthal carried you.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:18 AM on September 12, 2019 [9 favorites]


I wonder if there is anything to learn from these footprints about the gait of the Neanderthal - did they plod, run, hobble ... ? How erect did they stand?
posted by Modest House at 12:12 PM on September 12, 2019


> group seems to have been mostly children and teenagers, who outnumbered the adults by at least four to one with the youngest probably being around two years old

Hmm, this sounds exactly like (certain branches of) my family. 8-11 kids and maybe 1-3 adults.

The only thing missing is a couple of babes in arms. But wait - babes in arms wouldn't leave footprints, would they?

Conclusion: My family is in fact a group of Neanderthals.

More seriously, this sounds much more like a nuclear family group, just a reasonably large one, more than a typical small hunter/gatherer band, which looks more like an extended family group and includes at least several adults, not all closely related to each other or coupled up.
posted by flug at 12:40 PM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


Isn't it thought that part of the problem for Neanderthals in competing with modern humans was that they they required more territory to support themselves? So their density in Europe was very low, and presumably the individual groups would be smaller. So they both had issues with incest and also were generally drowned out by the numbers of modern humans.
posted by tavella at 12:44 PM on September 12, 2019


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