A study released this week refutes the earlier supposition that the increased mass in the right arms of Neanderthals resulted from constant spear usage, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The new data suggests that Neanderthals developed this asymmetry from sitting and performing one repetitive motion over and over until they came to the end.
This does raise the question: why did the Neanderthals spend so much time scraping large animal hides? While hides were used to make both clothing and shelter, it seems odd that the scraping of them should be so intensive as to modify the physiology of the scraper. Researchers assume that the motion was scraping and not something else, of course, as scraping tools are one of the most common Neanderthal artifacts known, while not a single Neanderthal-era Flesh Light has yet been unearthed.
While modern humans coexisted and may have even cross-bred with Neanderthals, the same relative asymmetry has not been observed in the remains of humans contemporary with Neanderthals, meaning that for whatever reason Neanderthals possessed inferior scraping tools to their human competitors. While only a tiny part of the equation, one has to wonder if this inefficiency may have led to the Neanderthals becoming extinct while modern humans thrived, as any nerd can tell you it’s hard to mate (thus create viable offspring) when you spend so much time, alone, stroking a skin.
While I have made one large self-gratification joke out of this story, the study was quite interesting, in that they actually took modern humans and had them do the kind of repetitive spear movements that they would have expected ancient Neanderthals to have.
What they found was a right-handed spear-er (not a word, but that’s what they are so that’s what you get) actually developed increased mass on the left side of the body, not the right. While the study doesn’t show anything definitive in this regard, it is frightening to think that Neanderthals may have been bested by humans simply because of a single type of better tool. Just thinking that makes me think I need to update my anti-virus. Which reminds me of something else, now that I think of it…just can’t remember why I’d need to update my-oh, right.