We've pictured Neanderthals wrong — they walked upright just like we Sapiens do

A new study shows that Neanderthals walked upright — just like we modern humans do today.

There are many things natural historians disagree on. But one that's never been in question is that a "well-balanced posture" is a remarkably Homo sapien-y thing to have.

Neanderthals are the closest extinct relatives to us modern humans. And one of the signature assumptions made about them is that they walked only partially-upright — a conclusion drawn after reconstructions and simulations mocked up from preserved skeletons that archaeologists came upon.

Weve pictured Neanderthals wrong — they walked upright just like we Sapiens do

The image of Neanderthals as hunched ape-men was dispelled decades ago, but some scientists fear recent research might go some way towards reviving it. Image: UZH

The first such reconstruction was made in the early 20th century from an elderly Neanderthal male discovered in the French town of La Chapelle-aux-Saints. The well-preserved bones reaffirmed what scientists have thought to be true for the longest time: that Neanderthals were "hunched-over cavemen".

The reason Neanderthals are all the rage among palaeontologists is that they are the closest extinct relatives of modern humans — that's us. They are more similar to us — in an evolutionary and behavioural sense — than any other species on Earth.

Neanderthals were seen as having straight spines like us, and bad posture. But a newer reconstruction of the same remains has shown that these prehistoric humans weren't as different from us sapiens as many researchers have assumed.

The reconstructed remains of the Neanderthal make found in France. Image courtesy: University of Zurich

The reconstructed remains of the Neanderthal make found in France. Image courtesy: University of Zurich

The new study shows that Neanderthals walked upright — just like we modern humans do today. The virtual reconstruction of the skeleton showed that they had a lumbar region (lower back region) above the pelvis akin to ours, and a sharp curvature of the spine.

There are distinct "wear marks" in the hip joints of the skeleton found in France that strongly point to an upright standing body.

"The stress on the hip joint and the position of the pelvis is no different than ours," Martin Haeusler, lead author of the study from the University of Zurich, said in a statement.

A comparison of past and present reconstructions of the Neanderthal spine. Image: University of Zurich

A comparison of past and present reconstructions of the Neanderthal spine. Image: University of Zurich

Other Neanderthal skeletons over the years — the Kebara 2 skeletons studied by researchers in Tel Aviv, for instance — that have intact or partial bones from the vertebral and pelvic regions, also support the new study's findings, the researchers said.

"On the whole, there is hardly any evidence that would point to Neanderthals having fundamentally different anatomy,"

Findings from the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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