1856 – Neanderthal Man is First Identified

As part of our 200 year anniversary we are celebrating significant events and discoveries that have taken place since 1817. This week we are jumping forward a decade to 1856 when Neanderthal man was first identified.

The first identified specimen was known simply as Neanderthal 1 and was identified in Germany by Johann Carl Fuhlrott, a science teacher.

The research he did on these fossils has told us a huge amount about our closest relatives. For example, they were a lot shorter and stockier as this allowed them to conserve heat. They also tended to have larger noses but, contrary to one common misconception, they did have the same size brains as we do today.

Other interesting information we now know about these ancestors is they were excellent hunters, who built shelters and made their own clothes.

They also took part in symbolic rituals, such as burying and honouring their dead by placing flowers on their graves – again similar to how we do it today.

During Neanderthal 1’s life he had endured a lot of injury, probably due to hunting. He had a broken elbow which looked like it had been caused by a fall on a rock. Due to a lack of medicine in that time it had not healed correctly which potentially left the arm unusable.

Neanderthal 1 died from a bone eating disease which scientists still haven’t identified. They estimate his age at death was between 40 and 42.

In March 1999 archaeologists travelled to the site where Neanderthal 1 was found and during their excavation managed to find more fossils that were missed in the original dig. The bones included a molar, ribs, a toe, part of a pelvis and a bone that exactly matched the knee joint of Neanderthal 1.

If you found this article interesting why not join us next week when we will be marvelling at the final construction of Big Ben in 1858?