Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

Evidence for precision grasping in Neandertal daily activities

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Science Advances  26 Sep 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 9, eaat2369
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat2369

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  • RE: precision grasping in Neandertal daily activities
    • Marc Verhaegen, Medical Doctor, Study Center for Anthropology, B-2580 Belgium.

    Thanks a lot for this innovating paper. There is indeed no doubt that Neandertal hands (although more sturdy and broader than sapiens hands) were often used for precision grip activities. As examples of Neandertal daily activities you mention cutting, defleshing and disarticulating carcasses, but it is known that their diets often included plant foods such as cattails and waterlily roots, as well as, for instance, salmon and molluscs.
    The carbon and nitrogen isotopic evidence is often used to argue that Neandertals were "top predators" or "super-carnivores", but this is based on a misinterpretation of the data: no animal (or Neandertal) could have been more carnivorous than felids. Instead, Neandertal C and N isotopes (e.g. Richards et al. 2007, Wissing et al. 2016) are most parsimoniously interpreted, not as being super-carnivorous, but simply as being intermediate between marine and freshwater foods (google e.g. "Ape and Human Evolution 2018 biology vs anthropocentrism" and especially the references therein). Different lines of evidence suggest that most or all European Neandertals were omnivores dwelling along river valleys, oxbow lakes and wetlands, and seasonally following the river to the Atlantic (e.g. La Cotte de Saint Brelade, Jersey) or Mediterranean Sea (Neandertal sites all along the northern Mediterranean coasts).
    Not unlikely in my opinion, Neandertals used their precision grip not in the first place for butchering an...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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