4.1 Hominid fossils from Cueva Negra

Hominid fossils from Cueva Negra comprise a left ulnar shaft (Plate 4), a shaft fragment of a probably right humerus, and several permanent teeth. How do we know these to be Neanderthal? Some of the following descriptive and dimensional observations are incompatible with modern humans but commensurable with Neanderthals.

A robust left ulnar shaft, 188mm long, CN-3, was excavated from a sealed stratigraphical situation in C3c(2c) (metre square C3c, unit 2 spit c). It extends from just below the brachialis tuberosity to the top of that extensor carpi ulnaris tendon notch which would separate ulnar shaft from styloid process. Its narrow medullary canal is surrounded by 5mm thick cortical bone that attains 7mm posterosuperiorly from where its posterior border (really more of a 'surface') runs 160mm down from the prominent inferior apical ridge, of the (here broken-off) triangular surface below olecranon, that fans out into a flattish posterior surface 17.0mm wide becoming rounded towards the pronator ridge. A posterior perpendicular line is not present which usually ascends to meet the interosseous crest, here very prominent and clearly separate from that medial border of the posterior 'surface' which ascends from the pronator ridge. The beginnings of a similar flat 'surface' superiorly is present on some Roman ulnas we have examined though rounding soon starts below. Our flattened 'surface' is unconnected with that proximal anteroposterior platoneal flattening which can only be determined at the level of the ulnar's radial notch, but this proximal region was broken off in CN-3. Its anteroposterior/mediolateral diameters are 23/17mm proximally, 18.5/17mm midshaft, and 12/17mm distally; the midshaft index of 91.9 lies in the Neanderthal range (cf. Trinkaus 1983, 233). Mediolateral diameters are broad in other Neanderthals (cf. 17.0, 17.7, 16.7 in Shanidar 1, 4, 6; Trinkaus 1983, 236). The posterior 'surface' gave broad origins of extensores carpi ulnaris, indicis, and pollicis longus. The pronator quadratus insertion is also robustly marked by a rough tubercle on the most prominent part of the pronator ridge from which two sharp low crests extend downwards (30mm long and 6mm apart) to where the shaft was broken. Characteristic maximal and minimal dimensions at the middle of the pronator ridge define Neanderthals (Trinkaus 1983, 238); CN-3 has values of 18.2mm and 11.2mm and thus an index of 162.5, similar to La Ferrassie-1 (167.0 and 159.3; Trinkaus 1983, 238), setting CN-3 among Neanderthals and apart from Crô-Magnon-Skhul-Qafzeh (123.2±13.6 N=6; Trinkaus 1983, 238) or recent human indices (123.4±10.4 N=40; Trinkaus 1983, 238). Clearly, "powerful rotation of the forearm was important" in Neanderthals (Trinkaus 1983, 238): CN-3 implies very powerful pronation and extension of the wrist.

The proximal third of the shaft of a slender, almost certainly right, humerus, CN-8, comes from a sealed stratigraphic position in C2i(2g). Although its greatest length is 89mm, the fragment is only moderately complete over 54mm, of which merely 25mm offer a circumference free of fracture scars. It commences below the surgical neck. Proximally, anteroposterior/mediolateral diameters are 22.4/19.6mm, cortical thickness 5mm, and the shallow apex of the bicipital groove is unmistakable anteriorly; 25mm distally, anteroposterior/mediolateral diameters are 22.6/19.2mm and cortical thickness reaches 7mm at the beginning of the (missing) deltoid tuberosity. On the posterior aspect, the beginning of a shallow radial groove descends vertically, anterior and parallel to which there is a palpable faint ridge for attachment of fascia separating flexor and extensor muscular compartments. Despite being taken well above midshaft, indices of 89.1 and 85.0 for the aforementioned diameters hint at typically eurybrachial Neanderthals. The deltoid tuberosity root causes a medially-flattened, D-shaped cross-section inferiorly that superiorly may be more circular; a circumference of 67mm is compatible with adult Roman values. CN-8 may be female.

Elementin mm
incisoapical height23.0
mesiodistal crown dimension 5.7
buccolingual crown dimension 7.9
buccal crown height 7.7
lingual crown height 6.1
buccal height of the root15.3
mesiodistal dimension at the neck 5.4
buccolingual dimension at the neck 7.7
maximal mesiodistal dimension of the root 5.0
maximal buccolingual dimension of the root 8.3
Table 1: Odontometric measurements of CN-1 left mandibular permanent lateral incisor (measurements taken by M.J.Walker)

An adult Neanderthal left lateral mandibular incisor tooth, CN-1 (Plate 3; Table 1), came from the surface of metre square B1i (unstratified). Its crown shows attrition of enamel and exposure of dentine: this is common in adult Neanderthal front teeth and crown attrition can make mesiodistal crown dimensions seem low. However, large buccolingual dimensions (Table 1) separate them clearly from upper palaeolithic and modern human teeth, especially the cervical buccolingual dimension which in CN-1 far outstrips modern lower incisors (even in large Melanesian teeth: cf. Kieser 1990). Like CN-1, other Mousterian lower lateral incisors with a big difference between crown mesiodistal and buccolingual dimensions (perhaps likewise due to occlusal attrition) come from Jersey, Le Regourdou, and Sipka (cf. Frayer, 1978, 150-151). CN-1 also shows enamel chipping and mesial interproximal attrition.

Elementin mm
incisoapical height 25.2
mesiodistal crown dimension 7.6
buccolingual crown dimension 9.6
buccal crown height 9.6
buccal height of the root 7.9
mesiodistal dimension at the neck 5.8
buccolingual dimension at the neck 7.8
maximal mesiodistal dimension of the root 5.3
maximal buccolingual dimension of the root 8.7
Table 2: Odontometric measurements of CN-6 left maxillary permanent lateral incisor (measurements taken by M.J.Walker)

A left maxillary permanent lateral incisor, CN-6 (Table 2), occurred in B2f where unit 1 overlay unit 2 - it is not stratigraphically sealed. Its lingually shovel-shaped crown is characteristically Neanderthal. Occlusal attrition has exposed dentine and also the root canal around which secondary dentine forms a protective areola. Attrition with root-canal exposure is seen in Neanderthal incisors from Hortus (de Lumley-Woodyear 1973, 454-71).


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Last updated: Wed Dec 23 1998