Reconstruction of Neanderthal skull flattened like a pancake

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Scientists recently reconstructed a Neanderthal skull that was flattened like a pancake or shattered into pieces. The team also used digital technology to create a 3D approximation of the face of a 75,000-year-old Neanderthal woman.

Archaeologists believe that after the woman died, her head was probably crushed by a falling rock. Then layers of sediment deposited over thousands of years compacted it. When archaeologists discovered it, the skull was about an inch thick.

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A research team unearthed the skull from a cave in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2018. Several Neanderthal specimens had previously been found in the cave. This cave was discovered in the late 1950s and is believed to be his burial site.

After exposing the skeletal remains, which the research team named Shanidar Z, archaeologists used a glue-like substance to piece the pieces together. They conducted experiments on several blocks filled with sediment. They wrapped each block in foil and removed it from the site.

In the Cambridge lab, researchers performed micro-CT scans of each block, slowly dissolving the material that held them together, and then used CT scans to identify and remove each piece. Lead conservator Lucia López Pollin then pieced together more than 200 skull fragments.

‘It’s like a high-stakes 3D jigsaw puzzle,’ says Cambridge archaeologist emma pomeroy said in a statement. She also added that processing one block could take her two weeks.

They then digitally scanned the skull, used software to fill in the blanks, and 3D printed the head. Finally, an artist who specializes in recreating extinct beings used his understanding of anatomy to sculpt the face.

read more: The fascinating world of Neanderthal diet, language, and other behaviors

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The research team looked at other clues to find out more about how Shanidar Z lived. Scientists analyzed her DNA sequence from her tooth enamel and determined that she was probably in her mid-40s. Of course, that means she was hardy and had good survival skills. Because she was considered long-lived at the time.

After Shanidar Z was discovered, scientists detected small traces of charred food in the soil surrounding the old body cluster. The presence of wild seeds, nuts, and charred bits of grass suggests not only that Neanderthals were cooking, but that they were cooking in the presence of their dead.

“Shanidar Z’s remains were within reach of a living person who could use fire to cook and eat them,” Pomeroy said in a press release. “For these Neanderthals, there doesn’t seem to be a very clear distinction between life and death.”

The University of Cambridge-led team’s efforts to first excavate the pieces, scan them, and then assemble them can be seen in the Netflix documentary Secrets of the Neanderthals. BBC Studio Science Unit.

read more: Neanderthal timeline shows they flourished for 400,000 years, then disappeared

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our writers are Our articles use peer-reviewed research and high-quality sources, and are reviewed by editors for accuracy and reliability. Check out the following sources used in this article.

  • BBC studio. Neanderthal secrets.

Before joining Discover Magazine, Paul spent more than 20 years as a science journalist, specializing in U.S. life sciences policy and global scientist career issues. He started his career in newspapers but switched to scientific magazines. His research has appeared in publications such as Science News, Science, Nature, and Scientific American.

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