THE FEARSOME VISAGE OF THE NEANDERTAL HAS PUZZLED ANTHROPOLOGISTS FOR A CENTURY. NOW A SCIENTIST AND AN ENGINEER AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY MAY HAVE FOUND WHY THE ARCHTYPAL CAVE MAN HAD THE FACE ONLY A MOTHER COULD LOVE.
ANTHROPOLOGISTS like to imagine a Pygmalion-like experiment that involves releasing a Neandertal in the New York subway. Groomed, slipped into a specially tailored Armani suit, and grasping a cell phone instead of a flint, could he pass as a modern human?
average New Yorker might not look closely enough to discern the distinctive
Neandertal body hidden beneath the suit--barrel-chested, short-legged,
and strong as an Olympic powerlifter. But even the most indifferent
subway rider couldn't look a Neandertal in the face without a small
shock. Eyes set deep beneath an overhanging brow ridge. A short, receding
forehead. A face that juts forward from the rest of the skull, almost
forming a snout. An enormous nose--wide, long, and protruding, a combination
found in no modern humans. Massive jaws and teeth, particularly those
at the front of the jaw--but no chin.