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Am J Phys Anthropol. 1997 Oct;104(2):245-58.

Postcranial evidence of cold adaptation in European Neandertals.

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Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Central Florida, Orlando 32816-1360, USA.


The low brachial and crural indices of the European Neandertals have long been considered indicative of cold adaptation. Recent work has documented lower limb/trunk ratios and deeper chests (anterior-posterior diameter) in European Neandertals than among their successors. The present study uses variables reflective of limb length, body mass and trunk height, and compares European Neandertals to 15 globally diverse recent human samples (1 "Eskimo," 3 North African, 4 sub-Saharan African and 7 European). Bivariate plots, as well as principal components analysis plots of log shape-transformed data, indicate that European Neandertals had an overall body shape that falls at the extreme end of modern higher latitude groups' range of variation. Cluster analysis (minimum spanning tree on a principal coordinates plot) indicates that the Neandertals are closest in body shape to modern "Eskimos," but even in this dendrogram, they are joined to the "Eskimo" via a long branch. In fact, it appears that European Neandertals were "hyperpolar" in body shape, likely due to two factors: 1) the extremely cold temperatures of glacial Europe and 2) less effective cultural buffering against cold stress.

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