The one who would become famous as ‘Old Man of La Chapelle-aux-Saints’ was discovered in 1908 in a cave in La Chapelle-aux-Saints, in southwestern France. Today, a 3D reconstruction offers us the opportunity, with the limitations and ability specific to this technology, to visualize the one that still gives us secrets of yesteryear.
A face that deviates slightly from the stereotype established about his species
The skeleton of the ‘Old Man’ was the first relatively complete skeleton of a Neanderthal that scientists had ever found. Previous attempts to depict it were controversial. That of paleontologist Marcellin Boule at the beginning of the 20th century presented a rather squat, very hairy creature, which essentially gave the impression that it looked more like great apes than Homo sapiens.
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Last October, forensic expert Cícero Moraes, co-author of the study, presented a new representation of the ancient Neanderthal at a conference presented by the Italian Ministry of Culture. He did this by using computed tomography (CT) scans of the skull of “ancient” Neanderthal man, and comparing them to human skulls in a database of similar measurements to fill in any gray areas. This provided the structure the researchers needed to create the facial shape. The skin and muscle were then digitally constructed using soft tissue thickness markers from living human donors.
So two facial reconstructions followed. A scoop, called “objective”, presents a bust, with a face with a wide nose, a pronounced forehead and the absence of a real chin. An appearance more or less removed from the stereotype established about his species.
The second is more of an interpretation, imagining what this older man would have looked like, with a beard, graying hair and blue eyes. It is still uncertain at this stage whether the shades were determined by educated guesswork or DNA testing, but the images are enjoying some success. According to him, the ‘old man’ is ‘handsome’ Daily email.
This discovery is fully consistent with recent research, which has shown that Neanderthals were closer to ‘modern’ humans than previously thought. The notable difference still remains the absence of a chin in the Neanderthal, compared to his homo-sapiens cousin.
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“A toothless old man suffering from arthritis”
According to the Natural History Museum “The latest research shows that he was a toothless old man suffering from arthritis. He depended on his people for food and transportation. He was buried in a shelter and lived during the so-called Mousterian cultural period, belonging to the Middle Paleolithic.”
According to an article from IFLScience, the old man even reportedly suffered from brucellosis, an infectious disease caused by bacteria that is typically contracted after consuming unpasteurized dairy products. This may be one of the first documented cases of disease transmission from animals to humans.
Later analyzes of the skeleton revealed that the man was at least 60 years old at the time of his death and that he walked the Earth between 56,000 and 47,000 years ago.
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Facial reconstruction of the Neanderthal ‘Old Man’. Photo: Cícero Morael et al.