The real Neanderthals

What neanderthals really looked like


vendramini14Evolutionary detective Danny Vendramini’s reassessment of Neanderthal behavioral ecology has produced striking new insights into what Neanderthals really looked like.

The problem of anthropomorphism

He begins by showing how anthropomorphism – our propensity to see Neanderthals much like ourselves- has blurred western thinking on all things Neanderthals.

Anthropomorphism has been a ubiquitous feature of human culture since the Stone Age and has influences the way scientists have interpreted the archaeological evidence

The problem with forensic reconstructions

Vendramini says that facial reconstructions work extremely well for humans, but that’s because we know the shape, texture and thickness of our facial soft tissues.

Forensic Art (above) by Karen T. Taylor


Forensic reconstructions are fine for humans, (see slideshow above) but when human features, textures and dimensions are used to recreate Neanderthal faces, they’re bound to be wrong. After all, you’d never use human facial  dimensions and textures to recreate the faces of chimps, gorillas or any other nonhuman primate.

Vendramini reasons that chimps and other primates provide a better analogue for reconstructing Neanderthals facial characteristics.

Vendramini argues the skulls of humans are so fundamentally different they should not be used as templates for Neanderthal facial reconstructions


From the few skulls of Neanderthals it's mpossible to say what their faces looked like, as skin, eyes and hair are not fossilized.
From the few skulls of Neanderthals it’s impossible to say what their faces looked like because skin, eyes and hair are not fossilized.


What big eyes you have

One major difference between Neanderthal and human skulls is the size of the eyes.

Vendramini demonstrates that the optical orbits (eye sockets) of  Neanderthals were considerably larger than humans.  He theorizes Neanderthals evolved these extra large eyes because, like most mammalian predators, they were nocturnal hunters.


Slit pupils

primate_slit_pupil Slit-shaped pupils are better suited to the eyes of nocturnal primates (right) because they can close down tighter, preventing damage to their super-sensitive eyes from strong sunlight. NP theory argues that, like modern nocturnal predators, Neanderthals had slit-shaped pupils to protect them from snow blindness.


The position of the eyes

Not only were the eyes of Neanderthals approximately 20% larger than humans, they were higher up in the skull than ours, about where our foreheads are.


An illustration (above) from ‘Them and Us’ reveals that the the skull of a Neanderthal fits perfectly into the profile of a chimpanzee, suggesting the appearance of Neanderthals (at least in profile) more closely resembled non-human primates than a modern humans.



Another illustration from ‘Them and Us’ shows the human rib cage compared to that of a Neanderthal.


With their more robust skeletons and heavier musculature, Neanderthals, it's estimated Neanderthals were six times stronger than humans
With their more robust skeletons and heavier musculature, it’s estimated Neanderthals were six times stronger than humans


According to Vendramini, Neanderthal musculature more closely resembled gorillas than humans
According to Vendramini, Neanderthal musculature more closely resembled gorillas than humans

Forensic reconstruction of the La Ferrassie Neanderthal

One of the world’s foremost digital sculptors, Madrid based Arturo Balseiro (below) was commissioned to create a forensic reconstruction of a Neanderthal based on Vendramini’s NP theory.

Digital sculptor Arturo Balseiro working on the Neanderthal reconstruction.


A museum quality model of the La Ferrassie Neanderthal skull being scanned by a laser in Balseiro’s Madrid studio.


A slideshow of the reconstruction process

It began with an extensive study of Neanderthal skeletal remains. A museum quality replica of a Neanderthal skull was then laser scanned in Madrid at the studio of Arturo Balseiro. Vendramini then directed the final rendering of skin and organs.


Neanderthal forensic reconstructions based on Danny Vendramini’s NP theory


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If you’re disturbed by these images, there’s a good reason for it. Like other prey species, humans have an innate capacity to recognize our natural predator. What Neanderthals ‘felt’ like is hardwired into our genes. Neanderthal predation was so traumatic that even 28,000 years after the last Neanderthal disappeared, they can still push our buttons.





Want more? Watch Vendramini’s 13 minute YouTube video:



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