M.A. Theses: Hartley Odwak, 1995

A Study of Neandertal Scapular Shape with Special Reference to Kebara Mousterian Hominid 2

The purpose of this thesis is to examine Neandertal scapular morphology through morphometric analysis of three anatomical regions of the scapula: (1) the glenoid fossa, (2) the scapular body, and (3) the axillary border. The study utilises published and unpublished data from Neandertal and a range of subsequent modern human samples. The glenoid fossa and axillary border analyses incorporate data from various Neandertal samples, whereas the scapular body analysis focuses on a single Neandertal (right) scapula, Kebara Mousterian Hominid 2. This scapula has not been characterised, in detail, prior to this study. In contrast to previous research, this study emphasises evaluating Neandertal scapulae by comparison to populations whose skeletons evidence high levels of physical activity and occupational stress, as they more closely approximate Neandertal morphology than do more sedentary populations.

Each of the analyses yielded several observations. First, the glenoid fossa in Neandertals and its relationship to humeral joint surfaces was found to be strikingly similar to one sample of modern humans, and very similar to another, negating that Neandertals were distinct from modern humans in these regards. These congruencies reflect similarities in shoulder and arm use, and activity stress. Second, the right scapula of Kebara 2 proved to be similar to other Neandertals, in that it is large and preserves marking of formidable musculature, reflecting the life history of the individual and that of Neandertals, in general. And third, the axillary border analysis identified an association between border shape (type) and thickness, and introduces the concept of robusticity as reflected in the thickness of the border, and not merely in its shape. The dominant type of border found in Neandertals (dorsal) was found to be less robust, in terms of thickness, than the type (bisulcate) found in a large number of the modern humans.

The overall results emphasise the importance of choosing appropriate morphological range of comparative populations, ones which are notably robust and engaged in high levels of physical activity, especially in the anatomical regions under consideration. Thus, consideration of the relationship between lifeways of an individual, or a population, and bone shape is a critical component in reconstructing hominid phylogeny.

The results of this research deemphasise the uniqueness that has been attributed to the scapulae of Neandertals by other researchers. This does not in any way discount that their shoulders were powerful and heavily muscled, but rather dispels the notion that these type of changes are not visible in modern humans.