Skhul/Qafzeh early modern human hand function

Behavioral inferences from the SkhulyQafzeh early modern human hand remains.

Two groups of humans are found in the Near East ~100,000 years ago, the late archaic Neanderthals and the early modern Skhul/ Qafzeh humans. Observations that Neanderthals were more heavily muscled, had stronger upper-limb bones, and possessed unusual shapes and orientations of some upper-limb joint complexes relative to the Skhul/Qafzeh hominids, have led some researchers to conclude that significant between-group upper limb- related behavioral differences must have been present, despite the  association of the two groups with similar Middle Paleolithic archeological complexes. A three-dimensional morphometric analysis of the hand remains of the Skhul/Qafzeh hominids, Neanderthals, early and late Upper Paleolithic humans, and Holocene humans supports the dichotomy. The Skhul/Qafzeh carpometacarpal remains do not have any unique morphologies relative to the other fossil samples remains examined. However, in the functionally significant metacarpal 1 and 3 bases they resemble Upper Paleolithic humans, not Neanderthals. Furthermore, the
Skhul/Qafzeh sample differs significantly from the  Neanderthals in many other aspects of hand functional anatomy. Given the correlations between changes in tool technologies and functional adaptations seen in the hands of Upper Paleolithic humans, it is concluded that the  Skhul/Qafzeh hand remains were adapted to Upper Paleolithic-like manipulative repertoires. These results support the inference of significant behavioral differences between Neanderthals and the Skhul/Qafzeh hominids and indicate that a significant shift in human manipulative behaviors was associated with the earliest stages of the emergence of modern humans.

A little prep work for my list of before 40k sites where modern Humans are found out of Africa.

The fossil remains from the ‘80,000- to 100,000-year-old site of Skhul (5) and the  100,000-year-old site of Qafzeh (1, 2), both in Israel, are craniofacially more modern and less muscular than Neanderthals.

These features, plus the results just presented, demonstrate that the Skhul/Qafzeh and Neanderthal samples are distinct from each other in the most functionally significant regions of the hand and that the Skhul/Qafzeh hand remains are morphologically and functionally within the range of the combined EUP/LUP samples.

Although there is some arguing about who these people were, the general agreement is that they were modern humans, dated to about 100k ago in Israel. There are shell beads  dated to 100,000 -130,000 years from this site.

7 responses to “Skhul/Qafzeh early modern human hand function

  1. The shell beads are as badly dated as the human remains (it’s an old stratigraphical somewhat contested datation) but they correlate well with similar ornaments found in North Africa (c. 90,000 BP) and South Africa (not soure of the date but a little more recent). Being reasonably conservative guess we can think of c. 90kya for Shkul and Qafzeh early human presence in Asia, presence linked to North African proto-UP Aterian culture.

    I’m really interested in this compilation you’re working on of early human remains in Asia and related areas. I would anyhow be careful in taking note of why the datations are contested or uncertain, if they are.

    One of the references you may want is Petraglia et al., 2007 (on continuity at Jawalpura, India, before and after Toba). Sadly the paper is not anymore freely available, it seems but it indicated a typological connection with South African MSA. No human fossils in this case though.

  2. The 10,000 Year Explosion

    “Neanderthals were furry. Chimpanzees have ridges on their finger bones that stem from the way that they clutch their mother’s fur as infants. Modern humans don’t have these ridges, but Neanderthals do”

    I’ve read Neanderthal forearms were especially strong and the metacarpals were much thicker suggesting a grip twice as strong as ours. They only used spears to thrust with .

    I don’t understand how Neanderthals can be descended from H. heidelbergensis when “a number of 400,000-year-old wooden projectile spears were found at Schöningen in northern Germany. These are thought to have been made by H. erectus or H. heidelbergensis. ”

    Surely the ability to throw spears would not be lost.

  3. “the general agreement is that they were modern humans, dated to about 100k ago in Israel”.

    But to fit with current beliefs about the origin of modern humans, especially Y-chromosome and mtDNA haplogroups, it’s necessary to postulate that they left no descendants outside Africa at that time. It makes a lot of sense if we’re prepared to accept that they did. Hence the pre-Toba people, early Australians etc.

    • I’d say the mt DNA ages estimates are coming to a point where they are acceptible as the OOA mob aty 100k. You get a very old age on the MT DNA hg M in Asia now, I’ve seen one estimation of 87k for one M clade.

  4. @Todd: I do suspect that Neanders were furry or at least had much thicker hair than we do on the body, as it’s logical to expect from a species that had been adapting to the cold European climate for at least 600,000 years.

    I don’t understand how Neanderthals can be descended from H. heidelbergensis

    By definition: H. heidelbergensis (surely the same as H. antecessor) is a European variant of H. erectus: the brainier advanced H. erectus (I normally use the term H. erectus for all, because I really don’t see why these new terms: I look at their skulls and all look similar and the term H. erectus has a tradition of many many decades, while H. antecessor, heidelbergensis, etc. are new words that only draw confussion).

    What I don’t understand is why there is people claiming here and there (with no fundamentals AFAIK) that there were H. heidelbergensis in Africa or whatever and that these are the ancestors of H. sapiens. I have never seen a reasoning explaining that: just the modern fashion of wanting Neanderthals to be like us.

    IMO the branches leading to H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens diverged some one million year ago as H. erectus adventured into Eurasia and the ancestor of H. sapiens is not H. heidlebergensis but an African parallel developement such as H. rhodesiensis maybe (advanced H. erectus in any case).

    @Terry and Mathilda: If I just make a simplistic (but anyhow reasonable) apportion based on SNP count, and if we make the H starlike explosion to be Aurignacian and the L3 node to be 90 kya (ref.: Aterian), then M would have exploded c. 73 kya (just after Toba) and N would be slightly younger (c. 69 kya) – and R would be like 61 kya.

    I have absolutely no problem making Y-DNA fit that chronology either.

  5. “IMO the branches leading to H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens diverged some one million year ago”.

    Current belief (from mtDNA) is half that age, about half a million years. This might indicate that H. rhodesiensis is the product of a movement back into Africa of a population of H. heidlebergensis rather than being ‘an African parallel developement’.

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