December 19, 2018 | Jerry Bergman

The Evolution of Neanderthal Man From Evolution Ancestor to Modern Man

It took over 100 years, but Darwinians have finally promoted Neanderthal Man to Homo sapiens. How did it happen?

by Jerry Bergman

Neanderthal fossils were first discovered in 1829 in caves in what is now Belgium. This human type was named Neanderthal, after Neander river, a tributary stream of the Rhine near Düsseldorf. A skull cap, ribs, part of the pelvis, and some limb bones were found in a small cave in a valley there, forming the name Neanderthal, tal meaning valley.[1]  Soon many other discoveries of similar types of bone fragments were made. It was observed that Neanderthals had shorter legs and stockier bodies then the average European.[2] Scientists now postulate that this adaptation helped them to preserve heat in the cold climates where they lived. Judging from a few early skeletons, the leading anatomist/ pathologist of the time, Professor Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), believed that the bones found then of Neanderthals were modern Homo sapiens, but deformed by rickets in childhood and by arthritis later in life.

As Darwinism began to dominate science in the early 1900s, the almost universal picture of Neanderthal Man in the early 1900s, judging by manakins and illustrations produced then, was he was a primitive ape-like brute. An 1888 illustration of Neanderthal produced by Professor Schaaffhausen (Illustration 2) is actually better than many, but still shows him looking very apelike.

Illustration 1. From Benjamin Gruenberg. 1924. Elementary Biology. Boston: Ginn. p. 493.

Illustration 2 Professor Schaaffhausen drawing from Wikimedia Commons



Neanderthal was for many decades commonly pictured in the textbooks as an important  evolutionary link in the evolution of humans from some ape like creature (see illustration 2). Numerous examples exist. The display of the prestigious American Museum of Natural History in the Hall of the Age of Man showed him to be an evolutionary link between Cro-Magnon and Piltdown, the later example having been proven a forgery.[3] As more research was completed, the image of Neanderthal has gradually changed. He became less brutish and, as more skeletons were discovered, evidence was found that Neanderthals walked upright, had spines straighter than those of modern man, and was a strong and sturdy man. Eventually, enough skeletons were discovered to assemble an entire skeleton structure from the parts. Next the skeleton was clothed with muscle, and then skin, to enable an accurate recreation of his entire physical body.

After further research on where they lived, often in caves, and at their burial locations, it was found that they used jewelry, used fire,[4] played musical instruments, did cave paintings, buried their dead, and were even capable of speech.

The Latest Research

The latest discovery published in an article written by an international team of scientists documented that Neanderthals breathed deeply from a somewhat bell-shaped ribcage, rather than from a modern barrel-shaped ribcage, as was once thought.[5] Thus he would have had, not a stooped posture as was often shown for decades, but good modern upright posture and breathed deeply from his diaphragm. These conclusions came from a recently completed 3D virtual reconstruction of the ribcage of the Kebara 2 skeleton, a headless but almost complete Neanderthal skeleton unearthed in a northern Israel cave.[6]

This research by scientists at universities in Israel, Spain, and the United States put the last nail in “the myth of the arm-dragging, hunched-over caveman.”[7] The “size and shape of the Neandertal thorax has been a subject of scientific debate for more than 150 years” to determine if he was an evolutionary ancestor of modern humans or a modern human.[8] The main problem with the aforementioned study is that it is based on a single sample, not a large number, as is ideal. No doubt the study will be repeated to better answer the questions this study raised.

Some small differences compared to those of modern humans were found, including a slightly larger costal cartilage skeleton with longer mid-thoracic ribs. This difference probably resulted in a more voluminous thorax. Another difference was the lumbar curve in modern humans, which was far less pronounced in Neanderthals. The Neanderthal rib cage was broader at its base, with horizontal ribs, versus modern man’s angled ribs. Likewise, one can see that the spine was attached more deeply inside the thorax than modern man.

Furthermore, the “Neanderthal spine is located more inside the thorax, which provides more stability. Also, the thorax is wider in its lower part. This shape of the rib cage suggests a larger diaphragm and thus, greater lung capacity,” This larger thoracic volume could be due to a requirement for more oxygen intake as a result of their larger body mass and hypothesized hunter-gatherer life-style in the very cold climate where they lived.[9]

In short,  they had an upright posture with greater lung capacity and a straighter spine than present-day people. As a National Geographic cover article showed, Neanderthals are now fully recognized as one of us.[10]


[1] Trinkaus, Erik and Pat Shipman. The Neanderthals: Changing Image of Mankind. New York: Knopf. and Shackley, Myra. 1980. Neanderthal Man. Archon Books.

[2] Asier Gómez-Olivencia et al., 2018. 3D virtual reconstruction of the Kebara. Nature Communications. 30 October 2018.

[3] Bergman, Jerry Evolution’s Blunders, Frauds and Forgeries. Atlanta, GA: CMI Publishing. 2017. Chapter 11 page 161-188.

[4] Zhang, Sarah. 2018. The Mystery of How Neanderthals Got Fire. The Atlantic, July 2018.

[5] Borschel-Dan, Amanda. 2018. 3-D model of Neanderthal rib cage busts myth of ‘hunched-over cavemen’ The Times of Israel, 9 November 2018.

[6] Asier Gómez-Olivencia et al., 2018. p. 2.

[7] Borschel-Dan, Amanda.

[8] Asier Gómez-Olivencia et al., 2018. p. 2.

[9] Asier Gómez-Olivencia et al., 2018. p. 2.

[10] Hall, Stephen. The Other Humans: Neanderthals Revealed. National Geographic. October 2008, 214(4):34-59.

Dr Jerry Bergman, professor, author and speaker, is a frequent contributor to Creation-Evolution Headlines. See his Author Profile for his previous articles and more information.



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