La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1

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"The Old Man"
Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.jpg
Catalog no. La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1
Common name "The Old Man"
Species Homo neanderthalensis
Age 56,000 to 47,000 yrs. old
Place discovered La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France
Date discovered 1908
Discovered by L.Bardon, A. Bouyssonie, J. Bouyssonie

La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 ("The Old Man") is an almost complete male Neanderthal skeleton discovered in La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France by A. and J. Bouyssonie, and L. Bardon in 1908. The skeleton was about 40 years in age and is characterised by its loss of teeth, advanced resorption of bone in the mandible and signs of advanced arthritis. According to Stringer and Gamble (1993), it is the best and only convincing example of a Neanderthal deliberate burial,[1] but like all claimed Neanderthal burials this has been seriously questioned.[2][3][4]


The remains were first studied by Marcellin Boule, whose reconstruction of Neanderthal anatomy based on la Chapelle-aux-Saints material shaped popular perceptions of the Neanderthals for over thirty years. The La Chapelle-aux-Saints specimen is typical of "classic" Western European Neanderthal anatomy. It is estimated to be about 60,000 years old.

The Neanderthal skull from La Chapelle aux Saints.

Boule's 1911 reconstruction of La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 depicted Neanderthals with a thrust-forward skull, a spine without curvature, bent hips and knees and a divergent big toe. This depiction fit in well with contemporary evolutionary scenarios in which Neanderthals were not considered to be direct ancestors of modern humans (the relationship of Neanderthals to modern humans remains a major debate in anthropology today).[5]

In 1957, the remains were reexamined by Straus and Cave. These researchers depicted Neanderthal anatomy as being much more modern; in particular, their posture and gait was more or less identical to that of modern humans. Straus and Cave attributed Boule's errors to the severe osteoarthritis in the La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neanderthal, although physical anthropologist Erik Trinkaus has suggested that Boule's errors were primarily related to the fragmentary nature of the remains.[5]

This specimen had lost many of his teeth, with evidence of healing. All of the mandibular molars were absent and consequently, some researchers suggested that the 'Old Man' would have needed someone to process his food for him. This was widely cited as an example of Neanderthal altruism, similar to Shanidar 1. However, later studies have shown that La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 had a number of incisors, canines and premolars in place and therefore would have been able to chew his own food, although perhaps with some difficulty.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stringer, Clive; Gamble, Clive (1993). In Search of the Neanderthals. Thames and Hudson. p. 159. ISBN 978-0500278079. 
  2. ^ H. Dibble and V. Aldeias and P. Goldberg and D. Sandgathe and T.E. Steele (2015). "A critical look at evidence from La Chapelle-aux-Saints supporting an intentional burial". Journal of Archaeological Science: 649–657. 
  3. ^ Gargett, R.H. (1999). "Middle Palaeolithic burial is not a dead issue: the view from Qafzeh, Saint-Césaire, Kebara, Amud, and Dederiyeh". Journal of Human Evolution: 27–90. 
  4. ^ Gargett, R. (1989). "Grave Shortcomings: The Evidence for Neandertal Burial". Current Anthropology. 30 (2): 157–190. 
  5. ^ a b Trinkaus, E. 1985.Pathology and posture of the La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neanderthal. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 67(1):19–41.
  6. ^ Tappen, N.C. 1985. The Dentition of the “Old Man” of La Chapelle-aux-Saints and Inferences Concerning Neanderthal Behavior. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 67(1):43-50.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°59′N 1°43′E / 44.983°N 1.717°E / 44.983; 1.717