Marcellin Boule

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Marcellin Boule
IPH Marcellin Boule.jpg
Born1 January 1861
Died4 July 1942
Known forLa Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 Neanderthal anatomy
AwardsWollaston Medal (1933)
Scientific career

Marcellin Boule (1 January 1861 – 4 July 1942) was a French palaeontologist.


He studied and published the first analysis of a complete Neanderthal specimen. The fossil discovered in La Chapelle-aux-Saints was an old man, and Boule characterized it as brutish, bent kneed and not a fully erect biped.[1] In an illustration he commissioned, the Neanderthal was characterized as a hairy gorilla-like figure with opposable toes, according to a skeleton which was already distorted with arthritis. As a result, Neanderthals were viewed in subsequent decades as being highly primitive creatures with no direct relation to anatomically modern humans. Later re-evaluations of the La Chapelle-aux-Saints skeleton have roundly discredited Boule's initial work on the specimen.[2]

He was one of the first to argue that eoliths were not manmade.[3]

Boule also expressed some scepticism about the "Piltdown man" discovery — later revealed to be a hoax. As early as 1915, Boule recognized that the jaw belonged to an ape rather than an ancient human.[4] However, the Piltdown forgery has been characterised as providing evidential support for Boule's "branching evolution" conclusions drawn from his Neanderthal research — research which is likewise said to have "prepar[ed] the international community for the appearance of a non-Neanderthal fossil such as Piltdown Man."[2]

References and sources[edit]

  • Marc Groenen, Pour une histoire de la préhistoire, éd. J. Millon 1994, ISBN 2-905614-93-5
  1. ^ Boule, M. (1920) - Les hommes fossiles - Éléments de paléontologie humaine, Paris, Masson et cie.
  2. ^ a b Hammond M (1982). The Expulsion of Neanderthals from Human Ancestry: Marcellin Boule and the Social Context of Scientific Research. Social Studies of Science, 12 (1): 1-36.
  3. ^ Boule, M. (1905) - « L'origine des éolithes », L'Anthropologie, t. XVI, pp. 257-267.
  4. ^ Boule, M. (1915) - « La paléontologie humaine en Angleterre », L'Anthropologie, t. XXVI.

External links[edit]