Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The biomechanical and behavioral significance of the Neanderthal femur
by Tamvada, Kelli Hamm, Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2015, 310; 3704208
Abstract (Summary)

The Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) femur is distinct from that of recent modern humans (Homo sapiens). Broadly speaking, the Neanderthal femur is more “robust”, meaning that it appears to be biomechanically stronger, and it is more curved, which may enhance the predictability of the stresses and strains experienced by the bone. It has been hypothesized that the Neanderthal morphology is an adaptation to withstand elevated and repetitive loads associated with increased mobility. This study tests the mobility hypothesis using comparative and biomechanical methods. Specifically, this study sought to test the mobility hypothesis by a) determining whether or not a relationship exists between skeletal variables and day range (a surrogate for mobility) in living primates, and b) using finite element analysis to quantify differences in biomechanical strength between Neanderthals and modern humans while simulating loads associated with bipedal walking, traumatic loads, and stumbling.

The hypothesis that extant primates with longer day ranges exhibit more robust and more curved bones, used here as an indication of predictability of deformation, is rejected. The hypothesis that Neanderthal femora are as strong as or stronger than recent modern human femora is partially rejected. Under loading regimes simulating normal walking, it is unclear which femur is stronger. The human femur is stronger under simulated traumatic loads. The Neanderthal femur is stronger under loads simulating stumbling. The human femur is more predictable along the neck and at midshaft; the Neanderthal femur is more predictable along proximal and distal diaphyseal sections. The femoral neck is the weakest location on the modern human femur, whereas the distal lateral metaphysis is typically the weakest location on the Neanderthal femur.

Although a relationship between curvature and robusticity variables could not be confirmed using an extant primate sample, the unexpected results of the Neanderthal/human femur comparisons suggest that because regions of peak stress differ considerably between the species as a result of the differences in morphology, each may be adapted to the specific and typical demands imposed by their respective habitats and lifestyles.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Strait, David S.
Commitee: DeWitte, Sharon N., Gordon, Adam
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 76/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Physical anthropology, Biomechanics
Keywords: Biomechanics, Femur, Finite element analysis, Homo neanderthalensis, Neanderthal
Publication Number: 3704208
ISBN: 978-1-321-76475-8
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