Neanderthals are often portrayed as dumb cavemen. They were supposedly burly and strong. It has been widely reported that a Neanderthal woman could win an arm wrestler against the strongest men today. It has always been agreed upon that much of Neanderthal life focused on hunting and gathering food, but new archaeological evidence reveals we could have been missing something all along.

What Skeletons Reveal About Muscles

In a living human, muscles are attached to the skeletal bones. As the human moves and uses those muscles, the muscles put a strain on the bones. Over time, this strain changes the shape of the bone, giving bones attached to heavily used muscles a slight curve.

Muscles are connected to bones with tendons. After the human dies, some of those tendons, called entheses, calcify and leave marks on the bones. Based on the size and placement of the entheses, scientists can what sized muscles the person had.

Differences Between Neanderthal Muscles

A study of skeletons of an entire Neanderthal community has led to a new discovery about their lifestyle. Some in the community had huge entheses on arm bones. This suggests that these Neanderthals had huge biceps and forearms.

Big arm muscles would have been developed through tasks requiring brute strength, such as sticking a spear through a large mammal or hauling stones from one place to another. A few Neanderthals studied had large entheses, suggesting large muscles, in a different place.

Were There Neanderthal Artisans?

The hands of a Neanderthal gives even more clues about what his or her day to day life may have been like. Some Neanderthals had unusually big entheses in their fingers and hands. The pinky and thumb muscles of some Neanderthals studied were far larger than that of a modern human.

Scientists believe that some within the Neanderthal community had bigger hand muscles because they did daily jobs that required more precision. Painters, seamstresses, and those who made bricks would have had to focus on making straight lines and getting things done in their daily jobs just right.

Strength Of Neanderthal Hands

Although Neanderthals did make rudimentary tools, their tools were nowhere near as precise as the ones modern humans have access to. Ancient artisans had to compensate for the lack of precision in their tools by being extra precise with their fingers.

As is shown from what they were able to accomplish, the human hand is one amazing tool equipped with far more strength than modern humans usually use.

What Does This Say About Neanderthal Society?

Neanderthals weren’t just a mindless pack of hunters. They had a division of labor. There were some Neanderthals who hunted on a daily basis, while other Neanderthals stayed at the camp. These other Neanderthals made clothes, built homes, butchered the animals that were hunted, and may have even made tools.

Society for these ancient humans depended on people with different skills working together to meet the biggest needs of the community, getting enough food, clothing, and shelter for everyone.