End of Chapter 10 Questions

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright May 2018


1. How do premodern humans compare anatomically with earlier species, such as Homo erectus? How do they compare with modern Homo sapiens?

2. Why are Middle Pleistocene hominids so difficult to classify? Further, why is there so much disagreement about naming species during this time period?

3.What is the overall popular conception of Neandertals? Do you agree with this view? (Cite both anatomical and archaeological evident to support your conclusion.)

4. What evidence suggests that Neandertals deliberately buried their dead? Do you think the fact that they buried their dead is important? What other novel cultural behaviors do Neandertals demonstrate?

5. How are species defined, both for living animals and for extinct ones? Use the Neandertals to illustrate the problems encountered in distinguishing species among extinct hominids. Contrast specifically the interpretation of Neandertals as a distinct species with the interpretation of Neandertal as a subspecies of H. sapiens.


1. The premodern humans looked more ape-like in their head shapes. But they were close to the size of, and walked like, modern humans.

2. These hominids were spread over a lot of territory, from Spain and Northern Africa through western China. As a result there was a lot of diversity and where to draw species lines is difficult to say. There are lots of fossils in all these areas and they look different, but there is a lot of argument about if these differences are enough to make them different species. These days the call is for less species rather than more.

3. The popular conception of Neandertals is that they were more ape-like than human-like, and acted that way too. From what I have been reading in modern science articles that doesn't seem to be the case. Instead they were better adapted for cooler European living, and were pretty much as tool using as their contemporaries who became modern humans.

4. Burying dead is like art: it indicates that Neandertals were engaging in ritual activities that are beyond the basic necessities of living. That makes them human-like in their thinking and activities.

5. The root definition of a species is that members can breed and produce fertile offspring. Dogs, as varied as their morphology is, can do this, they are all one species. Horses and donkeys can't, they are two species. New findings in DNA studies indicate that premodern humans and Neandertals could interbreed and produce fertile offspring -- in fact, modern humans with European and Asian family histories have a bit of Neandertal DNA in them. This means that by modern definition they were the same species.



--The End--