"Homo Hercules Columarum"

Pillars-of-Hercules Man
left: juxta Huxley
right: 19 July 1864 Athenaeum Club

concilio sedente, the council being in session invenit et [?], he found it

Huxley Archives

Further Remarks upon the Human Remains from the Neanderthal

Natural History Review (1864)
Scientific Memoirs II

[573] Since the remarkable skull, discovered in a cave of the valley of the Düssel was introduced to the special notice of the English scientific world in the pages of this Journal,1 it has become the subject of many discussions, and even of not a few special commentaries, for one or two of which I am myself responsible. Partly on this ground, partly by reason of the inherent interest of the subject, I propose now to give some account of, and to remark upon, the four essays on the Neanderthal skull which appear to me to be of most importance; viz. that by Professor King,2 that by Professor Mayer,3 that by Professor Schaafhausen,4 and that by Mr. Turner.5

1. Professor King considers the differences between the Neanderthal skull and all other human crania to be so considerable, that he is not only quite certain of its belonging to at least a distinct species–Homo Neanderthalensis–but, at the end of his communication, even feels "strongly inclined to believe that it is not only specifically but generically distinct from Man," considering that he has satisfactorily shown "that not only in its general but equally so in its particular characters, has the fossil under consideration the closest [574] affinity to the apes. Only a few points of proximate resemblance have been made out between it and the human skull, and these are strictly peculiar to the latter in the fœtal state."

The whole purport of my essay on this subject,6 having been to prove a proposition exactly opposite to Professor King's, viz. that among recent human skulls it is possible to select a series which shall lead by insensible gradations from the Neanderthal skull up to the most ordinary forms, I must refer to the arguments used therein, contenting myself with assuring Professor King that I have not in the slightest degree, "assumed a resemblance closer than exists" between certain Australian crania, and the Neanderthal skull; on the contrary, I shall endeavour to show by additional evidence at the end of the present notice, that a cast of the interior of the skull, representing the brain of the Neanderthal man, presents an even closer resemblance in form to a cast of the interior of a particular Australian skull than does the exterior of his skull.

2. Professor King, as we have just seen, regards the Neanderthal man as a new species at least, perhaps as the type of a new genus. Geheime-Rath Professor Mayer of Bonn goes to the other end of the scale of opinion, and propounds the hypothesis that the debateable skull was, after all, only that of a rickety "Mongolian Cossack," belonging to one of the hordes driven by Russia, through Germany, into France in 1814.

I had written that Professor Mayer gravely propounds this hypothesis, but I have erased the italicised word; for, in truth, the work is not gravely done, but is laden with numerous jocosities of small size, but great ponderosity, directed against Mr. Darwin and his doctrines. Such recalcitrations will not greatly affect that sick lion, but it must be confessed they do not lead one to feel much tenderness towards his assailant. And yet, as I shall proceed to show, the learned Professor can hardly afford to throw stones with so much vehemence and so little discrimination.

The opening passage of his essay, for example, contains as many errors as paragraphs.

"The discovery of these fossil fragments of a human skeleton, or rather of a skull only, has lately excited so much attention among the naturalists of England, and they have based such far-reaching conclusions [weitgreifende Folgerungen] upon it, although acquainted with nothing more than the figure of the calvaria on a small scale, given by Professor Schaafhausen in Müller's Archiv for 1858 (1), that I am instigated to publish my own investigations on these fossil [575] remains, which their possessor, Professor Fuhlrott of Elberfeld, permitted me to examine soon after their discovery.

"Professor Huxley namely affirms that the fossil skull of the cave in the valley of the Düssel, is, among all skulls, admittedly belonging to an epoch anterior7 to the present, the most ape-like (2). Along with and in demonstration of this proposition, he speaks of a short sagittal suture, which, however, is no longer present, either externally or internally, and considering the dolichocephalic form of the skull must at a previous period certainly have been long (3); and further of a want of space for the posterior lobes of the cerebrum, although the calvaria exhibits a not inconsiderable arching of the upper part of the squama occipitis.(4) According to this, a homo pithecoides formerly dwelt in this rock cavern (known as the lesser "Feldhofgrotte") as a Troglodytes (5)!?

"But I leave these conclusions aside, &c."–pp. 1 and 2.

I propose to comment upon the passages I have numbered seriatim:–

(1)–It is by no means true that the English naturalists have based their statements upon Professor Schaafhausen's figures; for, as I have on two occasions publicly stated, Dr. Fuhlrott has been good enough to furnish us with both photographs and casts of the skull. (See "Lyell's Antiquity of Man," p. 82. "Man's Place in Nature," p. 141.)

(2)–I have given no opinion, nor to the best of my knowledge has any English anatomist, respecting the geological age of the Neanderthal skull, or any other, but have assumed the justice of Sir Charles Lyell's conclusions on that head. What I have affirmed, and still affirm, is, that the skull is the most ape-like human cranium I have ever seen, irrespective of any question as to its age.

(3)–Seeing that, according to Professor Mayer's own statement, both the coronal and lambdoidal sutures are present, it is not a matter of the smallest importance, in estimating the length of the sagittal suture, whether it is now discernible or not; since that suture could not be longer or shorter than the distance between the median portion of the coronal, and that of the lambdoidal suture, which, as I have already said, is only 4-1/2 inches. But, if the original skull really exhibits no remains of the sagittal suture, all I can say is that Dr. Fuhlrott's cast, which lies before me, is very deceptive; as it shows what are, to all appearance, very distinct traces of that suture; though [576] it is not so plain as the coronal, and far less obvious than the lambdoidal suture.

(4)–I must ask, what has arching of the calvaria in the supra-occipital region to do with the "want of space" for the posterior lobes of the cerebrum? Surely a local bulging does not interfere with the flatness of the skull as a whole? And I have been careful to point out that "notwithstanding the flattened condition of the occiput, the posterior cerebral lobes must have projected considerably beyond the cerebellum."–"Man's Place, &c." p. 143.

(5)–As to the last paragraph (if it refers to any supposed opinion of mine) I can only account for it by supposing that Professor Mayer has not done me the honour to read what I have published on this subject. At least, it is inconceivable to me that he should have so written with the two paragraphs before him, which I will venture to quote:–

"In no sense then can the Neanderthal bones be regarded as the remains of a human being intermediate between men and apes."–("Man's Place in Nature," p. 157).

"In conclusion, I may say that the fossil remains of Man hitherto discovered do not seem to me to take us appreciably nearer to that lower pithecoid form, by the modification of which he has, probably become what he is ."–(ibid. p. 159).

After the somewhat infelicitous introductory remarks, which I have just ventured to criticise, Professor Mayer proceeds to communicate the results of his own observations upon the skull. These I give at length, in order that the judicious reader may have the means, by comparison with what is already extant, of forming his own judgment upon the value of Professor Mayer's additions to our extant information:–

"The calvaria in question is dolichocephalic, the longitudinal measurement of it, from the supraciliary arch to the occipital spine amounting to 7" 9"' . The contour of its circumference is of such a kind that a depression succeeds to the very considerable projection of the supraciliary arches, after which the frontal region slightly rises again, then sinks little, and next slightly ascending forms a flat parietal arch; this, descending backwards, sinks again, and then descends as a considerable convexity from the summit of the squama occipitis (the lambdoid suture of which is visible externally, and internally though but faintly), occupying almost the whole of the occipital squama.

"The beautiful arching of the occipital bone is remarkable from the circumstance that its crest and spine project but little, shewing a slight development of the muscles of the neck, and leading one to [577] ascribe, not the wildness of a supposed contemporary [vorgeblichen Zeitgenossen] of the Gorilla, but rather an oppressed slavishness, to the Düsseldorf Troglodyte."

But I have elsewhere (Man's Place in Nature, p. 142) quoted Dr. Fuhlrott to the effect that the superior semicircular line forms "a very strong ridge" in the Neanderthal skull; and I find this statement of the possessor of the cranium to be fully borne out by the cast. In these points, as in many others, the Neanderthal skull has a curiously Australian aspect: though I do not venture, on that ground, to infer any special affinity between the man to whom it belonged and the Australian race.

I should not feel myself on very safe ground if I endeavoured to follow Professor Mayer in his diagnosis of psychical peculiarities from the state of the spine and cristæ of the occipital bone. But surely, to deduce a man's "oppressed slavishness," from the condition of the muscular ridges on his occiput savours more of that spirit of drawing "weitgreifende Folgerungen," of which Professor Mayer accuses English naturalists, than anything that has been said on this side of the Channel.

But let us hear Professor Mayer further:

"In correspondence with this there is, of course, no question of a sagittal crest, or its projection; the place of the sagittal suture being, on the contrary, depressed. I might say: shew me a fossil human skull with a sagittal crest like that of the Orang-utan (the male–the female possesses it but slightly–see Mayer in Troschel's Archiv für Naturgeschichte, 1845), and I will grant you your descent from an ancestral Pithecus."

But is it really necessary to wear a sagittal crest in order to make out a title to a pithecoid pedigree? Does not Professor Mayer believe that the Chimpanzees have descended from an 'ancestral Pithecus '? Yet they lack the credentials upon which he insists–never a one yet having been able to show "a sagittal crest like that of an Orangutan."

And Professor Mayer does not seem to be aware of a circumstance which makes his argument still more frivolous, viz., that certain male orangs are devoid of the sagittal crest.

Professor Mayer continues:

"Further, the linea semicircularis of the temples is also but slightly marked, which indicates but weak temporal muscles.

"The calvaria, indeed, possesses a solid consistence, and the hardness and smoothness peculiar to fossil bones, as well as a brownish colour, but exhibits no hyperossification; but two lamellæ with diploe [578] increasing posteriorly, so that on the lateral wall it is 2 lines thick, on the occiput 3 lines. The inner surface of the calvaria also indicates but moderate osseous development, the falx frontalis projecting but little; the falx sagittalis being entirely absent; the falx cerebelli ossea being but slightly developed, and the impressions of the central gyri, viz., two depressions on the inner lamella, corresponding to the superciliary arches and smaller impressions in the lateral wall, being still visible. The superior occipital fossa for the posterior lobe of the brain is, on the left side, deep but narrower, on the right side, broader, but flat. The groove for the arteria meningea media is still present below, but disappears above. The fossæ for the Pacchionian glands are tolerably large, especially on the right side, near the place of the sagittal suture. I may add that the fossa for the lachrymal gland on the malar process of the frontal bones of both sides is remarkably deep. Thus there is no particularly strong bony development of the skull; the disappearance of the sagittal suture externally as internally; that of the coronary suture almost wholly internally; the weakness of the lambdoid suture, further demonstrate this deficiency of bony growth. Thus far then, the characters of the fragment of the skull under discussion are not at all ape-like. Is this, however, not true of the large and broad projections of the supraciliary arches, to which so much weight is attached by Professors Schaafhausen and Huxley?

"In the superciliary arches a distinction must be carefully drawn between the tuberositas or crista superciliaris and the arching of the frontal sinuses behind them. Each may exist independently of the other. The crista superciliaris is in the apes, in the Gorilla especially, strong, and gives the face its ferocious expression, whilst at the same time the frontal sinuses are entirely absent! In our Neanderthal skull, on the other hand, there is no crista superciliaris such as is frequently met with in human skulls with exostosis of the diploe, where the frontal sinuses are absent, and the two, strongly osseous, laminæ of the os frontis are closely applied together. Consequently the projection of the superciliary arches in this cranial fragment constitutes no approximation to the type of the Ape or Gorilla."–pp. 2-4.

I must confess myself greatly perplexed to discover the relevancy of some of the arguments which Professor Mayer brings forward.

In which of the higher apes–Gorilla, Chimpanzee, or Orang–has he found an osseous 'falx sagittalis,' or 'falx cerebelli'? And if they are not found in the apes, what has their absence in the Neanderthal skull to do with the question?

[579] Again, in the higher apes, the sutures, with age, disappear very completely; how then is their asserted absence in the Neanderthal skull evidence against its ape-like character?

Still more difficult do I find it to understand how the closure and disappearance of the sutures is to be regarded as arising from a want of bony matter. If the argument were worth anything, I should have thought it told the other way, seeing that more bony matter must be required to close a suture than to leave it open.

Thus the former part of the passage just quoted appears to me to be irrelevant; the latter part, on the contrary, is relevant enough, but, unfortunately, it is incorrect.

To the sentence–"The crista superciliaris is in the apes, in the Gorilla, especially, strong and gives the face its ferocious expression, whilst, at the same time, the frontal sinuses are entirely absent."–Professor Mayer has affixed a note of admiration in the original. And he has done well, for it expresses with great accuracy the feelings of the reader who happens to be aware that both in the Gorilla and the Chimpanzee the frontal sinuses may exist, and sometimes attain far greater absolute and relative dimensions than in man. There are to be seen, at the present moment, in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, two bisected skulls, one of a Gorilla and one of a Chimpanzee, in which the frontal sinuses are enormous, their walls being no thicker, in proportion, than in man.

So much for Professor Mayer's facts and reasonings concerning the Neanderthal skull; I come next in order to his remarks on the accompanying bones appertaining to the rest of the skeleton.

"The (left) innominata is represented only by a part of the os ilium, which is injured superiorly. The anterior superior spine and the crest are strong; the iliac fossa is deep; the linea innominata projecting: the os pubis is for the most part wanting, the acetabulum is spacious, the greater ischiatic notch large but narrow, the lesser notch and the ischiatic spine are wanting; the tuberosity of the ischium is singularly turned upwards, forwards, and inwards, and moderately strong. The two thigh bones are similarly formed, about 17 inches in length, and therefore moderately long; strong, thick and heavy. They are both convex forwards, and somewhat twisted inwards below. This flexure is not normal, and is observable, like the inward flexure of the tuberosities of the ischial bones, in those who have been riders from their youth up.

"The angle of the femur [Winkel des femur] is 110°, its condyle and the trochanters are strong, the crista glutæorum is sharp, the internal condyle projecting, and both tubera of the condyles strong. The right [580] humerus is 11 in. 9 lines long, somewhat curved in its upper half; it is solid and heavy, but normal, the greater and lesser tuberosities and the linea aspera project strongly, also the condyles and the trochlea downwards: the fossa ant. major and minor, as well as especially the fossa posterior at the lower articular end are deep. Of the right ulna merely the upper part remains. It is convex backwards. Humerus and coronoid process are normal, as are the sigmoid and semilunar fossa. If the radius (sic) were entire,8 it would measure l0-1/2 inches. The bones of the left arm are in a remarkable condition. Of the left humerus unfortunately only the middle and lower thirds exist. It is thinner than the corresponding part of the right humerus, the linea aspera is strong; while, on the other hand, the internal and external condyles are weaker. The trochlea is tuberculated (knorrig), and enlarged forwards, posteriorly sharp edged, the processus capitatus small, but also rough and tuberculated.

"The fovea anterior humeri major is broad and large. The fovea minor is almost flat. The fovea posterior especially deep and broad. The left radius is wanting, but it can only have been 8 inches 4 lines long. The entire ulna, in fact, is only 9 inches long, or shortened by 1-1/2 inches, seeing that if normal it would have been l0-1/2 inches long. The olecranon is very large, thick and tuberculated, its four articular impressions are unequal, and the coronoid process projects strongly. The fovea semilunaris for the head of the radius is only indistinct. The whole ulna is twisted longitudinally, so that the forearm was fixed in a prone position, the radius standing forwards, the ulnas outwards. The carpal extremity of the ulna shewed nothing irregular."

Professor Mayer's conclusion from these malformations (of which it must be remembered Professor Schaafhausen had already given a sufficient account), is, that the Neanderthal Man had been a rickety child9 which might account for the peculiarities of the limbs, but not, so far as I can see, for those of the skull. However, Professor Mayer would get over this difficulty with ease, for he says (l. c. p. 5):–

"The prominence of the superciliary arches is in part, like the projection of the crista; occasioned by the corrugator superciliorum muscle, but this need but be weak if it has only to lift the already raised outer lamella of the frontal bone."

A severe critic might, perhaps, find something over-mechanical in [581] Professor Mayer's physiology: but, granting the premises, the conclusion is obvious. Given a rickety child with a bad habit of frowning (say from the internal flatulent disturbances to which such children are especially liable), and the result will be a Neanderthal man! Truly a "weitgreifende Folgerung!"

The man being accounted for, the next difficulty is to get him into the cave, and bury him in the loam covering its floor.

Professor Mayer admits that the bones were covered by at least two feet of loam, and were in undisturbed relation to one another (l.c. p. 19, 20.). He is quite clear that they were not drifted by floods into the cave (p. 20), or buried there in ancient, say preceltic, times, because the bones of other corpses, and the general attributes of old graves are absent (p. 21); and he concludes that the Neanderthal man must have crawled into the hole to die. The obvious inquiry follows, how did this singular person contrive to get buried under, at least, two feet of loam, after he had died there? And as the cave had an opening of only two feet in height, sixty feet up a vertical cliff with only a very narrow plateau in front of it, it will be observed that the problem is not devoid of difficulties. Professor Mayer admits them, but meets them thus:–

"Streams of water, therefore, could only have reached the grotto from the precipitous heights which rise above it to the south, and since the opening of the cave lies to the north, they could only have got into it, carrying the loam with them, by rebounding." [durch Widerschlag] (l. c. p. 20.)

And now, having fairly got the man into the cave and covered him up by the 'rebounding' of cataracts of muddy water, who was he?

A 'Mongolian Cossack' of Tchernitcheff's corps d'armée is Professor Mayer's suggestion;–based upon three reasons: the first (p. 20) that the thigh bones are curved like those of people who spend their lives on horseback; the second (p. 21), that any guess is better than the admission that the skeleton may possibly be thousands of years old; the third, (p. 21-2) that, after all, the skull is more like that of a Mongol than that of an ape, or a Gorilla, or a New Zealander.

Thus the hypothesis which is held up to us by Professor Mayer as an example of scientific sobriety comes to this: that the Neanderthal man was nothing but a rickety, bow-legged, frowning, Cossack, who, having carefully divested himself of his arms, accoutrements, and clothes (no traces of which were found), crept into a cave to die, and has been covered up with loam two feet thick by the 'rebound' of the muddy cataracts which (hypothetically,) have rushed over the mouth of his cave.

[582] Professor Mayer must, indeed, have a firm belief that anything is better than admitting the antiquity of the Neanderthal skull!

3. Professor Mayer has no reason to complain if I defend the views he has attacked with the weapons he has thought fit to select. It is much pleasanter, however, to argue scientific questions in another way; and although Professor Schaafhausen has impugned the accuracy of some of my own statements and conclusions in a much more formidable manner than Professor Mayer, I should err greatly if I treated with other than respect, the views of the careful and thoughtful observer to whom we are indebted for first bringing the now famous skull under the notice of anatomists.

Professor Schaafhausen has communicated to the "Societé d'Anthropologie" an abstract of a memoir which he had recently read before the Natural History Society of the Rhine and Westphalia on the Neanderthal skull.10 In this the following passage occurs:–

"The assertion of Mr. Huxley that the posterior part of the cranium is still more anomalous than the anterior, is without foundation. According to this author, the upward and forward direction of the squama occipitis, the shortening of the sagittal suture, the straight edge of the temporo-parietal suture, and, in general, the flattened form of the cranium, which hardly permits one to understand the possibility of lodging the posterior lobes of a human brain therein, would approximate this cranium to that of an ape, still more than the conformation of the anterior frontal region. But Mr. Huxley has forgotten that all these peculiarities are equally met with in the crania of the lower races: the only character which belongs exclusively to the Neanderthal skull is the altogether animal ridge which bounds the orbital cavity above."

Seeing that my main object, in all that I have written upon this subject has been to prove that the Neanderthal skull differs only in degree from certain existing human skulls, I hardly expected the reproach conveyed in the last paragraph, which however errs, as I venture to think, in affirming that the peculiarities of the Neanderthal cranium are to be met with 'equally' in any human skull which has yet been described. It is quite true, as I have taken much pains to insist, that the features of the Neanderthal skull are simple exaggerations of characters to be met with in other human skulls: but though some human skulls are greatly depressed, none has yet been seen so depressed as it: though some have large superciliary ridges, none has them so large as they are in it: and though, finally, some have the occi[583]put greatly inclined, none (except perhaps one of the Borreby skulls) has been shown to exhibit that peculiarity in so marked a degree as it does.

Professor Schaafhausen continues:–

"Lastly, Mr. Huxley's remark, that the two lateral sinuses, that is to say, the inferior limits of the posterior cerebral lobes are perfectly visible, is quite as erroneous: this observation is based on photographs: but in the specimen there exists only the commencement of the right sinus, where it takes its origin from the superior longitudinal sinus."

I greatly regret to differ from so competent an anatomist, who has further had the advantage from which I have been debarred, of examining the original specimen: but, after a re-examination of the photographs, and a careful study of the cast of the interior of the skull, which Dr. Fuhlrott has been good enough to send me, I must stand by my original view, that the inferior limits of the posterior lobes of the brain are accurately deducible from the markings in the interior of the skull.

Professor Schaafhausen states that there exists "only the commencement of the right sinus where it takes its origin from the superior longitudinal sinus." On the contrary, both cast and photograph plainly show, not merely the commencement of the right lateral sinus, but fully an inch and a half of it, passing not only downwards but outwards. The outer end of this segment of the lateral sinus certainly indicates the line of attachment of the tentorium; which again denotes the boundary of the right posterior lobe: and as both lobes are approximatively of equal extent, I do not think that my statement is other than well founded, supposing only the right sinus to exist.

However, it still appears to me that I can discern clear indications of the left, as well as of the right, sinus upon the materials at my disposal; and, in any case, the posterior aspect of the cast of the interior conclusively shows the lower boundaries of both the right and the left posterior lobes.

Professor Schaafhausen further observes:–

"It is not less singular that Mr. Huxley should have found an Australian cranium comparable to that of the Neanderthal. For, according to the opinion of all naturalists (Becker, Martin, Lucæ, Ecker), the cranium of the Australian is narrow, elevated, and declining like a roof rapidly from the summit to the temples, whilst that of the Neanderthal is very much flattened, wide behind, and without any trace of the conformation indicated."

To this I can only reply that, however singular and opposed to ordinary opinion it may be, the Australian skulls to which I have [584] referred really do exist, and are open to the inspection of any person who chooses to examine them in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Professor Schaafhausen concludes thus:–

"I remark besides that No. LXIII of Blumenbach's Decades Craniorum, which represents the skull of a Dutchman of the island of Marken ( Batavus genuinus), presents a great resemblance to that of the Neanderthal."

I do not think that Professor Schaafhausen would have made this remark had he been disposed to consider with more favour what I have said respecting the marked peculiarity of the occipital region of the Neanderthal skull. There is, it is true, a certain approximation between the skull in question and that from the Neanderthal in the rapid backward slope of the frontal region; but it is not closer than I have seen in many other skulls, and more particularly in one of an English sailor, long ago pointed out to me by Mr. Busk. On the other hand, the occipital region of the Batavian cranium, a faithful reduced copy of which is here given, (fig. 1,) differs most remarkably from that of the Neanderthal man.

Fig. 1. Reduced copy of Blumenbach's figure o. a "Batavus genuinus." The contour of the Neanderthal skull, reduced to the same length, is drawn upon the figure; the glabellæ being made to correspond, and the superior curved line of the Neanderthal skull being adjusted to the point a of the other. The skulls are not reduced to the same scale, and hence this figure only gives the different proportions of the two.

The superior curved line of the occiput is not represented in [585] Blumenbach's figure, but it cannot well be higher than the point (a). If now, the glabello-occipital lines of the Neanderthal skull and it be made to coincide, as in fig. 1, the prodigious difference between the two will become obvious; the occiput of the Dutch skull projecting backwards far beyond the point (a), while, on the other hand, that of the Neanderthal skull slopes upwards and forwards from it.

What appears to me to have misled Professor Schaafhausen is the circumstance that if the contour of the Neanderthal skull be simply superimposed upon that of the "Batavus genuinus," the two will nearly coincide. But the fallacy of concluding from this circumstance, that the skulls have a real similarity is at once demonstrated by the fact that, when the contours are thus superimposed, the superior curved line of the occiput of the Neanderthal skull is nearly on a level with the summit of the lambdoidal suture of the other. In other words, the more the two skulls are made to agree in front and above, the less their correspondence behind and below.

M. Pruner-Bey, in some observations appended to Professor Schaafhausen's communication, expresses the opinion that the Neanderthal skull is "undoubtedly that of a Celt."

"In the first place it belonged to a person of high stature; it is voluminous and dolichocephalic; it presents the groove at the posterior third of the sagittal suture common to the Celts and the Scandinavians; lastly, the occipital projection is equally characteristic of the two races."

But the bones found with the skull lend no countenance to the opinion that the Neanderthal man was above the middle stature of five feet six inches; and as the other two characters are avowedly common to Celts and Scandinavians, I can hardly think them good diagnostics of Celts. Australian crania may be found with the occiput quite similarly formed to that of the Neanderthal; and, as to the capacity of the skull, I shall demonstrate, by and bye, by the help of casts, that some Australian skulls were certainly as large.

M. Pruner-Bey seems to incline to the hypothesis that the Neanderthal man was an idiot: but I confess I find much weight in the pithy reply of M. Broca:–

"Idiocy, competent to produce a cranium of this kind, is necessarily microcephalic; now this skull is not microcephalous, therefore it is not that of an idiot."

4. Mr. Turner's careful essay appears to me to be one of the most valuable contributions we have had upon this subject. By comparison with a skull from St. Acheul, Mr. Turner shows the existence of the closest resemblance between the Engis cranium, and one from the valley of the Somme, which there is no reason to think older than the [586] Roman period, and his statements fully bear out the conclusion at which Mr. Busk and I arrived, that the Engis specimen is a fair average human skull.

With regard to the Neanderthal skull Mr. Turner remarks–

"The Neanderthal skull unquestionably possesses a very remarkable shape, one which sufficiently distinguishes it from other known crania. But we must inquire whether its anatomical characters are altogether exceptional. Is it not possible, by carefully examining an extensive collection of skulls, such as are presented to the anatomist in a large museum or dissecting room, to find crania closely allied to it in some of those features which are regarded as most distinctive?"

This is the precise question which I asked myself when I first undertook to investigate the matter, and I am rejoiced to find that a careful observer, like Mr. Turner, arrives, by independent observation, at results similar to my own. Thus Mr. Turner finds, and partly figures, four modern British crania with very projecting superciliary ridges; though, as he is careful to observe, "none of them exhibit so massive a form at the external orbital processes as the Neanderthal skull."

He shows also, that some modern British crania have the forehead very retreating, and that many combine this character with a sloping occiput, so as, in these respects, much to resemble the Neanderthal skull.

Mr. Turner makes the important and just remark:–

"It would be quite possible to arrange from materials to which I have access, a series of modern British skulls, in which the variation may be traced from a well-marked posterior occipital bulging to a configuration of the upper occipital region closely approaching the form of the Neanderthal skull. In the skull cap represented in fig. 3, the diminished occipital convexity is almost equal to that of the last-named cranium."

And concludes with the following words:–

"From the comparison which has thus been instituted, I have no hesitation in saying that, although we may not be able to produce another skull possessing a combination of all those characters which are regarded as so distinctive of the Neanderthal skull, yet the examination of an extensive series of crania will shew us that these characters are closely paralleled, not only in the crania of many savage races now existing, but even in those of modern European nations.

"How cautious therefore ought we to be in generalising either as to the pithecoid affinities or psychical endowments of the man to whom it appertained. It is as yet but an isolated specimen; of its history, [587] prior to the day of discovery, we are altogether ignorant, its geological age is quite uncertain. In coming to any conclusion, therefore, we have no facts to guide us save those which are furnished by an examination of its structural characters and whatever marks of degradation these may exhibit, yet they are closely paralleled on the crania of some of the men, and women too, now living and moving in our midst."

With all this I cordially concur, desiring only to add a caution as to confounding the evidence of the existence of pithecoid characters, with the conclusions that may be based on that evidence. If the dissector of Jeremy Bentham had found a levator claviculæ, or a couple of bellies of the flexor brevis digitorum arising from the tendons of the deep flexors of the foot, as is sometimes the case in man, he would have had a perfect right to say that these were pithecoid characters; but it by no means follows that he should have supposed the philosopher to be the 'missing link,' or a homo pithecoides (Mayer). And, in like manner, the prominent superciliary ridges, the retreating occiput, and so forth, of the Neanderthal skull, are, to my mind, most indubitably pithecoid characters; though I need hardly repeat the opinion, which I have so strongly expressed elsewhere, that the Neanderthal man was in no sense intermediate between men and apes.


Fig. 2. Side view of the cast of the interior of the Neanderthal skull reduced to one half of the natural size. The outline represents the contour of a like cast of an Australian skull in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons (No. 5331) reduced to the same scale. a. Cast of the inner face of the lambdoidal suture. Sy. the Sylvian fissure.

The duty of the anatomist appears to me to lie as little in eagerly [588] building theories upon these variations of human structure, as in ignoring them when they are obvious. Let them be noted and estimated at their just weight–the future will tell us their meaning.

To sum up the result of a careful study of the extant materials so far as they are accessible to me, and of all that has been written on the subject, I think it may be said:–

That the Neanderthal skull exhibits the lowest type of human cranium at present known, so far as it presents certain pithecoid characters in a more exaggerated form than any other; but that, inasmuch as a complete series of gradations can be found, among recent human skulls, between it and the best developed forms, there is no ground for separating its possessor specifically, still less generically, from Homo sapiens. At present, we have no sufficient warranty for declaring it to be either the type of a distinct race, or a member of any existing one; nor do the anatomical characters of the skull justify any conclusion as to the age to which it belongs.

Fig. 3. Represents the same objects as Fig. 2, viewed from above; scale the same. a a. as before.

It seems difficult to believe that there now remains very much more to be said about the Neanderthal man's skull; but we owe to Professor Schaafhausen some interesting information respecting his brain.

[589] Professor Schaafhausen, it appears, obtained Dr. Fuhlrott's permission to take a cast of the interior of the Neanderthal skull. Of the reproduction of the form of the cerebrum thus obtained, he says:

"There is a great resemblance to that of an Australian presented to the Society at the same time, so far as the slight development of the brain is concerned. The latter cast even presents somewhat better dimensions. The following is the result of the comparative measurement of the casts.

Length of
Width of
anterior lobe.
The greatest
The greatest
Neanderthal 173mm 112m136m66m
Australian164100 12577

M. Lucæ has made out that the weight of the European brain exceeds that of the Australian on the average by 300 grammes. As to dimensions, it is neither in length, nor in height, that the former considerably exceeds the latter, but in width. Thus this difference of the races is already manifest in the highest antiquity, when our countries were inhabited by men who, in intelligence, were on a level with the Australian savages of the present day."

I am indebted to Dr. Fuhlrott for what I presume to be a copy of the cast thus obtained by Professor Schaafhausen, and the accompanying woodcuts (Figs. 2 and 3) give two views of it, reduced to one half the natural size. With each view is represented the contour, under the same aspect, of the cast of the interior of one of those depressed Australian skulls in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, to which I have already referred. The resemblance between the two is at once seen to be very striking. The Australian rather exceeds the Neanderthal brain in length (7.1 inches to 6.85 inches), but, on the other hand, it is narrower at its widest part (5.3 inches to 5.45 inches), and the length of a vertical arch taken over the highest parts of the two casts from corresponding points on their lateral surfaces is slightly less in the Australian (9.3 inches to 9.6 inches). Again, the transverse contour, such as would be seen by viewing the casts from behind, is more pentagonal in the Australian, more evenly curved in the Neanderthal brain; and both the anterior and the posterior lobes are more flattened above and less rounded at their ends, in the Neanderthal cast. But all these differences sink into insignificance if compared with those which separate the Australian brain-cast in question, from others in the same collection.12

[590] Thus, it appears to me, that the conclusion expressed in Prof. Schaafhausen's concluding paragraph is not borne out by facts, for the brain of the Neanderthal man is certainly not nearly so different from some Australian brains, as the extreme forms of Australian brains are from one another.

The "Crania Helvetica" of Professors Rütimeyer and His has come into my hands since the above was in type. Among the large series of ancient and modern crania figured in this elaborate and valuable work, I have only been able to find one which at all approaches the Neanderthal skull. It is that represented in the plate B. III, and is derived from Berolles, Canton Vaud. Ascribed to the Burgundian period, it is regarded by Rutimeyer and His, as a "mixed form" between their Sion and Hohberg types, or, in other words, as Celto-Roman. This skull, however, does not come nearly so close to the Neanderthal cranium as some of the Borreby and some of the Australian skulls do.

1 Natural History Review, 1861.

2 The reputed fossil man of the Neanderthal. The Quarterly Journal of Science No. 1. Jan. 1864.

3 Ueber die fossilen Ueberreste eines Menschlichen Schädels und Skeletes in einer Felsenhöhle des Düssel–oder Neander-thales. Müller's Archiv. 1864, No. 1.

4 Sur le crâne de Neanderthal. Bull. de la Société d'Anthropologie, 1863-1864.

5 The Fossil Skull Controversy. On human crania allied in anatomical characters to the Engis and Neanderthal skulls. The Quarterly Journal of Science. No. 2, April, 1864.

6 Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature, 1863.

7 "Unter allen bis jetzt als vorweltlich erkannten Schädeln am ähnlichsten sei." I am acquainted with no exact English equivalent for "Vorweltlich"–"Antediluvian" and "Preadamite" used to serve that purpose; but recent discussions render it inexpedient to make unguarded implications respecting either Adam or the Deluge.

8 The context seems to show that by 'radius' Professor Mayer here means "ulna." Prof. Schaafhausen speaks of the right radius as "perfect," but does not give its length.

9 Prof. Schaafhausen, on the contrary, is careful to remark that the ulna "shows no trace of rhachitic disease"! Müller's Archiv. 1858, p. 458.

10 Sur le Crâne de Neanderthal, par M. Schaafhausen. Bulletin de la Societé d'Anthropologie. Tome iv. p. 364.

11 Taken at the line which joins the anterior and the posterior lobes.

12 If, from the close resemblance of so much as can be reproduced of the cast of the Neanderthal skull to the corresponding part of the Australian, we may be permitted to conclude that the like similarity obtained in the missing portion of the former, the Neanderthal cranium must have had a much larger capacity than the minimum (75 c. i.) I ventured to assign to it; for the cast of the Australian skull displaces 87-3/4 cubic inches of water. The maximum capacity of Australian skulls given by Morton is only 83 cubic inches, while the minimum sinks to 63 cubic inches.



1.   THH Publications
2.   Victorian Commentary
3.   20th Century Commentary

1.   Letter Index
2.   Illustration Index

Gratitude and Permissions

C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University

§ 1. THH: His Mark
§ 2. Voyage of the Rattlesnake
§ 3. A Sort of Firm
§ 4. Darwin's Bulldog
§ 5. Hidden Bond: Evolution
§ 6. Frankensteinosaurus
§ 7. Bobbing Angels: Human Evolution
§ 8. Matter of Life: Protoplasm
§ 9. Medusa
§ 10. Liberal Education
§ 11. Scientific Education
§ 12. Unity in Diversity
§ 13. Agnosticism
§ 14. New Reformation
§ 15. Verbal Delusions: The Bible
§ 16. Miltonic Hypothesis: Genesis
§ 17. Extremely Wonderful Events: Resurrection and Demons
§ 18. Emancipation: Gender and Race
§ 19. Aryans et al.: Ethnology
§ 20. The Good of Mankind
§ 21.  Jungle Versus Garden