How scientists recreated Neanderthal man

A team of scientists has created what it believes is the first really accurate reconstruction of Neanderthal man, from a skeleton that was discovered in France over a century ago.

In 1909, excavations at La Ferrassie cave in the Dordogne unearthed the remains of a group of Neanderthals. One of the skeletons in that group was that of an adult male, given the name La Ferrassie 1.

These remains have helped scientists create a detailed reconstruction of our closest prehistoric relative for a new BBC series, Prehistoric Autopsy.

La Ferrassie 1 is one of the most important discoveries made in the field of Neanderthal research.

His skull is the largest and most complete ever found. The discovery of his leg and foot bones was hugely significant, revealing to scientists that Neanderthals walked upright, contradicting previous research.

We now know that Neanderthals were stocky with strong arms and hands, and that they had large skulls - longer and lower than ours - with sloping foreheads and no chin.

But modern scientific research methods can now probe further to help us build a more accurate picture of the Neanderthals' look and lifestyle. The scientists used these new approaches to reconstruct La Ferrassie 1.

But how do you go about reconstructing an entire lifelike body from a collection of 70,000 year old bones?

Much of La Ferrassie 1's frame was intact, but the thorax, ribs, pelvis and some spinal pieces were missing.

Following clues
US-based paleoartist Viktor Deak - who specialises in reconstructions and images of early man - filled in the gaps with copies of Neanderthal bones discovered at Kebara Cave in Israel in 1982. That dig uncovered a near-complete Neanderthal skeleton, missing just the cranium, right leg, and an area of the left leg.

A copy of the newly-complete La Ferrassie 1 was sent to a team of model makers in Buckingham. They pieced the bones together and set the finished skeleton in the correct, upright position.

The next stage was...
Read the whole thing and see the video at the BBC here.