New study about the Neanderthal foot

Adrián Pablos from CENIEH has led a study published in the Journal of Human Evolution on the morphology of the foot found at a Neanderthal site in southern France, enabling the height and weight of the individual known as Regourdou 1 to be estimated

A systematic and detailed study of the fossils of the individual known as Regourdou 1, found in the 1950s and 1960s, together with others identified recently, has allowed it to be established that they possess the traits usually associated with Neanderthals in the different elements of the foot: tarsals, metatarsals and phalanges, which differ from those of modern humans, both fossil and recent.

“Most of these traits are related to the typical, exceptional robustness of the postcranial skeleton, that is, from the neck down, observed in the majority of Neanderthals”, explains Pablos.

Further, as various elements of the foot are represented, it has been possible to study the proportions within a single Neanderthal foot, and compare these with certain modern samples. “This is something fairly rare in the fossil record of the genus Homo, as there are not many individuals with several elements of a single foot preserved”, adds Pablos.

Height and weight

Height and weight estimates in fossil populations are normally based on the dimensions of the large leg bones (femur and tibia). Nevertheless, these are in a highly fragmentary state in the individual Regourdou 1. For this reason, the researchers applied regression formulas to the foot bones, thus yielding an approximation to the body size of that individual.

“This partial Neanderthal skeleton may have belonged to a masculine individual, for which it was possible to estimate a height of 1.72 m and a weight of about 64.4 kg”, indicates Pablos.

The co-authors of this paper, entitled Neanderthal foot remains from Regourdou 1 (Montignac-sur-Vézère, Dordogne, France), are researchers from Spain (Centro Mixto UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos and Universidad del País Vasco, UPV-EHU), France (University of Bordeaux and National Prehistory Museum of France), and the United States (Tulane University in New Orleans and University of Washington).