Most people are familiar with the “first world problems” memes… well I saw some spin-offs of that…. 1980s problems and 1880s problems. So I thought – why not neanderthal problems?
Images: Wikimedia commons: male neanderthal: Photaro. female neanderthal: UNiesert. Images cropped, background removed, text added.
I wrote this just for fun, so people could see if they have neanderthal characteristics or not.
1. How tall are you?
a) Men: 5’7” or shorter; women: 5’3” or shorter (5 points)
b) Taller than the above (0 points)
2. Is your chin:
a) Pointy (0 points)
b) Not very pointy (5 points)
c) Not pointy at all in fact it kind of slopes backwards from my jaws (15 points)
3. What is your build? (as in your skeleton/musculature, ignore body fat)
a) Stocky and muscular (10 points)
b) Slender (0 points)
c) Kind of half way between the two (5 points)
4. When you were eight you were…
a) …more like a 12 yr old in physical development (10 points)
b) …average for an 8 yr old or just a little above average (0 points)
c) …physically less developed than other 8 yr olds (0 points)
5. Is the shape of your face, viewed from the side, most like A or B?
a) Most like A (10 points)
b) Most like B (0 points)
c) Kind of halfway between A and B (5 points)
6. Is your forehead…
a) What forehead? (0 points)
b) Vertical (0 points)
c) Sloping but with small or non-existent brow ridges. (5 points)
d) Sloping with big straight brow ridges. (5 points)
e) Sloping with big arched brow ridges. (15 points)
f) Sloping with big arched brow ridges and I’m female. (30 points)
7. Are you ginger?
a) Yes (10 points)
b) No, but I have really pale skin that burns easily and/or freckles (5 points)
c) No, and my skin tans easily and/or is dark (0 points)
d) Are you kidding? I have brown skin and afro hair (-5 points)
8. Do you wear turn-ups?
a) Yes I have to wear turn-ups and also on my sleeves too as I have short arms and legs, but I have a large frame and so trouser legs and sleeves are always too long (10 points)
b) No. My clothes fit just fine. (0 points)
c) As a fashion statement only. I don’t need to have them. (0 points)
d) Quite the opposite, clothes tend to be too short in the legs and arms for me as I’m tall and slender (0 points)
e) No, I get my clothes tailor made so they fit my little short arms and legs and large frame just fine. (10 points)
9. Can you do full (“ass to grass”) squats from standing with a narrow stance (shoulder width apart or less, toes facing forwards)?
a) No, because I fall over backwards on account of the fact that my femurs are relatively long compared to my shins. But I can do full squats just fine with a wider stance/toes facing out/heels raised, including with a heavy barbell (10 points)
b) I can’t do any kind of squats because I’m unfit and/or inflexible (0 points)
c) Yes I can do full squats in any stance, including narrow, without balance issues (0 points)
10. Do you have space in your jaw behind your wisdom teeth?
a) Yes (15 points)
b) No (0 points)
c) Space behind them? I don’t have enough space for them! (0 points)
11. Is your skull shape:
a) Taller than it is long (0 points)
b) Longer than it is tall (10 points)
c) Small in all dimensions (0 points)
12. Is the back of your head, when viewed from the side, most like A or B?
a) Most like A (0 points)
b) Most like B (10 points)
c) Kind of half way between A and B (5 points)
13. Are your hands, feet, fingers and toes:
a) Short and wide (5 points)
b) Average or long and thin (0 points)
14. Are a fast runner?
a) No, because I’m an unfit couch potato (0 points)
b) No, because I have short legs, so no matter how fast I move my little legs I can’t get much speed up even though I’m generally athletic and strong (5 points)
c) Yes (0 points)
d) Yes, very much so; in fact I compete in the 100m sprint in athletics at a high level (0 points)
e) I can only manage a slow waddle on my legs, but using all four limbs I’m really, really fast, and I’m also really good at brachiating and tree climbing (0 points)
15. How about hill and/or stair running?
a) You must be joking, us unfit couch potatoes aren’t even going to go near that, running on the flat is bad enough!! (0 points)
b) Yes I’m good at that. Those taller guys with their long shin bones may be able to beat me on the flat, but I can beat them up a hill or a flight of stairs! (10 points)
c) I’m good at it because I’m strong and athletic, but I don’t think my shins are shorter than average for my height. (0 points)
16. Are you good at throwing spears/javelins?
a) Yes (0 points)
b) No (5 points)
c) No, but I’m sure good at thrusting them into large animals (15 points)
17. What diet would you prefer?
a) Mostly meat plus some fruit and veg for vitamins etc (5 points)
b) Mostly fruit/veg with some meat or fish for protein (0 points)
c) Totally vegan or vegetarian (0 points)
18. What is your blood group?
a) O (5 points)
b) Not O (0 points)
19. Are you a rodeo rider?
a) Yes, and I’m very good at it (5 points)
b) No (0 points)
c) You must be kidding, the idea of going near big animals terrifies me!! (0 points)
d) No, but I hunt very large animals for food using thrusting spears and other short range weapons and that’s kind of like rodeo riding (25 points)
20. Is your ethnic origin (as in where your ancestors from the last 20,000 years ago came from):
a) Sub-Saharan African, (i.e. south of the Sahara desert) (0 points)
b) Non-African or North African (i.e. north of the Sahara) (5 points)
c) Mix of Sub-Saharan African and non-African and/or North African (5 points)
d) Flores island, and no, I don’t mean descended from the Homo sapiens people who arrived here long after we did (0 points)
e) Don’t tell anyone this okay, but I’m actually from a lost tribe of Neanderthals who have been living in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain, hiding from you Cro-Magnon people all this time because you’re a bunch of psychopaths. (100 points)
21. How well do you cope with change and new things?
a) I don’t like change or new things (5 points)
b) I like change and new things (0 points)
c) If this is your way of boasting about your new-fangled Cro-Magnon technology and a dig at how we allegedly never really got the hang of those Aurignacian core flake thingamajigs, then you can go jump off one of your fancy buildings. We have no need of arrow heads or toothed blades, so we’re sticking with Mousterian thank you very much (30 points)
22. Have you ever had your DNA tested and compared to DNA from Neanderthal fossils?
a) Yes, and it said it was a 1-4% match (5 points)
b) No, never (0 points)
c) Yes and it said it was a 0% match (-5 points)
d) No point, I’m from sub-Sahara Africa (-5 points)
e) I told you, we’ve kept well away from you Cro-Magnon psychos, so no, I haven’t submitted my DNA to any of your scientific studies (30 points)
f) Yes, and it said I was an exact match to a Neanderthal fossil in a museum in Germany, which begs a lot of questions of my mum who’s a palaeogeneticist and my dad who’s an IVF specialist for which I’ve had no satisfactory answers as yet (100 points)
5 or less:
You’re not a neanderthal. However, a negative result on this test is not proof that you’re a Homo sapiens.
You have some neanderthal characteristics, this could either be due to interbreeding or a little convergent evolution.
You seem to have rather a lot of neanderthal characteristics. Note that this could be due to convergent evolution and nothing to do with interbreeding, and genes for these characteristics don’t necessarily come from neanderthals. People who are ethnically from cold and/or mountainous parts of the world are more likely to have some of these characteristics, whether they actually come from neanderthals or convergent evolution, and not enough is known about the Denisovan hominid to know if some of these characteristics could have come from them (but hey they lived in Siberian mountains so it’s not that unlikely!)
Whatever the origin of the genes, you are more neanderthal-like than average for a Homo sapiens. Future studies in palaeogenetics may reveal whether any modern people have more neanderthal DNA than the 1-4% currently discovered.
You are a remarkable specimen; please contact the Max Planck Institute immediately for DNA analysis*.
I scored 85 on this test. I expect there’s people out there who’d score more than that. Post your scores in the comments section below, along with any other details you choose to include that may be relevant, such as your ethnic origin or where your tribe has been hiding these past 30,000 years. Also, feel free to point out any errors or discuss any points of interest.
*please don’t, because if you haven’t figured out by now that this whole thing is just for fun, the nice people at the Max Planck Institute really shouldn’t have to deal with you.
Palaeoanthropology should come with a health warning for people of European descent. It should read something like this:
“Warning to those of European descent: studying palaeoanthropology may result in you realising that you have a whole load of neanderthal characteristics. (There is, as yet, insufficient molecular evidence to tell whether that’s as a result of convergent evolution or admixture, but whatever way you look at it, you are quite possibly more neanderthal-like than other modern humans.) If you would be uncomfortable with discovering that you may possibly have significantly more neanderthal ancestry than the rest of the human race, maybe study plant evolution or something.”
My first realisation of this was when I was at university… we were examining Homo erectus skulls (well, casts of Homo erectus skulls, because no university in its right mind would let undergraduates anywhere near actual Homo erectus skulls) and the lecturer mentioned how Homo erectus skulls have this kind of ridge that goes along the back of the head and round to each ear. I mentioned how I have this, but only at the very back like about 2-3 inches of it. She looked back with this “oh really…?” expression on her face. And the very next lecture, which was on neanderthals, it was mentioned that neanderthals had a thing at the back of the skull, kind of like Homo erectus, but only about 2-3 inches. Add to this the fact that I’m average height for a neanderthal woman and I have a very large rib cage and I’ve always been naturally strong and muscular. I also don’t feel the cold much. In fact I’m quite happy walking at a moderately fast pace in sub zero temperatures wearing just jeans and a t-shirt. As a teenager, waiting at the bus stop on the way to school in winter, I repeatedly had the following conversation:
other person: aren’t you cold??
other person: seriously?? I’m freezing and you’re not even wearing a coat!! You’re only wearing a blazer, school skirt and school shirt! Not even long socks! How can you not be cold?
me: I don’t feel the cold.
other person: *shakes head in disbelief*
So I was like:
That was when I was at university.
Since then they found that some neanderthals appear to have been ginger. I’m not, but as my mum and younger daughter are, it’s safe to infer I’m heterozygous for it. Then I read that they had blood group O, well what a surprise, so do I.
Then, THEN, just to further drive the point home, there’s this reconstruction of a neanderthal woman that looks just like me from the neck downwards. I mean like same overall shape, body proportions, probably I could be her body double in a film if no-one saw my face (I do, in fact have a vertical forehead, pointy chin and dome shaped cranium, believe it or not). AND there’s this reconstruction of a neanderthal toddler that is the spitting image of my little ginger daughter who seems to have inherited my rib cage.
So you can probably understand why I think that I might possibly be descended from the Lost Tribe of the Neanderthals. It is, at the very least, a more parsimonious explanation than convergent evolution.
Just recently there was this debate on a health and fitness forum about barbell squats. In particular, femur length and squats. The actual issue was the ratio of the lengths of the tibia and femur and whether this made squatting difficult for people who have relatively long femurs. (Of course, the concept of “relatively long” was missed, and replies like “I know this guy who’s 6’5″ and he can do ass to grass squats without any difficulty, so everyone else is just making excuses” followed. So it had to be pointed out that the same problem can be expressed in terms of having a relatively short tibia compared to the femur.) I have known since university that neanderthals had a relatively long femur compared to the length of the tibia, and also that I seem to as well, but it’s hard to tell and journal articles post ratios of actual bone lengths and you can’t very easily measure your own bones while you are still alive.
In any case, it made me do some research and I found amongst other things this article and apparently yes, having a relatively long femur compared to you tibia does indeed give you a significant mechanical disadvantage for squatting in a normal stance. This is rectified by taking a wider stance, so that the torso (and centre of gravity) goes between the feet, rather than trying to keep your centre of gravity over the feet, which is not physically possible if you have a short shin plus a long femur, because your centre of gravity is further back and you either fall backwards, or you have to lean so far forward to stay balanced when your legs are horizontal to the ground, that a) you can’t physically get any lower because your torso and quadriceps can’t occupy the same space at the same time and b) if you try that with a barbell on your back you’ll do your lower back in.
This discovery explained a LOT. I have always naturally done squats with a wide stance, because that’s what’s most comfortable, and it has the added bonus of not resulting in falling over backwards. I don’t recall any time in my life where I was unable to do full (i.e. “ass to grass”) bodyweight squats, but at the same time I never really noticed that I naturally take a wider stance to do this than most other people. There has never been any logical reason or necessity to attempt to squat with a more narrow stance, but pistol squats are another matter. That’s a kind of one legged squat, and being on one leg necessitates having your centre of gravity over your foot at all times to avoid falling over in the process, so a wide stance is not possible, I have never been able to do those, and this is out of synch with my general ability to balance. I can do one legged deadlifts and one legged calf raises without needing to hold on to anything for balance. I used to play ice hockey, and I could do all kinds of tricks that involve good balance, I could even do three-jumps and cherry flips in full kit, but I couldn’t do “shoot the duck” which is basically a pistol squat while skating on one foot. I had wondered in the past whether body proportions had anything to do with this, as I find it impossible to get my centre of gravity over my foot for pistol squats/shoot the duck, in order to stay balanced. I’m conscious of where my centre of gravity is and where it needs to be, because I generally have very good balance. So this explanation involving tibia/femur ratio certainly made sense!!
One great thing I got from this whole debate is that raising the heels rectifies this issue with pistol squats, because this artificially lengthens the shin by putting the whole body (except the feet and ankles) into the same position as it would be for someone with relatively longer shins. I tried raising my heels, using the Times Atlas of History, my go-to book for standing on while weightlifting (this helps get a wider range of motion on some lifts), on account that it’s a large, flat, slab-like hardback book that can take being used in this way. With this book under my heels…. woah!! I can do pistol squats without falling backwards! On either leg!! They’re not even difficult!! I can do Cro-Magnon squats thanks to the Times Atlas of History (and I never realised there was a difference between Cro-Magnon squats and neanderthal squats until now!)
So yeah, lost tribe of the neanderthals… maybe I should just send my DNA to the Max Planck Institute or something… and never let anyone tell you that having relatively long femurs/relatively short shins does not affect the biomechanics of squatting. It does. A lot.
And there’s a PhD thesis in there somewhere if anyone can demonstrate how the inability to do pistol squats led to the extinction of the neanderthals…
image: my own sketch of a neanderthal reconstruction in modern clothing from a museum in Germany.