Podcast Episode 90 l Our two cousins: A neanderthal and an orangutan

An orangutan and a neanderthal face
An orangutan and a neanderthal face
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We are discussing two different amazing news items in today’s podcast.

First we have the reconstruction of the face of a 75,000-year-old female Neanderthal, whose flattened skull was found amidst hundreds of fragmented bone pieces at Shanidar Cave in Iraqi Kurdistan. The discovery of this Neanderthal skull took place during an extensive excavation in this remote region of Iraqi Kurdistan in 1960, led by a team of experienced archaeologists and conservators from the University of Cambridge. The skull was found among a vast array of fragmented bone pieces. It had been severely damaged, likely due to a rockslide or collapse, relatively shortly after the individual’s death. This occurred after the brain had decomposed but before the cranium had filled with sediment. Over the course of tens of thousands of years, the weight of the accumulated sediment compacted the skull even further. By the time archaeologists discovered the remains, the skull had been flattened to a thickness of approximately two centimeters.

Neanderthals are thought to have died out around 40,000 years ago, so this remarkable feat not only provides a visual representation of a long-extinct hominid species but also offers valuable insights into their evolutionary adaptations and social behaviors. By studying the facial features and cranial structure of the Iraqi Kurdistan Neanderthal, researchers can better understand the dietary habits, environmental adaptations, and even potential cognitive abilities of this ancient population.

The reconstruction is being showcased in a new movie on Netflix. You can see the reconstructed face on our website 360onhistory.com

Next we move on to our other evolutionary cousin, the orangutan! In June 2022, a team of researchers observed a behavior never before witnessed in the animal world. A Sumatran orangutan named Rakus self-treated an injury using a medicinal plant in Sumatra, Indonesia. He was seen with a wound just under his eye and then a few days later was observed picking and chewing the stems and leaves of Akar Kuning (Fibraurea tinctoria), or yellow root. He ate this plant, which is NOT part of its regular diet and was also observed chewing it up and then putting it on his face as a poultice. A few weeks later his wound had healed. An analysis of the orangutan’s behavior was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Past research has shown Bornean orangutans self-medicating by rubbing their limbs with chewed plants, perhaps to alleviate sore muscles. And chimpanzees have been known to spread chewed insects over their wounds. You can check out images of the orangutan with the wound and then one a few weeks later with the healed scar on our website.

This has provided amazing insights into the behaviour of orangutans and no doubt more observations will be conducted to increase our knowledge.

These two stories have been truly amazing and have given us so much more understanding of Neanderthals and organgutans.

Please subscribe to the You Tube Channel for more on science, history and nature and please do check out the website and follow on social media: Twitter // Instagram // Facebook // Reddit // Threads. Music: Moonrise by Chad Crouch – Instrumental from Free Music Archive.



I am a Chartered Environmentalist from the Royal Society for the Environment, UK and co-owner of DoLocal Digital Marketing Agency Ltd, with a Master of Environmental Management from Yale University, an MBA in Finance, and a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics. I am passionate about science, history and environment and love to create content on these topics.

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