London: Scientists have dispelled the theory that Neanderthals were ugly because of the cold arctic conditions of the last Ice Age, raising fresh questions about the habitats they lived in and why they died out.
A new study has claimed that the characteristic broad foreheads and large noses of Neanderthals didn`t give them any special advantage to live in the freezing conditions that had gripped Europe during the last Ice Age.
For over 150 years, researchers have explained the reason for these facial differences to modern humans as an adaptation which allowed Neanderthals to live in cold arctic conditions of the last Ice Age, and believed they had enlarged sinuses which helped to warm the air as it was inhaled.
Now, a team, led by Roehampton University, has used three-dimensional scans and X-ray images of Neanderthal skulls to reveal that their sinuses were no bigger than modern humans
-- Homo sapiens who evolved in more temperate climates, and so played no role in increasing size of their facial features.
The European team claim the findings clearly suggest Neanderthals, which died out around 30,000 years ago after surviving for over 400,000 years, did not evolve to survive in
the harsh frozen tundra of Europe, but instead were better suited for living in warmer climates.
Team leader Dr Todd Rae said it was more than likely that Neanderthals lived in temperate refuges where they could forage for fruit and berries as well as hunting for meat, `The
Sunday Telegraph` reported.
"The view that Neanderthals were knuckle-dragging cave men who scraped a living by hunting large mammals on the frozen wastes of the tundra has been around since they were first discovered because they were known to live at a time when Europe was in the grip of the last Glacial Age.
"As a result a lot of their physical traits have been attributed as adaptations that helped them live in the cold, even when it doesn`t make any sense. "Our findings show that their sinuses were no larger, relative to the skull size, than in Homo sapiens who lived in temperate climates. It suggests that Neanderthals evolved in much warmer temperatures before moving into Europe and then they moved south to avoid the glaciers.
"The picture of them as more of a temperate climate creature than one that lived in the cold fits the data much better," he was quoted as saying.