A study, which analysed 99 incisors and canine teeth of 19 Neanderthal individuals from three different sites (El Sidron, in Asturias – Spain, L’Hortus in France, and Spy in Belgium), reveals that the dental grooves present in female fossils follow a similar pattern, but are different to that found in the males.
This is one of the main conclusions reached by a study undertaken by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), and published in the Journal of Human Evolution.
Analyses reveals that all the Neanderthal individuals, regardless of age, had dental grooves. According to Antonio Rosas, CSIC researcher at the Spanish National Museum of Natural Sciences:
“This is due to the custom of these societies to use the mouth as a third hand, as in some current populations, for tasks such as preparing furs or chopping meat, for instance.
“what we have now discovered is that the grooves detected in the teeth of adult women are longer than those found in adult men. Therefore we assume that the tasks performed were different“.
Males also show a greater number of nicks in the enamel and dentin of the upper areas, while in females these appear in the lower parts.
Separate activities unclear
It is still unclear which activities would have corresponded to women and which ones to men, but using examples from modern hunter-gatherer societies, women may have been responsible for the preparation of furs and making garments.
Almudena Estalrrich, CSIC researcher at the Spanish National Museum of Natural Sciences, adds: “Nevertheless, we believe that the specialisation of labour by sex of the individuals was probably limited to a few tasks, as it is possible that both men and women participated equally in the hunting of big animals“.
Rosas concludes: “Up until now, we thought that sexual division of labour was typical of sapiens societies, but apparently that is not true“.