Object of the Week: One of the oldest female neanderthal skulls in Britain - blood vessel folds still visible

By Culture24 Reporter | 30 March 2016

The left and central sections of this skull were found by a local doctor in Swanscombe, Kent in 1935 and 1936. The right was discovered by archaeologists 20 years later

A photo of the light brown Swanscombe skull, belonging to one of the earliest known Neanderthals in Britain
© Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London
The woman whose skull this was could have been one of the first Neanderthals in Britain. You can still see impressions of folds and blood vessels from 400,000 years ago in it – the same size as those in human brains today.

The back of the skull has some characteristic Neanderthal features including a small pit marking where the neck muscles attached to the skull.

The term Homo neanderthalensis was first used to describe a separate species of human by Professor William King at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Newcastle in 1863.

King was a self-educated man from Sunderland who became curator of the Newcastle Museum (which was based at the Lit & Phil Society in Newcastle and whose collection later filled the Hancock Museum) and then a Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at Queen’s College, Galway.

  • You can see the skull at Newcastle’s Great North Museum: Hancock until April 17 2016.

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