Distinct among Neanderthals: The scapula of the skeleton from Altamura, Italy

F. Di Vincenzo*, S. E. Churchill, C. Buzi, A. Profico, M. A. Tafuri, M. Micheli, D. Caramelli, G. Manzi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The exceptionally well-preserved Neanderthal skeleton discovered in October 1993 within the Lamalunga cave near Altamura (Puglia, Italy) has been recently dated to a late Middle Pleistocene chronology, bracketed between 128.2 and 187.0 ka. Although the skeleton is still sealed in situ, in 2009 and 2015 a large part of its fragmentary right scapula was removed from the cave in three pieces, following a protocol aimed at preventing any biological contamination prior to aDNA extraction and analysis. The three fragments taken together preserve the glenoid fossa, the roots of both the coracoid and acromial processes, the superior two-thirds of the axillary border, portions of the spine, and part of the supraspinous fossa. This scapula is described here in detail for the first time. Morphological analyses show that it falls within the range of Neanderthal variability and also approaches the Mid-Pleistocene sample from Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos. However, the scapula from Altamura exhibits a bisulcate/ventral pattern of the axillary border: a feature that is uncommon for a Neanderthal and, more in general, among the European archaic humans of the Middle and Late Pleistocene. The scapula from Altamura expands our knowledge of the postcranial variability along the Neanderthal lineage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-88
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date27 Nov 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Nov 2018


  • Axillary border
  • Europe
  • Human evolution
  • Pleistocene
  • Shoulder

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