Neanderthal Child from Teshik-Tash

Fossil remains of a Neanderthal child (apparently a boy aged 9-10) were discovered in 1938 by A.P. Okladnikov in Teshik-Tash – a grotto situated in the branches of the Hissar Range south of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, about 1500 m above sea level. Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) tools and numerous bones of wild goats and other animals were found in the cave deposits. It appears that people living in the grotto mostly hunted mountain goats. Horns of goats, arranged pairwise, were found around the skeleton. They might have been placed intentionally (some, judging by their position, had been stuck into the ground). If so, rather than merely abandoning the bodies of their dead, the Neanderthals buried them according to a rite reflecting some ideas of the other world.

The skeleton was studied by several anthropologists, who expressed divergent opinions concerning its taxonomic status. G.F. Debetz and M.A. Gremiatsky believed that the fossil represented a “classical” Neanderthal” of La Chapelle-aux-Saints type. This view was shared by M.M. Gerasimov. In his opinion, an incomplete expression of certain derived Neanderthal traits is due to the fact that the skeleton is infantile. By contrast, F. Weidenreich, V.V. Bunak, V.P. Yakimov, V.P.Alekseev, and certain other anthropologists have noted a number of evolutionary progressive features of the skull. They believed that the individual differed from “classical” Neanderthals and represented an evolutionary line leading to anatomically modern humans (later the idea was reiterated by G.F. Debetz).

The structure of DNA recently extracted from the bones of the Teshik-Tash child links him with Neanderthals rather than with Homo sapiens. The Neanderthal species had probably emerged in Europe. Some Neanderthals may have migrated to Asia relatively early, when the derived forms represented by La Chapelle-aux-Saints man, had not yet formed.

M.M. Gerasimov has reconstructed the complete appearance of the Teshik-Tash child. The skull, in his words, “is much larger and heavier than that of a modern child of the same age. The browridge is much more robust than in a modern adult. The forehead is retreating . The head is large and heavy, especially in the facial part, the stature is low, and the trunk is long. While being 9-10, he looks older. The disproportion between the head and the rest of the body combines with very powerful shoulders and a peculiarly stooped trunk. The arms are very strong. The legs are short and muscular. This trait combination is typical of Neanderthals.”

Location of Teshik-Tash grotto,
Cranium of a Middle Paleolithic child
from Teshik-Tash, Uzbekistan.
Plaster cast.
Sculptural reconstruction of the
Teshik-Tash boy.
Point. Scraper. Crude bifacial tool.
Point on flake. Discoid core. M .M. Gerasimov during the
archaeological excavations in
M .M. Gerasimov during the
archaeological excavations in

Mikhail Gerasimov’s Career
Mikhail Gerasimov as an Archaeologist
Reconstruction of the Face from the Cranium
“Sinanthropus” (Member of the Species Homo Erectus)
Homo Neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man)
Neanderthal Child from Teshik-Tash
People of the Upper Paleolithic
People of the Mesolithic
People of the Early Iron Age
Drawings by M.M. Gerasimov