Modern human babies have to rotate in order to fit their heads through the birth canal, but apparently, thanks to a reconstruction of a Neanderthal woman’s pelvis, we now know that Neanderthal babies don’t do the twist.
The two researchers were able to refit the pieces of the pubis, ischium, and ilium together in a three-dimensional, virtual reconstruction. They also used landmarks on the pelvic fragments to compare the pelvis to those of modern humans – and to predict the size and shape of the missing pieces, such as the sacrum and dimensions of the pelvic outlet.
The reconstruction suggests that the pelvis of the Tabun Neanderthal was widest from side to side all the way down the birth canal, more like that of Homo erectus or australopithecines than modern humans. And that means that although Neanderthal mothers still had difficult births because of their babies’ large heads, their babies did not rotate in the womb, the team reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.