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Neanderthal (Shanidar 3)

The Iraqi Director General of Antiquities and the Smithsonian Institution conducted a joint excavation of Shanidar Cave during the early 1950s. Some of the finds were accessioned to this Museum for study and conservation, as allowed by Iraq’s Antiquities Law.  As a result, the Human Origins Program is proud to have the Shanidar 3 Neanderthal skeleton on display in the NMNH’s Human Origins Exhibit (

This is a CT scan of a piece of the right fibula from the Shanidar 3 skeleton.

This fossilized Neanderthal skeleton was discovered in 1957 in Shanidar Cave, Iraq. Scientists uncovered more than 130 bones and many small fragments of just this one individual. This Neanderthal was found positioned on his right side, with the body twisted and knees tucked under the chest. Scientists estimate he was a 40- to 50-year-old male and about 1.69 m (5 ft 6 in) tall. He suffered from arthritis and most likely died from a stab wound to his chest. He may have been buried by members of his group or by a rock fall from the roof of the cave.

The site yielded one of the largest samples of Neanderthal fossils found anywhere in the world. Between 1953 and 1960, the skeletons of seven other adults and two infants were excavated from the same cave. The fossils were discovered in sediments about 13.7 m (45 ft) deep along with stone tools, hearths, and evidence of purposeful burials.  Researchers involved Dr. T. Dale Stewart (Smithsonian Institution), Dr. Ralph Soleki (Columbia University) and Iraqi Director General of Antiquities.

The main goal of this joint initiative between the Human Origins Program and the Division of Mammals is to make the NMNH's scientific collections and fossils available in 3D for education and research.

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