Researchers study fossils of juvenile hominins because those fossils illustrate the slow rate at which humans grow. One of the ways humans differ from their closest living relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, is by their comparatively long childhood period, or period before they acquire the ability to reproduce.
I had been flipping through Busk’s photographs of fossils, many of which were of fragmented cave bear bones, when I came upon an image of the Gibraltar Neanderthal skull. Its large, hollow eye sockets stared up at me. Without thinking, I raised the photo toward my face for closer examination.
Difficulties in dating fossils have plagued anthropology since its inception. In 1856, a fossilised skeleton discovered in a small cave in the Neander Valley in Germany became the first hominin ever recognised by science.