Tag Archives: Neanderthal

Neanderthal (Starlux)

Review and photographs by Indohyus, edited by Suspsy

Time and new discoveries are incredible for changing ideas and concepts in every field of science and nature. Such is the way with the genus Homo, of which we humans are now the only living members. Our closest cousins, the Neanderthals, are an example of this change. The old views of them being stumbling brutes, only capable of grunting and violence are gone, with new discoveries showing that they had a form of language, cave paintings, and adornments (although they were still capable of being violent). There aren’t many figures of Neanderthals, however, possibly due to being too close to humans. Of course, the original dino toy line, Starlux, had their own examples.

The figure is a similar size to other Starlux figures, being 3.7” high (from base to club) and 1.8” wide. The colouring is based on the Caucasian skin complexion of certain modern humans, likely because Neanderthals are our evolutionary cousins. The pose is certainly of the time: very dynamic, maybe about to strike down prey. Feels a bit Wacky Races to me, but it’s passable.

Despite the older look, this figure does look pretty accurate for a hominid. The musculature is correct for the skeletal structure, and appears reasonably robust and rounded, at least in comparison to the human figures that Starlux produced. Even the hair seems accurate to modern ideas, though slightly too dark. Not too bad. Though the clothing doesn’t all the way around the crotch, no genitalia is present.

Overall, this isn’t too bad, despite the age. With CollectA and Safari producing Neanderthal figures of higher quality, you can overlook this figure, but this is still worth considering. They pop up on French eBay seller sites fairly frequently, so the choice is yours.

A final (obligatory) warning: the Starlux figures are made with different plastics to modern lines and are much more brittle. Most of the versions of this model have small bumps coming out of the club, but this one’s looks like they were knocked off. Proceed with caution.

Evolution of Man (Safariology by Safari Ltd)

Review and Photographs by Quentin Brendel (aka Pachyrhinosaurus), edited by Suspsy

The main theme of Safari Ltd’s Safariology line is education. The line includes life cycle sets, fossil replicas, a solar system model, and other items to encourage children to learn more about nature. Perhaps the most important teaching tool in the Safariology line is the “Evolution of Man” set, especially since, depending on the region, this important lesson might unfortunately be omitted from school curriculums. Not surprisingly, the set may evoke the image of Rudolph Zallinger’s famous “March of Progress” painting. Of course, numbering only five, it doesn’t include as many species, but it still does its job of providing a visual aid of human evolution (and lets us have some human victims for our prehistoric mammals).

image

Australopithecus is the earliest of the hominins in the lot. For such a small figure, it has lots of detail. It’s standing upright with a slightly forward lean, a curious expression on its face, and a bone held in its right hand. The Australopithecus is the only one that is not holding a stick. There’s lots of muscle definition all over the hairy body. Most of the figure is solid brown except for the bone, which is painted white, and the face, which is light brown with darker highlights. The eyes aren’t quite straight, but this is minor compared to some of the others in the set.

image

Coming next is Homo habilis. This one has slightly more definition than the Australopithecus, possibly to imply a thinner coat of hair. It’s also more diverse in colour. The body is lighter coloured and there is a darker patch of hair on the head. The face and ears are similar to those of the Australopithecus except that the highlights match the color of the body. H. habilis comes with two tools: a stone and a long stick. The stick is a support for the figure, allowing for a tripod stance.

image

Third one up is the Homo erectus. This one lacks body hair altogether. I’m sure H. erectus would have been hairy in life much like many modern humans, but a model at this size would probably have trouble depicting sparse hair like that. He also has backwards-running hair like that of the H. habilis in the set, as well as a beard. This figure has the most well-defined muscles, as the body is not obscured by hair or clothing though he is wearing a loincloth. There’s a stick included with H. erectus as well, this time topped with flames, reminiscent of the Bullyland figure, however the fire is not as convincing as that one’s. It’s very red and yellow, and would be more realistic if painted in various shades of orange. The stick doesn’t look very charred either, being a bright beige.

image

The Neanderthal also sports a hairless body, save for the hair on the head and the beard, and appears to be making a hand gesture. He dons an animal skin which is worn over one shoulder and of course, covers his pelvic area. There’s a stick in the right hand as well. The skin tone is quite varied in my figure, being lighter in some areas and darker in others, keeping a natural feel. The hair is painted black and it’s tied up in a ponytail in the back. Eyebrows are painted on. Some of the paint is off-target on my figure, but it’s at a small scale and the errors aren’t as easy to notice, although the two eyes looking in different directions can be quite distracting. The lips are also painted a different colour from the face.

image

Lastly, the Cro-Magnon is the most recent of the bunch. Unlike the rest, he holds a spear and a bone with both hands. I’m not too familiar with Cro-Magnon weaponry, so I can’t tell for sure whether the bone is supposed to be affixed to the spear or not. As always, there’s lots of paint detail, with even the fibers binding the stone to the stick painted separately. Also unlike the rest, the Cro-Magnon is wearing fuzzy boots. I’m sure I saw some similar ones last time I was at the mall. It must be an old trend. He’s also wearing something that reminds me of a kilt as well as a necklace with teeth or claws. The Cro-Magnon’s hair is higher than that of the Neanderthal and is a medium brown. The face sports a moustache and beard of the same colour.

image

Overall, this is a nice set. The scale and complexity makes it vulnerable to paint mistakes, however, that is only a minor problem and if need be, they are easily repaintable. I think they make good companion pieces to the other prehistoric mammals due to their smaller size. A possible downside is that they aren’t very compatible with one another in a diorama setting since most of them are from different times and places, and even if one were to get hold of multiples of one of them, it would look rather unnatural with them all being in the same position. For its purpose–to illustrate human evolution from other apes–it does its job well. The Cro-Magnon stands three inches tall, putting these figures at around 1/24 scale. They aren’t exactly to scale with the Safari woolly mammoth, but there’s enough size difference between them that it doesn’t look unnatural.

image

Interestingly, newer versions of the set are not as detailed with the paint, sporting more solid and less intricate paint jobs. It doesn’t detract too much from the figure, but there’s still a noticeable difference. With their detail, playability, and educational value, the Safari Ltd Evolution of Man set should be a welcome addition to any shelf, toybox, or classroom. They are still in production and can easily be found online on Amazon or eBay.

image

Leaps in Evolution (Kaiyodo)

Review and photographs by Tim Sosa

From July-October 2015, the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo hosted an exhibit called “Leaps in Evolution: Tracing the Path of Vertebrate Evolution.” To commemorate the exhibit, Kaiyodo made a set of five vending machine capsule figures, most representing a stage in the evolution of vertebrates. Each of these can be tied to a “key innovation,” or an adaptation that enables a lineage to diversify at the expense of potential competitors, predators, or prey. Let’s take a look at the five figures, starting with our closest relative and going back through time.

image

First up is the skull of a Neanderthal Homo neanderthalensis, a species which lived until about 40,000 years ago, well after modern humans had started spreading outside of Africa, and may have interbred with them. This skull, showcasing the large braincase that is the hallmark of humans, is a fitting visual reminder of what makes us us. It’s well-made in about 1:10 scale and identifiable as H. neanderthalensis by the prominent brow ridges and large teeth, although in actual specimens the teeth are much less tidy, probably because of decay of the remains between death and fossilization.

image

We travel pretty far back in time to reach Dimetrodon limbatus, which lived in the early Permian period over 270 million years ago. Dimetrodon was a synapsid, an early member of a lineage whose only survivors are the mammals. Synapsids did a couple of interesting things that ended up being important for mammals. One, they reduced the role of the articular and quadrate bones in the jaw joint, which freed them up to later become part of our middle ear. And two, they evolved the ability to regulate their own body temperature metabolically. It isn’t clear when that occurred, but one hypothesis for the function of the sail of Dimetrodon is temperature regulation, so it makes sense that it would be included in this set. This is a big improvement on the Dimetrodon from Kaiyodo’s Dinotales line back in 2001, with excellent detail and a pose that reflects recent suggestions that their stance was somewhat more erect than previously thought. It’s about 1:45 if it represents a large specimen of D. limbatus.

image

Next up is Ichthyostega, an early tetrapod relative. Ichthyostega lived during the Devonian period, and was one of the first fishes to have well-developed limbs with digits, and could probably have walked around a little bit in addition to swimming. This figure is in about 1:12 scale and looks great, with the characteristic broad, flat head and tail still adapted for an aquatic lifestyle. When Ichthyostega was first discovered, everyone assumed it had five digits just like us, lizards, and the earliest dinosaurs. But later preparation of the fossils revealed that some of the earliest tetrapods, like Ichthyostega, had seven or even eight digits. Some of those wouldn’t have been obvious externally when covered with muscle and skin, and this Kaiyodo figure is therefore well within the range of possibility, showing six external toes. Nice work!

image

While Ichthyostega was learning to crawl, Dunkleosteus was the top predator in the world’s oceans. It was an arthrodire, a group that had already been around for tens of millions of years. Arthrodires were among the first vertebrates with jaws, which are not only great for eating things, but also became important for hearing for some vertebrates. This little ~1:40 scale skull replica features a hinged jaw, calling attention to its importance in the evolution of vertebrates.

image

Finally we reach Anomalocaris, a major predator of the Cambrian period, over 500 million years ago. This is the only figure in the set that isn’t a vertebrate, and in fact the only one that isn’t relatively close to a direct ancestor of humans. Maybe that’s because at the time of Anomalocaris, our ancestors were essentially jawless, spineless little worms with a gill basket, which would look a little less awesome as toys. So Kaiyodo went with Anomalocaris, an arthropod distantly related to insects, spiders, and barnacles. Anomalocaris probably ate our distant relations for breakfast! It was part of the so-called “Cambrian Explosion,” a sudden (by geological standards) profusion of life that evolved in the world’s seas and set the stage for major lineages of animals, such as arthropods, mollusks, vertebrates, and echinoderms. This figure is similar to the one Kaiyodo made for their Dinotales line, but more finely detailed, a fitting homage to this extremely important time in Earth’s history. Like the Dinotales version, it’s about 1:10-1:15 scale.

image

Overall, this set is a fantastic miniature review of evolutionary history (biased a bit toward our own ancestors). The exhibit in Tokyo has ended, but a fair number of these seem to have found their way to the secondary market, so you might be able to find them through web sites such as eBay or through a friend with a connection in Japan. They’re already fetching fairly high prices, so if you want them, sooner is better than later!