The Community of Nandy

Emerson Lauster
First Year Student, LSA


Digital painting


This piece, “The Community of Nandy,” is a digital artwork depicting a small group of Neanderthals aiding one of their struggling members. The scene is inspired by the 1957 archaeological discovery of Shanidar 1 in Iraqi Kurdistan, nicknamed “Nandy,” a badly injured and disabled elder Neanderthal, which suggested that altruistic behaviors had occurred in Neanderthal societies. This conclusion challenged many of the preconceived notions that value and care within Neanderthal societies was dependent upon whether a member was beneficial to the group’s survival, therefore forever changing the outlooks of modern archaeology and anthropology.

My piece, entitled “The Community of Nandy” is a digital piece of artwork playing on the concepts of realism and abstractism. Accumulating to a total of 52 used layers, the artwork primarily uses an airbrush pen to capture the likeness of three grown Neanderthals and one infant. The center Neanderthal rests on a handmade walking staff and has visual handicaps, including healed over injuries on his head, leg, and arm, as well as blind eyes, a missing limb, and an under pronounced leg shriveled from lack of use.

The piece commemorates the archeological and anthropological research and analysis significant to understanding hominid evolution. In this scene, I depict a group of wandering Neanderthals. In the center stands a neanderthal with noticeable hardships. He is based off of the discovery of Neanderthal remains in 1957 during excavations in Iraqi Kurdistan known as Shanidar 1. The remains show an older male neanderthal with multiple injuries and degenerations, including but not limited to: a blow to the side of the face from childhood, a missing forearm, blindness, deafness from abnormal bone growths in his ear canals, and a limp right leg. As many researchers have noted, such physical challenges and hardships would cause the physically demanding living conditions of hunter-gatherers to be exponentially more dangerous. Most theorists had assumed this neanderthal would have been killed or abandoned, because he did not provide significant aid in a group’s survival. However, his remains indicate he instead lived around the age of 45— a remarkably long life. This has led scientists to conclude that he required and received significant social support that made up for his physical limitations, regardless if it lowered the rest of the group’s survivability. This discovery, along with others, helped to shape the modern understanding of neanderthal societies as we know today.