Homo neanderthalensis Neanderthals
Homo neanderthalensis Neanderthal
Bradshaw Foundation Origins Archive
Homo neanderthalensis is now an extinct species or subspecies within the genus Homo and closely related to modern humans. They are known from fossil specimens dating to the Pleistocene period and found in Europe and parts of western and central Asia. The term 'Neanderthal' comes from the modern spelling of the Neander Valley in Germany where the species was first discovered, in the Feldhofer Cave. Homo neanderthalensis existed from 600,000 to 25,000 years ago, with the final area of occupation in Gibralter.
Homo neanderthalensis Neanderthals Neanderthal Europe
Genus: Homo
Species: Homo neanderthalensis
Other Names: Neanderthals
Time Period: 600,000 to 25,000 years ago
Characteristics: Tools, Language, Social Groups
Fossil Evidence: Neanderthal skulls, first discovered, Engis Caves, Belgium, Europe


Homo neanderthalensis Homo sapiens
1) Homo neanderthalensis
2) Homo sapiens
Neanderthal cranial capacity is thought to have been as large as that of modern humans. They were much stronger than modern humans, with an average male height of 5.5 feet.
Neanderthals evolved from early Homo along a path either identical or very similar to modern man. From mtDNA analysis estimates, the two species shared a common ancestor about 500,000 years ago before diverging. The last common ancestor between anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals appears to be Homo heidelbergensis [or possibly Homo rhodesiensis]. Approximately 600,000 years ago, Homo heidelbergensis migrated out of Africa into Europe, to become the Neanderthal, whilst back in Africa, Homo heidelbergensis became Homo sapien.
Genetic evidence may suggest that Homo neanderthalensis contributed DNA to anatomically modern humans probably through interbreeding, possibly between 80,000 and 50,000 years ago, although this is now disputed [Richard E. Green et al [2010]. Szante Pääbo’s DNA sequencing from a Neanderthal bone fragment showed that Neanderthals and modern humans share about 99.5% of their DNA. Some now believe the source population of non-African modern humans was already more closely related to Neanderthals than other Africans were, due to ancient genetic divisions within Africa.
Cultural assemblages associated with the Neanderthals in Europe include the Mousterian stone tool culture of 300,000 years ago, the Châtelperronian, Aurignacian and Gravettian cultures.
Gibraltar Skull homo neanderthalensis
Gibraltar Skull
homo neanderthalensis
To date, over 400 Neanderthals have been found, including most of Europe south of the line of glaciation [the 50th parallel north], the Balkans, Ukraine, western Russia and Siberia, and the Levant.
Neanderthals were better adapted biologically to cold weather than modern humans. When further climate change caused warmer temperatures, the Neanderthal range retreated to the north along with the cold-adapted species of mammals.
Neanderthals were hunters. Bone fossils such as the [oval-shaped] humorous, reveal the use of spears in stabbing [rather than throwing] in close-quarter hunting of woolly mammoths, horse, and deer, for example. Garments of animal hides were used. Teeth show signs of heavy wear, suggesting they were used as tools to make garments. Elements of culture are demonstrated by excavated relics such as the painted shells discovered in Spain, used as pendants up to 37,000 years ago. They had a form of language [demonstrated by the presence of the hyoid bone] and lived in complex social groups. The Molodova archaeological site in eastern Ukraine suggests the use of dwellings assembled from mammoth bones with hearths. They were hunters [alpha predators] but with a mixed diet.
Why did the Neanderthals become extinct? Currently the most likely scenario is that Neanderthals were a separate species from modern humans, and became extinct (due to climate change and/or interaction with humans) and were replaced by 'competitive' modern humans moving into their habitat beginning around 80,000 years ago. In other words, Homo neanderthalensis was out-competed and marginalized [largely by a warmer and fluctuating climate] to extinction by the more 'adaptable' Aurignacians. The rapid fluctuations of weather caused ecological changes to which the Neanderthals could not adapt; familiar plants and animals would be replaced by completely different ones within a lifetime. Neanderthals' ambush techniques would have failed as grasslands replaced trees. A large number of Neanderthals would have died during these fluctuations, which peaked about 30,000 years ago. When food became scarce, this difference may have played a major role in the Neanderthals' extinction [McKie 2009]. At El Sidrón cave in north western Spain, Neanderthal bones dated to 48,000 years, appear to show signs of cannibalism. At this time, the only hominins in this region of Europe were Neanderthals. Whilst the cut and percussion marks on the bones for the marrow may be conclusive, we still don’t know if this act was one of desperation or veneration.
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