H. neanderthalensis La Ferrassie 1
Neanderthal or Neandertal is an extinct species (Homo neanderthalensis) of the Homo genus that inhabited Europe and parts of western Asia from about 250,000 years ago until as recent as 30,000 years ago. At that point, they disappeared from the fossil record, being replaced by modern Homo sapiens. "Neanderthal" and "Neandertal" are optional spellings, but Neanderthal is more common in English and in scientific literature.
There is continued debate over whether Neanderthals should be classified as a separate species, Homo neanderthalensis, or as a subspecies of H. sapiens, labeled as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. The classification as a subspecies was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, but today many list them as separate species (Smithsonian 2007b).
Fossils of Neanderthals were first found in the eighteenth century prior to Charles Darwin's 1859 publication of The Origin of Species, with discoveries at Engis, Belgium in 1829, at Forbes Quarry, Gibraltar in 1848, and most notably a discovery in 1856 in Neander Valley in Germany, which was published in 1857. However, earlier findings were widely misinterpreted as skeletons of modern humans with deformities or disease (Gould 1990). The new species H. neanderthalensis was recognized in 1864.
Mayr claims that Neanderthals arose from Homo erectus, arguing, "There is little doubt that…the western populations of H. erectus eventually gave rise to the Neanderthals" (2001).
The issue of whether or how much Neanderthals contributed to the modern human genome is unsettled and remains vigorously debated (Kreger 2005). At least one group of scientists concludes from genetic studies that Neanderthals did not contribute genetic material to modern humans (Krings et al. 1997). One of the participants of this study argues, "These results [based on mitochondrial DNA extracted from Neanderthal bone] indicate that Neanderthals did not contribute mitochondrial DNA to modern humans… Neanderthals are not our ancestors" (PSU 1997). However, other scientists working from fossil evidence argue that Neanderthals interbred with humans and this assimilation is why they are extinct (Hayes 2006). Kreger surmises that the issue "is not as cut and dry" as is oftentimes claimed and it seems "highly unlikely that the Neanderthals contributed absolutely nothing to the modern genome" (2005).
Equally unsettled is why the Neanderthals disappeared.
More argument is focused on Neanderthals by academia of paleoanthropology than any other species (Kreger 2005).
The August day in 1856 when a fossil was discovered in a limestone quarry in Germany is heralded as the beginning of paleoanthropology as a scientific discipline (Kreger 2005). This discovery of a skullcap and partial skeleton in a cave in the Neander Valley (near Dusseldorf) was the first recognized fossil human form (Smithsonian 2007b). This is not to say, however, that this was the first time Neanderthal fossils were discovered, as skulls were unearthed in Engis, Belgium in 1829 and Forbes' Quarry, Gibraltar in 1848. However, these earlier discoveries were not recognized as belonging to archaic forms.
The type specimen, dubbed Neanderthal 1, consists of a skull cap, two femora, three bones from the right arm, two from the left arm, part of the left ilium, fragments of a scapula, and ribs. The workers who recovered this material originally thought it to be the remains of a bear. They gave the material to amateur naturalist Johann Karl Fuhlrott, who turned the fossils over to anatomist Hermann Schaffhausen. The discovery was jointly announced in 1857. In 1864, a new species was recognized: Homo neanderthalensis.
These, and later, discoveries led to the idea that these remains were from ancient Europeans who had played an important role in modern human origins. The bones of over 400 Neanderthals have been found since.
The term Neanderthal Man was coined by Irish anatomist William King, who first named the species in 1863 at a meeting of the British Association, and put it into print in the Quarterly Journal of Science the following year (Kreger 2005). The Neanderthal or "Neander Valley" itself was named after theologian Joachim Neander, who lived there in the late seventeenth century.
"Neanderthal" is now spelled two ways. The spelling of the German word Thal, meaning "valley or dale," was changed to Tal in the early twentieth century, but the former spelling is often retained in English and always in scientific names, while the modern spelling is used in German. The original German pronunciation (regardless of spelling) is with the sound /t/. When used in English, the term is usually anglicized to /θ/ (as in thin), though speakers more familiar with German use /t/.
Classic Neanderthal fossils have been found over a large area, from northern Germany, to Israel to Mediterranean countries like Spain and Italy, and from England in the west to Uzbekistan in the east. This area probably was not occupied all at the same time; the northern border of their range especially would have contracted frequently with the onset of cold periods. On the other hand, the northern border of their range as represented by fossils may not be the real northern border of the area that they occupied, since artifacts indicative of the Middle Paleolithic have been found even further north, up to 60° on the Russian plain (Pavlov et al. 2004).
In Siberia, Middle Paleolithic populations are evidenced only in the southern portions. Teeth from Okladniko and Denisova caves have been attributed to Neanderthals (Goebel 1999). The transition to the Upper Paleolithic coincides with the appearance of modern Homo sapiens in Siberia. Early Upper Paleolithic sites in southern Siberia, found below 55 degrees latitude and dated from 42,000 to 30,000 Before Present (B.P.) correspond to the Malokheta interstade, a relatively warm interval in the Mid to Upper Pleistocene (Goebel 1999).
The first proto-Neanderthal traits appeared in Europe as early as 350,000 years ago (Bischoff et al. 2003). By 130,000 years ago, full blown Neanderthal characteristics were present. Neanderthals became extinct in Europe approximately 30,000 years ago. There is recently discovered fossil and stone-tool evidence that suggests Neanderthals may have still been in existence 24,000 years ago, at which time they they disappeared from the fossil record and were replaced in Europe by modern Homo sapiens (Rincon 2006, Mcilroy 2006, Klein 2003, Smithsonian 2007b, 2007c).
There are a diversity of views on the disappearance of Neanderthals, including those related to rapid extinction, gradual extinction, and assimilation.
Neanderthal brain sizes have been estimated to be larger than modern humans, although such estimates have not been adjusted for their more robust builds. On average, Neanderthal males stood about 1.65 m tall (just under 5' 5") and were heavily built with robust bone structure. Females were about 1.53 to 1.57 m tall (about 5'–5'2").
Neanderthals made finer tools than earlier humans and are considered the first to bury their dead and to have symbolic ritual (Smithsonian 2007c). This practice of intentional burial is one reason given for the finding of so many Neanderthal fossils, including skeletons (Smithsonian 2007c).
For many years, professionals have vigorously debated whether Neanderthals should be classified as Homo neanderthalensis or as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, the latter placing Neanderthals as a subspecies of Homo sapiens.
The original reconstruction of Neanderthal anatomy was flawed and exacerbated the distinction between Neanderthals and humans (Smithsonian 2007b, 2007c). Based on a nearly complete skeleton of an elderly male found in France, the reconstruction showed bent knees and a slouching gait (Smithsonian 2007b, 2007). This image, which led to a standard and lingering view of crude cavemen, was mistaken, as Neanderthals apparently walked fully upright without a slouch or bent knees (Smithsonian 2007c). They also had a larger cranial capacity than modern humans and were culturally sophisticated in terms of tool making, symbolic ritual, and burying their dead.
As a result of anatomical similarities and cultural aspects, it was popular through the 1970s and 1980s to consider Homo neanderthalensis as a subspecies of Homo sapiens.
However, there were also many differences between Neanderthals and modern populations. They had a low forehead, double-arched brow ridge, larger nasal area, projecting cheek region, heavily-built bones, short lower leg and arm bones relative to the upper bones, and so forth (Smithsonian 2007c). Based on these characteristics, many scientists concluded that the Neanderthals were a different species than H. sapiens.
Recent evidence from mitochondrial DNA studies has been interpreted as evidence that Neanderthals were not a subspecies of H. sapiens and did not interbreed (Hodges 2000). Other scientists, for example Milford Wolpoff, argue that fossil evidence suggests that the two species, in fact, did interbreed, and hence were of the same biological species. Some scholars, such as Cambridge Professor Paul Mellars, say "no evidence has been found of cultural interaction" (AFP 2005).
Neanderthals had a compact body of short stature. Males averaged 1.7 m (5ft 5 in) tall and were an estimated 84 kg (185 lb.), and females averaged 1.5 m (5 ft) tall and an estimated 80 kg (176lb) (Smithsonian 2007c). Neanderthals also had a large cranial capacity, estimated at 1500cc, which is slightly larger on average than modern humans (1350 to 1450cc range).
Neanderthals also differed from modern humans in that they had a low forehead, double-arched brow ridge, larger nasal area, projecting cheek region, weak chin, obvious space behind the third molar, heavily-built bones, broad scapula, short lower leg and arm bones relative to the upper portions, occasional bowing of the limb bones, the hip joint rotated outward, a long and thin pubic bone, and large joint surfaces of the toes and long bones (Smithsonian 2007c).
The following is a list of physical traits that distinguish Neanderthals from modern humans; however, not all of them can be used to distinguish specific Neanderthal populations, from various geographic areas or periods of evolution, from other extinct humans. Also, many of these traits occasionally manifest in modern humans, particularly among certain ethnic groups. Nothing is known about the skin color, the hair, or the shape of soft parts such as eyes, ears, and lips of Neanderthals (Carey 2005).
|Suprainiac fossa, a groove above the inion||Considerably more robust|
|Occipital bun, a protuberance of the occipital bone that looks like a hair knot||Large round finger tips|
|Projecting mid-face||Barrel-shaped rib cage|
|Low, flat, elongated skull||Large kneecaps|
|A flat basic cranium||Long collar bones|
|Supraorbital torus, a prominent, trabecular (spongy) browridge||Short, bowed shoulder blades|
|1200-1750 cm³ skull capacity (10 percent greater than modern human average)||Thick, bowed shaft of the thigh bones|
|Lack of a protruding chin (mental protuberance; although later specimens possess a slight protuberance)||Short shinbones and calf bones|
|Crest on the mastoid process behind the ear opening||Long, gracile pelvic pubis (superior pubic ramus)|
|No groove on canine teeth|
|A retromolar space posterior to the third molar|
|Bony projections on the sides of the nasal opening|
|Distinctive shape of the bony labyrinth in the ear|
|Larger mental foramen in mandible for facial blood supply|
|A broad, projecting nose|
Neanderthals appear to have had many adaptations to a cold climate, such as large brain cases, short but robust builds, and large noses.
The issue of whether Neanderthals had a complex language is unsettled, but there are morphological suggestions that such was possible.
The idea that Neanderthals lacked complex language was widespread, despite concerns about the accuracy of reconstructions of the Neanderthal vocal tract, until 1983, when a Neanderthal hyoid bone was found at the Kebara Cave in Israel. The hyoid is a small bone that connects the musculature of the tongue and the larynx, and by bracing these structures against each other, allows a wider range of tongue and laryngeal movements than would otherwise be possible. Therefore, it seems to imply the presence of the anatomical conditions for speech to occur. The bone that was found is virtually identical to that of modern humans (Arensburg et al. 1989).
Furthermore, the morphology of the outer and middle ear of Neanderthal ancestors, Homo heidelbergensis, found in Spain, suggests they had an auditory sensitivity similar to modern humans and very different from chimpanzees. Therefore, they were not only able to produce a wide range of sounds, they were also able to differentiate between these sounds (Martinez et al. 2004).
Aside from the morphological evidence above, neurological evidence for potential speech in neanderthalensis exists in the form of the hypoglossal canal. The canal of Neanderthals is the same size or larger than in modern humans, which are significantly larger than the canal of australopithecines and modern chimpanzees. The canal carries the hypoglossal nerve, which supplies the muscles of the tongue with motor coordination. Researchers indicate that this evidence suggests that neanderthalensis had vocal capabilities similar to, or possibly exceeding that of, modern humans (Kay et al. 1998). However, a research team from the University of California, Berkeley, led by David DeGusta, suggests that the size of the hypoglossal canal is not an indicator of speech. His team's research, which shows no correlation between canal size and speech potential, shows there are a number of extant (living) non-human primates and fossilized australopithecines that have equal or larger hypoglossal canal.
Many people believe that even without the hyoid bone evidence, tools as advanced as those of the Mousterian Era, attributed to Neanderthals, could not have been developed without cognitive skills capable of encompassing some form of spoken language.
Many myths surround the reconstruction of the Neanderthal vocal tract and the quality of Neanderthal speech. The popular view that the Neanderthals had a high larynx and therefore could not have produced the range of vowels supposedly essential for human speech is based on a disputed reconstruction of the vocal tract from the available fossil evidence, and a debatable interpretation of the acoustic characteristics of the reconstructed vocal tract. A larynx position as low as that found for modern human females may have been present in adult male Neanderthals. Furthermore, the vocal tract is a plastic thing, and larynx movement is possible in many mammals. Finally, the suggestion that the vowels /i, a, u/ are essential for human language (and that if Neanderthals lacked them, they could not have evolved a human-like language) ignores the absence of one of these vowels in very many human languages, and the occurrence of "vertical vowel systems" which lack both /i/ and /u/.
More doubtful suggestions about Neanderthal speech suggest that it would have been nasalized either because the tongue was high in the throat (for which there is no universally accepted evidence) or because the Neanderthals had large nasal cavities. Nasalization depends on neither of these things, but on whether or not the soft palate is lowered during speech. Nasalization is therefore controllable, and scientists do not know whether Neanderthal speech was nasalized or not. Comments on the lower intelligibility of nasalized speech ignore the fact that many varieties of English habitually have nasalized vowels, particularly low vowels, with no apparent effect on intelligibility.
One anatomical difference between Neanderthals and humans that deserves consideration regarding human speech is the mental tubercle on the mandible (the point at the tip of the chin), which is the attachment point for the depressor labii inferioris muscle and the mentalis muscle. These two muscles provide fine motor control of the lower lip and are essential in controlled speech. The mental tubercle is pronounced in humans and is absent in Neanderthals, suggesting that they had a more gross motor control of the lower lip. However, more research needs to be conducted in this area.
Tools, burial, and other cultural aspects
Neanderthal (Middle Paleolithic) archaeological sites show a different, smaller toolkit than those that have been found in Upper Paleolithic sites, which were perhaps occupied by the modern humans that superseded them. Fossil evidence indicating who may have made the tools found in Early Upper Paleolithic sites is inconclusive.
The characteristic style of stone tools in the Middle Paleolithic is called the Mousterian culture, after a prominent archaeological site where the tools were first found. They typically used the Levallois technique. Mousterian tools were often produced using soft hammer percussion, with hammers made of materials like bones, antlers, and wood, rather than hard hammer percussion, using stone hammers. Near the end of the time of the Neanderthals, they utilized the Châtelperronian tool style, which is considered more advanced than that of the Mousterian. They either invented the Châtelperronian themselves or borrowed elements from the incoming modern humans who are thought to have created the Aurignacian style.
The Mousterian flake and simple biface industry that characterize the Middle Paleolithic, wherever found with human remains, are found with Neanderthals, and wherever Aurignacian style is found with remains, those remains are of modern humans (West 1996).
There is little evidence that Neanderthals used antlers, shell, or other bone materials to make tools; their bone industry was relatively simple. However, there is good evidence that they routinely constructed a variety of stone implements. The Neanderthal (Mousterian) toolkits consisted of sophisticated stone-flakes, task-specific hand axes, and spears. Many of these tools were very sharp. There is also good evidence that they used a lot of wood, although such artifacts would likely not have been preserved (Henig 2000).
Middle Paleolithic industries in Siberia (dated to 70,000 to 40,000 years ago) are distinctly Levallois and Mousterian, reduction technologies are uniform, and assemblages consist of scrapers, denticulates, notches, knives, and retouched Levallois flakes and points. There is no evidence of bone, antler, or ivory technology, or of art or personal adornment (Goebel 1999).
While Neanderthals had weapons, no projectile weapons have yet been found. They had spears, in the sense of a long wooden shaft with a spearhead firmly attached to it, but these were not spears specifically crafted for flight (such as a javelin). However, a number of 400,000 year old wooden projectile spears were found at Schöningen in northern Germany. These are thought to have been made by one of Neanderthal's ancestors, either Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis. Generally, projectile weapons are more commonly associated with H. sapiens. The lack of projectile weaponry is an indication of different sustenance methods, rather than inferior technology or abilities. The situation is identical to that of native New Zealand Maoris—modern Homo sapiens who also rarely threw objects, but used spears and clubs instead (Schwimmer 1961).
Although much has been made of the Neanderthal's burial of their dead, their burials were less elaborate than those of anatomically modern humans. The interpretation of the Shanidar IV burials as including flowers, and therefore being a form of ritual burial (Solecki 1975), has been questioned (Sommer 1999). On the other hand, five of the six flower pollens found with fossil Shanidar IV are known to have had traditional medical uses, even among relatively contemporary populations. In some cases Neanderthal burials include grave goods, such as bison and auroch bones, tools, and the pigment ochre.
Neanderthals performed a sophisticated set of tasks normally associated with humans alone. For example, they constructed complex shelters, controlled fire, and skinned animals. Particularly intriguing is a hollowed-out bear femur that contains holes that may have been deliberately bored into it. This bone was found in western Slovenia in 1995, near a Mousterian fireplace, but its significance is still a matter of dispute. Some paleoanthropologists have postulated that it might have been a flute, while some others have expressed that it is natural bone modified by bears.
The fate of the Neanderthals
The Neanderthals began to be displaced around 45,000 years ago by modern humans (Homo sapiens), as the Cro-Magnon people appeared in Europe. Despite this, populations of Neanderthals apparently held on for thousands of years in regional pockets, such as modern-day Croatia and the Iberian and Crimean peninsulas. The last known population lived around a cave system on the remote south-facing coast of Gibraltar, from 30,000 to 24,000 years ago.
There is considerable debate about whether Cro-Magnon people accelerated the demise of the Neanderthals. Timing suggests a causal relation between the appearance of Homo sapiens in Europe and the decline of Homo neanderthalensis.
Both the Neanderthal's place in the human family tree and their relation to modern Europeans have been hotly debated ever since their discovery. A common perspective among scientists, based on ongoing DNA research, is that Neanderthals were a separate branch of the genus Homo, and that modern humans are not descended from them (fitting with the single-origin thesis).
In some areas of the Middle East and the Iberian peninsula, Neanderthals did, in fact, apparently co-exist side by side with populations of anatomically modern Homo sapiens for roughly 10,000 years. There is also evidence that it is in these areas where the last of the Neanderthals died out and that during this period the last remnants of this species had begun to adopt—or perhaps independently innovate—some aspects of the Châtelperronian (Upper Paleolithic) tool case, which is usually exclusively associated with anatomically modern Homo sapiens.
There are various scenarios for the extinction of Neanderthals.
Jared Diamond has suggested a scenario of violent conflict, comparable to the genocides suffered by indigenous peoples in recent human history.
Another possibility paralleling colonialist history would be a greater susceptibility to pathogens introduced by Cro-Magnon man on the part of the Neanderthals. Although Diamond and others have specifically mentioned Cro-Magnon diseases as a threat to Neanderthals, this aspect of the analogy with the contacts between colonizers and indigenous peoples in recent history can be misleading. The distinction arises because Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals are both believed to have lived a nomadic lifestyle, whereas in those genocides of the colonial era, in which differential disease susceptibility was most significant, resulted from the contact between colonists with a long history of agriculture and nomadic hunter-gatherer peoples. Diamond argues that asymmetry in susceptibility to pathogens is a consequence of the difference in lifestyle, which makes it irrelevant in the context of the analogy in which he invokes it.
On the other hand, many pre-European contact Native Americans were not nomadic, but agriculturalists, such as Mayans, Iroquois, and Cherokee, and this still did not protect them from the epidemics brought by Europeans (Smallpox). One theory is that because they usually lacked large domesticated animal agriculture, such as cattle or pigs in close contact with people, they did not develop resistance to species-jumping diseases like Europeans had. Furthermore, the nomadic Eurasian populations, such as the Mongols, did not get wiped out by the diseases of the agriculturalist societies they invaded and took over, like China and eastern Europe.
There are also gradual extinction scenarios to account for the decline of Neanderthal population over the course of some 10,000 years.
The problem with a gradual extinction scenario lies in the resolution of dating methods. There have been claims for young Neanderthal sites, younger than 30,000 years old (Finlayson et al. 2006). Even claims for interstratification of Neanderthal and modern human remains have been advanced (Gravina et al. 2005). So the fact that Neanderthals and modern humans coexisted at least for some time seems certain. However, because of difficulties in calibrating the C14 dates, the duration of this period is uncertain (Mellars 2006).
There have been claims both that Neanderthals assimilated with modern human beings and that they did not assimilate.
It is possible that the Neanderthals, with their small numbers, could have been absorbed by the much larger populations of modern Homo sapiens. In November 2006, a paper was published in the United States journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in which a team of European researchers suggest that Neanderthals and humans interbred, citing distinct human and Neanderthal features in a 30,000 year-old fossil found in Romania. Co-author Erik Trinkaus from Washington University explains, "Closely related species of mammals freely interbreed, produce fertile viable offspring and blend populations. Extinction through absorption is a common phenomenon" (Hayes 2006).
One skeleton that has led some researchers to claim that it shared Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon features has been found at Lagar Velho in Portugal. This may suggest the two species may have interbred. The child skeleton does seem to be more robust than what we would expect for modern humans. While it is uncertain whether this is in fact a hybrid of the two species, or simply an extreme individual of one or the other, most researchers think that it represents extreme variation within modern humans.
Assimilation is difficult to prove as genetic differences between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons were far more minute than the morphological differences between the two species might seem to indicate. Tests comparing Neanderthal and modern human mitochondrial DNA show some dissimilarity.
According to genetic studies, Neanderthals and modern humans diverged genetically 500,000 to 600,000 years ago, suggesting that, though they may have lived at the same time, Neanderthals did not contribute genetic material to modern humans (Krings et. al. 1997). Subsequent investigation of a second source of Neanderthal DNA supported these findings.
Most researchers adhere to a view that has the European Neanderthals either interbreeding and being absorbed or having been marginalized by invading Homo sapiens until they died out, leaving no genetic legacy (Kreger 2005). Few believe that Neanderthals evolved into modern Europeans. Kreger notes that the fate of Neanderthals in terms of modern human phylogeny is still very much questioned and debated, and "whether they left a large heritage in modern humans or an insignificant one is a question that might not be answered satisfactorily for a long time."
Unable to adapt
European populations of H. neanderthalensis were adapted for a cold environment. One view on their extinction is that they may have had problems adapting to a warming environment. The problem with this idea is that the glacial period of our ice age ended about 10,000 years ago, while the Neanderthals went extinct about 24,000 years ago.
Another possibility has to do with the loss of the Neanderthal's primary hunting territory: Forests. It is speculated that their hunting methods (stabbing prey with spears rather than throwing the spears) and lack of mobility could have placed them at a disadvantage when the forests were replaced by flat lands. It is also suggested that they mainly ate meat, and thus were less adaptable. Homo sapiens, which hunted large prey but did not depend on them for survival, may have indirectly contributed to their extinction this way.
Division of labor
In 2006, anthropologists Steven L. Kuhn and Mary C. Stiner of the University of Arizona proposed a new explanation for the demise of the Neanderthals (Wade 2006). In an article titled "What's a Mother to Do? The Division of Labor among Neanderthals and Modern Humans in Eurasia," Kuhn and Stiner theorize that Neanderthals did not have a division of labor between the sexes (2006). Both male and female Neanderthals participated in the single main occupation of hunting the big game that flourished in Europe during the ice age, like bison, deer, gazelles, and wild horses. This contrasted with humans who were better able to use the resources of the environment because of a division of labor with the women going after small game and gathering plant foods. In addition, because big game hunting was so dangerous, this made humans, at least females, more resilient.
At three billion base pairs, the Neanderthal genome is roughly the size of the human genome and likely shares many identical genes. In July 2006, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, together with the 454 Life Sciences Corporation, announced that they would be sequencing the Neanderthal genome over the next two years. It is thought that a comparison of the Neanderthal genome and human genome will expand understanding of Neanderthals as well as the evolution of humans and human brains (Moulson 2006).
Some comparisons have already been done. Two studies of the DNA extracted from the femur of a 38,000-year-old Neanderthal specimen found in a cave in Croatia—one involving more than 1 million base pairs and the other 65,000 pairs—yielded 99.5% identical base pairs (Than 2006). The findings also found no evidence that Neanderthals and humans interbred, finding no mixing of genes 30,000 to 40,000 years ago in Europe.
- 1829: Neanderthal skulls were discovered in Engis, Belgium.
- 1848: Skull of an ancient human was found in Forbes' Quarry, Gibraltar. Its significance was not realized at the time.
- 1856: Johann Karl Fuhlrott first recognized the fossil called “Neanderthal man,” discovered in Neanderthal, a valley in what is now North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
- 1880: The mandible of a Neanderthal child was found in a secure context and associated with cultural debris, including hearths, Mousterian tools, and bones of extinct animals.
- 1899: Hundreds of Neanderthal bones were described in stratigraphic position in association with cultural remains and extinct animal bones.
- 1908: A nearly complete Neanderthal skeleton was discovered in association with Mousterian tools and bones of extinct animals.
- 1953-1957: Ralph Solecki uncovered nine Neanderthal skeletons in Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq.
- 1975: Erik Trinkaus’s study of Neanderthal feet confirmed that they walked like modern humans.
- 1987: New thermoluminescence tests on Palestine fossils date Neanderthals at Kebara Cave to 60,000 BP and modern humans at Qafzeh to 90,000 BP. These dates were confirmed by Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) dates for Qafzeh (90,000 BP) and Es Skhul (80,000 BP).
- 1991: New ESR dates showed that the Tabun Neanderthal (Israel) was contemporaneous with modern humans from Skhul and Qafzeh.
- 1997 Matthias Krings et al. are the first to amplify Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA using a specimen from Feldhofer grotto in the Neander valley. Their work is published in the journal Cell.
- 2000: Igor Ovchinnikov, Kirsten Liden, William Goodman et al. retrieved DNA from a Late Neanderthal (29,000 BP) infant from Mezmaikaya Cave in the Caucausus.
- 2005: The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology launched a project to reconstruct the Neanderthal genome.
- 2006: The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology announced that it planned to work with Connecticut-based 454 Life Sciences to reconstruct the Neanderthal genome.
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