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Definition: Neanderthal from Philip's Encyclopedia

Middle Palaeolithic variety of human, known from fossils in Europe and Asia. Neanderthals were discovered when a skeleton was unearthed in the Neander Valley in W Germany in 1856. The bones were thick and powerfully built and the skull had a pronounced brow ridge. Neanderthals are now considered to be a separate species of human, possibly a local adaptation during the Ice Ages, and are not thought to be ancestral to modern humans. Neanderthals predated modern humans in Europe, but were superseded by them c.35,000 years ago. See also human evolution


Summary Article: Neanderthal from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Hominid of the Mid-Late Palaeolithic, named after the Neander Tal (valley) near Düsseldorf, Germany, where parts of a skeleton were found in 1856. Neanderthals were members of the Hominidae taxonomic family of primates and are an extinct member of the Homo genus, a branch of the Hominini tribe. Homo sapiens neanderthalensis lived from about 150,000 to 35,000 years ago and were slightly smaller, stockier, and more heavily built than modern humans, with a characteristic strong jaw and prominent brow ridges on a sloping forehead. They were large-brained, with an average cranial capacity of 1,600 cm3, larger than the 1400 cm3 average capacity of modern humans. It is thought that they were adapted to living in the cold conditions of the ice ages. They lived in a broad range stretching from Europe through the Middle East to as far east as Siberia and disappeared around 30,000 years ago, becoming extinct in a relatively short period of time following the arrival of Homo sapiens sapiens in Europe, although recent analysis of the Neanderthal genome proves that the species not only lived during the same time period but interbred.

The complete genome of the Neanderthal was sequenced and published in 2013, using DNA recovered from a 50,000 year-old toe bone. Genomic analysis shows that about 2–4% of the genome of modern humans whose ancestors came from Europe, Asia, and non-African regions is Neanderthal in origin. It also suggests that Neanderthals and humans shared a common ancestor that lived in Africa around 500,000 years ago. Neanderthal contributions to DNA are not distributed evenly throughout the modern human genome, being found more commonly in regions associated with skin and hair, as well as being linked to susceptibility of developing certain diseases and conditions, notably type 2 diabetes, Krohn's disease, and addiction to smoking. There are very few genetic contributions related to male sexual genetic code, suggesting that Neanderthal/human male hybrids suffered from fertility problems.

Neanderthals looked after their disabled and buried their dead ritualistically. Recent evidence suggests their physical capacity for the sounds of speech. Although they are known to have used tools, the condition of the Neanderthal teeth that have been found suggests that they were used as clamps for holding objects with the hands.

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Evolution: Out of Africa and the Eve Hypothesis

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Neanderthal burial

Neanderthal skull

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