Sunday, September 16, 2007

Neanderthal Fact Sheet -- the latest dates and data


When did they live?

For a 200,000-year period that ended about 30,000 years ago.

When were they discovered?

The first Neanderthal skull was found in Belgium in 1829, and another in Gibraltar in 1848. But the official "original" discovery, from which they were named, was in the Neander Valley in Germany in 1856.

Where did they live?

Across a vast area of northern and southern Europe, from the Mediterranean to the Russian steppes.

How similar were they to modern humans?

Their skulls were different. But recent findings suggest a match of 99.5 to 99.9 per cent between our DNA and theirs.

What did they look like?

They walked on two feet, had barrel chests and big bones, and lots of hair, possibly red.

What tools did they use?

Stone flakes, hand axes and spears and possibly wooden objects as well.

Could they talk?

The discovery in 1983 of a Neanderthal hyoid bone, which braces the tongue and larynx together, suggested that they had the anatomy for more complex speech.

Were they stupid?

They had a larger average brain capacity than modern man but it is thought that it was structured differently.

Are we descended from them?

Probably not. We may have had a common ancestor 500,000 years ago. But modern scientists now believe that Neanderthals were probably an evolutionary dead end that became completely extinct about 30,000 years ago.


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