Brain Size: Neanderthal people had a brain volume of about 1200 to 1800 cubic centimeters, equal to and even larger than modern human brains. Neanderthal skull reconstructions provide further evidence that they were a separate species to modern humans. Distinctive Neanderthal skull features were established in early infancy. Physical features in skull development, such as the Neanderthal’s receding chin and low, sloping forehead were fixed by the age of two years. Their hyoid bones, involved in speech, were basically identical to humans.
Quality of Bipedalism: Neanderthals walked with a fully upright posture. They remain far more closely related to us than most of the other extinct hominins.
Time Frame: Neanderthals diverged over 550,000 to 690,000 years ago. Other data estimates they lived between 365,000 and 853,000 years ago and 465,000 before present. Human trunk and limb bones of Homo antecessor, recovered from the Gran Dolina site in Spain have been dated at about 780,000 years old and are said to represent the last common ancestor for modern humans and Neanderthals. Phylogenetic analysis of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA leads to a date for the common ancestor of the Neanderthal and modern humans at around 465,000 to 600,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found much physical evidence to confirm this date, such as the 0.73 Mya old fossils with stone tools and animal bones. The other date matches the movement of modern humans out of Africa and the appearance of modern traits in fossil skulls. Fossil skull traits such as high rounded skulls and small brow ridges, a vertical forehead and a pronounced chin first appear in Africa about 130,000 years ago. They then appear outside of Africa over 90,000 years ago.
Evidence of tools: Anthropologists classify Neanderthal tools as Mousterian. Neanderthals used a wide variety of tools, controlled fire, lived in shelters, made and wore clothing. A Neanderthal would probably have used a scraper to clean the animal hide, and then used an awl to poke holes in it, and finally use strips of animal tissue to lace together a loose-fitting garment. Neanderthals were the first early humans to wear clothing. They would also use sharp wooden spears and flake tools. Left arm asymmetry indicates that they hunted with thrusting (rather than throwing) spears that allowed them to kill large animals from a safe distance. The oldest musical instrument is a fragment of bone flute found at a site associated with Neanderthals. They would occasionally make symbolic or ornamental objects, there is evidence that Neanderthals would burry their dead and mark their graves with offerings. No other primates or earlier human species had ever practiced this symbolic behavior.
What Parts were found: The remains of more than 400 Neanderthals have been found. There is evidence of complete remains found in a cave near Spy, Belgium in 1887, as well as jaw bones, teeth and skulls.
Where was the Fossils found and by who?: Neanderthal 1 was the first specimen to be recognized as an early human fossil. It was discovered in 1856 in Germany. It wasn’t until 1864 that it became the first fossil hominin species to be named by William King. Several years after Neanderthal 1 was discovered scientists realized that prior fossil discoveries in 1829 at Engis Belgium and in 1849 at Forbes Quarry, Gibraltar were also +Neanderthals.
Extinction: All traces of Neanderthals disappeared by about 28,000 years ago. It was long believed that rising temperatures, in combination with competition from sapiens, led to the disappearance of Neanderthals.
Cool Facts: Neanderthal males averaged 5 feet 5 inches and weighed an average of 143 pounds while the females averaged 5 feet 1 inch and 119 pounds. Neanderthals are our closest extinct human relatives. Tooth enamel patterns suggest that Neanderthals grew to adult size by age 15 and few lived beyond age 30. Scientists have recovered DNA from more than a dozen Neanderthal fossils, all from Europe. Neanderthal males were slightly heavier than Neanderthal females; however; sexual dimorphism was not nearly as extreme as what is seen in earlier human species.
What they ate: There is evidence that Neanderthals were specialized seasonal hunters, eating animals that were available at the time like reindeer in the winter and red deer in the summer. There is also evidence in Gibraltar that when they lived in coastal areas, they would eat things such as mollusks, seals, dolphins, and fish. Scientists have also found plaque on the remains of teeth containing starch grains, concrete evidence that Neanderthals ate plants as well which then makes them Omnivores.
Shanidar 1: Image on page 1 first photo. Also known as Nandy Found in Shanidar Iraq by Ralph Solecki. Dates to between 45,000 and 35,000 years old. Through examining his skeletal remains, scientists found evidence that at a young age Nandy experienced a crushing blow to his head. The blow damaged the left eye, possibly blinding him, and the brain controlling the right side of his body, leading to a withered right arm and possible paralysis that also crippled his right leg. Scientists estimate that he lived until 35-45 years of age. He would have been considered old to another Neanderthal and he would probably not have been able to survive without the care of his social group.
Final thought: Neanderthals were skilled hunters and craftsmen who made tools, used fire, cared for their sick and injured and even had a few symbolic notations, probably with some facility for language.