Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.
Neanderthal man(nēăn`dərthôl', –tôl') or
Neandertal man(–tôl'), a species of Homo, the genus to which contemporary humans belong, known as H. neandertalensis after Neanderthal (now Neandertal), Germany, the valley where the first specimen was found.
Anatomically Neanderthals were somewhat shorter but much more robust than contemporary H. sapiens. Distinctive cranial features of Neanderthals included prominent brow ridges, low, sloping foreheads, a chinless and heavy, forward-jutting jaw, and extremely large front teeth. The shoulders and pelvis were wider, the rib cage more conical in shape, and the forearms and lower legs shorter. When placed in an evolutionary perspective, Neanderthal anatomy gives the impression of a large and somewhat "primitive" hominin, as though the evolutionary trajectory of Homo sapiens had somehow reversed itself. This impression is offset somewhat by the observation that the Neanderthal braincase measured on average about 1600 cc, larger than contemporary H. sapiens.
The unique anatomy of Neanderthals probably reflects the fact that they were the first hominin to spend extensive periods of time in extremely cold environments, having evolved in Europe at the onset of the most recent glaciation of that continent (see Pleistocene epochPleistocene epoch
, 6th epoch of the Cenozoic era of geologic time (see Geologic Timescale, table). According to a classification that considered its deposits to have been formed by the biblical great flood, the epoch was originally called the Quaternary.
..... Click the link for more information. ). For example, their thick, squat build was adapted to maintaining body temperature under harsh climatic conditions. Large front teeth may have reflected a practice common among EskimoEskimo
, a general term used to refer to a number of groups inhabiting the coastline from the Bering Sea to Greenland and the Chukchi Peninsula in NE Siberia. A number of distinct groups, based on differences in patterns of resource exploitation, are commonly identified,
..... Click the link for more information. populations of softening animal skins by chewing. Forceful chewing is also suggested by the heavy jaw and brow ridge, both of which serve to buttress powerful muscles.
Neanderthal phylogeny remains somewhat enigmatic, despite the relative abundance of fossil remains. Among African and Asian fossil remains, the reduction in skull and brow ridge thickness and the expansion of the forehead proceeded gradually, with anatomically modern H. sapiens present by 150,000 years ago in S and E Africa. In contrast, by 125,000 years ago, the classic Neanderthal form arose in Europe; it probably persisted in Europe until about 40,000 years ago.
Culturally, Neanderthals are closely associated with a stone-tool tradition known as the Mousterian of the middle PaleolithicPaleolithic period
or Old Stone Age,
the earliest period of human development and the longest phase of mankind's history. It is approximately coextensive with the Pleistocene geologic epoch, beginning about 2 million years ago and ending in various places between
..... Click the link for more information. . They were proficient hunters. As in most cold environments, plant foods were probably relatively scarce and consumed only seasonally. Evidence of aesthetic behaviors and of religious beliefs among Neanderthals remains relatively scant and controversial, leading many experts to question the extent of their linguistic capabilities, but surviving anatomical evidence suggests that they could have been physically capable of speech.
Controversy also persists regarding the fate of Neanderthals, with opinion divided between those who argue that they became extinct and were replaced by modern H. sapiens and those who argue that their anatomical distinctions were diluted through gene flow (see geneticsgenetics,
scientific study of the mechanism of heredity. While Gregor Mendel first presented his findings on the statistical laws governing the transmission of certain traits from generation to generation in 1856, it was not until the discovery and detailed study of the
..... Click the link for more information. ) with other H. sapiens. Tests conducted on surviving Neanderthal DNA have conflicted on the issue. A number of studies have suggested that in modern Eurasian (but not African) humans typically as much as 4% of the genome is of Neanderthal origin; modern human DNA has also been found in the genome of a Siberian Neanderthal woman's remains. Recent research suggests that rapidly changing climatic conditions and volcanic eruptions may have contributed to the Neanderthals' demise.
See E. Trinkaus and P. Shipman, The Neanderthals (1993); J. Shreeve, The Neandertal Enigma (1995); I. Tattersall, The Last Neanderthal (1999); S. Paabo, Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes (2014).
a fossil Paleoanthropine that lived 35,000 to 200,000 years ago, at the end of the Early Paleolithic and during the Middle Paleolithic periods.
Neanderthal man inhabited Europe, Asia, and Africa. This ancient human type was named after one of the earliest archaeological finds in the Neanderthal valley. The find was made near Düsseldorf, Federal Republic of Germany, in 1856. Neanderthals occupied a transitional position between Archanthropines and human fossils of the physically modern type. The Neanderthals of Western Europe typically had a short stature (approximately 160 cm), a large brain (up to 1,700 cu cm), a skull with a well-developed brow ridge and sloping forehead, and a lower jaw without a chin protuberance.
Many scholars consider the late Western European Neanderthals, who lived 35,000 to 50,000 years ago, to form a special phylogenetic branch that did not continue to develop in the course of human evolution. In support of this classification is the evidence that certain traits in Near Asian Neanderthals reached a more progressive level than in Western European Neanderthals, for example, a weakly expressed chin protuberance and a higher and rounder skull arch. These traits link Near Asian Neanderthal man to fossil humans of the physically modern type.
REFERENCENesturkh, M. F. Proiskhozhdenie cheloveka, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970.
V. P. IAKIMOV