Neanderthal man

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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 to be identified was found. Neanderthal remains have been found at sites in Eurasia from Portugal, Spain, and France to as far east as Denisova Cave in SE Siberian Russia.

Anatomically Neanderthals were somewhat shorter but much more robust than contemporary H. sapiens, and appear to have been much stronger than modern humans. Distinctive cranial features of Neanderthals included prominent brow ridges, low, sloping foreheads, the lack of a protuding chin, a heavy, forward-jutting jaw, and larger 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 can give 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 Neanderthal braincase, which measured on average about 1600 cc, larger than that of 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.
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). 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,
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 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
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. Neanderthal remains have also been found in association with the later (roughly 45,000–40,000 years ago), transitional Châtelperronian tools and jewelry, which were often assigned to H. sapiens, and some archaeologists have suggested that the influence of modern humans was responsible for their development. Neanderthals 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 has been challenged, leading many experts also to question the extent of their linguistic capabilities, but surviving anatomical evidence suggests that they could have been physically capable of speech. Recently hand stencils and geometric cave art at three Spanish sites have been dated to at least 65,000 years ago, before the known arrival of H. sapiens in Europe (although the dating has been challenged by other scientists), and pigment-stained seashells perforated for a necklace or other use, also found in Spain, have been dated to c.115,000 years ago.

Controversy has surrounded the fate of Neanderthals. Some have argued that their extinction was due to being wiped by modern H. sapiens, and others have argued relatively low population numbers and the stresses caused by recurrent receding and advancing glaciation led to their demise. Recent research has suggested that rapidly changing climatic conditions and volcanic eruptions may have contributed to the Neanderthals' demise. Others have argued 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
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) with H. sapiens, but tests conducted on surviving Neanderthal DNA have conflicted on that issue. A number of studies, however, have suggested that in modern Eurasian (but not African) humans typically as much as 4% of the genome is of Neanderthal origin as a result of interbreeding; modern human DNA has also been found in the genome of a Siberian Neanderthal woman's remains.


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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Neanderthal Man


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.


Nesturkh, M. F. Proiskhozhdenie cheloveka, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Neanderthal man

[nē′an·dər‚täl ′man]
A type of fossil human that is a subspecies of Homo sapiens and is distinguished by a low broad braincase, continuous arched browridges, projecting occipital region, short limbs, and large joints.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Neanderthal man

early form of man, Caucasoid and strongly built. [Anthropology: NCE, 1900]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Archaeologists have discovered dice made from sheep bone that were weighted to fall in a certain way, highlighting that not only did Neanderthal man enjoy a gamble, but that he was also inclined to cheat.
Crelin, "On the Speech of Neanderthal Man," Linguistic Inquiry 2 (1971): 215.
David, from Guisborough, said: "It's a Neanderthal man running around on a Sunday morning.
Time and place change swiftly, jumping, for instance, from the cave of a Neanderthal man, where a mysterious sandstone plate with five holes is discovered by a paleontologist, to the encampment of an Eskimo visited by an ethnographer who finds a similar object made from the bone of a seal.
In the tale that follows, Anna meets a bearded man who looks like a Neanderthal man. He explains that he is a guide dressed in animal skins and wearing a necklace made of teeth and stones to simulate the people who inhabited the caves.
Phonetic ability and related anatomy of the newborn and adult human, Neanderthal man, and the chimpanzee.
It serves notice on the country that Neanderthal man is organizing in these forlorn backwaters of the land, led by a fanatic, rid of sense and devoid of conscience." Of Bryan he opined with acerbic wit: "Once he had one leg in the White House and the nation trembled under his roars.
But they have subtle differences, much like Cro-Magnon man has subtle differences from Neanderthal man. He's a wee bit thinner, more graceful.
Neanderthal: Neanderthal Man and the Story of Human Origins.
* Decoding a strip of DNA taken from the bones of a Neanderthal man, researchers found that Neanderthals, a subspecies of humans, coexisted with modern humans about 50,000 years ago, but probably never mated.
He's the biggest kid in the fourth grade, and he has a forehead like a Neanderthal man.