Neanderthals


Neanderthals are distinctive by their heavy features such as a forwards projecting face and very distinct brow ridges. It is thought that were a very ancient and very primitive form of man. Neanderthals lived in Europe as long ago as 200,000 years, but then disappeared about 30,000 years ago. The timing of their disappearance coincides with the timing of the appearance of the first modern human appeared in Europe after their journey from Africa. The modern human had different and more sophisticated cognitive abilities they also had more sophisticated tools. The Neanderthals were no match for these super humans.

When considering the existence of Neanderthals and their extinction, the evidence is confusing as many skulls have been found that can match the characteristics of the Neanderthal, but yet no completed skeleton has ever been found. At the Museum of Natural History in New York a complete skeleton was created using combined and broken parts. It was a surprise that the Neanderthal actually stood about 1.65m tall, but what he lacked in height he made up for in in a hearty and strong build that would seem to be ideal to outlive the ice-age especially if you compare the build to that of modern man.

To investigate this further, if you consider that the romanticised view of the Ice Age is of a period that saw relentless and inhospitable conditions that would not have easily sustained life. If you now consider that over the last million years that Europe has seen many shift patterns in weather that include warm and cold periods, you will discover that compared to the actual Ice Age that the weather has been reasonably mild. At the time when the Neanderthals were alive they would have experienced periods when there was intense cold and also periods when it was warmer than it is in the present day. So the climate may not have driven them to extinction.

The Neanderthal was certainly not simple minded, and evidence points to them being right hand dominant. They were able to make fire and shelter, and they hunted with spears and as they lived in the edge of forests they had access to the materials to build both. But spears would not have been the best weapon to use when hunting in a forest. Physical evidence can assume that they were ambush hunters and used their right arms to grip their prey. It is also suggested that they were less agile than modern humans and that could have been their demise as they were unable to travel over great distances when their food sources dwindled.

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