May 29, 2024 9:03 am

Who were the Neanderthals?

Compared to other extinct people, Neanderthals are well understood. Many thousands of their fossils and artifacts, including some almost whole skeletons, have been discovered.

Read More: Neanderthal

Because many Neanderthal genomes have been successfully rebuilt using ancient DNA recovered from their bones, we also know information about their genetic makeup.

When did Homo sapiens evolve?

There is a long evolutionary history for the Neanderthals. It is estimated that the first fossils that resemble Neanderthals date back around 430,000 years. The most well-known Neanderthals lived between 130,000 and 40,000 years ago, after which there is no longer any physical trace of them.

Where did early humans reside?

While modern humans, or Homo sapiens, were emerging in Africa, Neanderthals were evolving in Europe and Asia.

Based on fossil evidence from Swanscombe in Kent and Sima de los Huesos in northern Spain, the Neanderthal lineage was firmly established in Europe by 400,000 years ago.

The species’ range in Eurasia was broad, extending from the Altai Mountains of Siberia in the east to Portugal and Wales in the west.

Because of their adaptability, Neanderthal populations were able to live in both warm temperate forests in Spain and Italy around 120,000 years ago and in frigid steppe settings in Siberia and England approximately 60,000 years ago.

How did Neanderthals appear?

Unlike contemporary humans, whose skulls are more globular, Neanderthals had a long, low cranium with a noticeable brow ridge above their eyes.

Their face was unique as well. A large, broad nose dominated the forward-protruding middle portion of the face. According to some experts, this characteristic could have evolved as a means of surviving in drier, colder climates. The air they inhaled would have been warmed and moistened by the nose’s vast internal capacity.

Their huge front teeth and the scratches on them indicate that they were frequently used as a third hand to prepare food and other items. In contrast to contemporary people, Neanderthals lacked a prominent chin.

Neanderthals possessed broad shoulders and hips, as well as powerful, muscular physique. The adults weighed around 64–82 kg and reached heights of 1.50–1.775 m. Compared to later Neanderthals, early Neanderthals were typically taller but around the same weight.

Their stocky, short bodies were built for chilly climates. Neanderthals had proportions that would have minimized the skin’s surface area due to their massive trunk and short lower leg and lower arm bones, most likely to save heat in the mostly cooler climate over the previous 200,000 years.

According to some scientists, this physical makeup also allowed Neanderthals more strength in their arms and legs for close-quarters ambushes during hunting.

The intellect and behavior of Neanderthals

Though they were thought of as primitive ‘cavemen,’ Neanderthals were in fact highly skilled and sophisticated people. These were not ‘ape-men’. Therefore, it is unjust to them that the term “Neanderthal” is now derogatory.

Late Neanderthal brain sizes varied from 1,200 cm3 to 1,750 cm3. Though proportionate to their physical size, this is bigger than the current norm. The average brain size of Homo sapiens from roughly 30,000 years ago was also greater than that of modern humans.

The fact that spears and flint handaxes have been found indicates that Neanderthals were proficient tool builders.

The Levallois method is an amazing stone technology that Neanderthals invented around 300,000 years ago. This involves shaping stone cores in advance so they could subsequently be refined into a completed tool. It implied that Neanderthals could travel far from raw material sources and yet be able to forge tools when they were needed.

Injuries discovered on their prey, which included bison, reindeer, and mammoths, have shown us that Neanderthals were skilled hunters who could also speak.

Neanderthals themselves may have killed enormous creatures at close range, a perilous tactic that would have taken a great deal of skill, strength, and bravery, according to healed and unhealed bone injury discovered on them.

Neanderthals and modern humans

The Neanderthal species has come to be associated with cavemen due to the discovery of numerous remains and artifacts in caves. However, a large number of prehistoric people also lived in caves. Two of the most well-known examples are the original Cro-Magnon Man, discovered in France, and Cheddar Man, discovered in Gough’s Cave in Somerset and dating back about 10,000 years.

Some Neanderthals cared for the ill and buried the dead, according to archeological evidence, indicating that they were gregarious and maybe even caring people.

Were Neanderthals artists?

According to Prof. Stringer, “I don’t think we have any representational art from Neanderthal sites to date.” However, they did display some symbolism—they were jewelry makers.

It appears that some of the jewelry was made from eagle talons. The oldest known specimens date back around 130,000 years. At Neanderthal sites like the Grotte du Renne cave in France, pierced animal teeth and crafted ivory have been discovered.

A 2018 Science research discovered evidence that some Palaeolithic artwork in Spain was created by Neanderthals, as it was created long before modern humans arrived in the area. The Spanish cave paintings included geometric forms and hand stencils made with red color.

Prof. Stringer notes that certain previous claims regarding Neanderthal symbolic behavior are uncertain about their dating or fall within assumed overlaps between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens 40–60,000 years ago. This means that these claims could still be made for contemporary humans or the impact of contemporary humans on Neanderthal behavior.

Neanderthals were in fact capable of symbolic or creative expression, as evidenced by the cave art found in Spain.

“They further narrow any perceived behavioral gap between the Neanderthals and us,” Prof. Stringer continues.

Nonetheless, there are currently no convincing indications that Neanderthals produced representational art that was modeled after actual subjects, such humans or animals.

What were the diets of Neanderthals?

Neanderthals are usually thought of being very carnivorous ice-age hunters and scavengers who consumed big animals.

Nonetheless, food remnants conserved in the calculus, or hardened tartar, around their teeth demonstrate that a variety of plants were also part of the Neanderthal diet, either directly harvested or consumed from the stomachs of their plant-eating animals. And Neanderthals consumed fungus.

They ate mussels, young seals, and maybe dolphin in Gibraltar, but the latter meal could have come from scavenged carcasses.

Neanderthals could utilize fire, but it’s unknown if they prepared their meals on a daily basis.

Were Neanderthals able to speak?

Determining whether Neanderthals were able to speak is extremely challenging since the voice box’s accompanying tissue does not persist. Nonetheless, their ear bones indicate that their hearing range was comparable to ours, and they did have a similar vocal architecture.
Even if their language would have been less sophisticated than ours, the intricacy of their social lives implies they must have been able to communicate with one another.

What caused the extinction of Neanderthals?

Neanderthals are most recently known from fossil and archaeological evidence found in Europe around 40,000 years ago. Even if a portion of them may still be found in the DNA of living humans, they appear to have physically vanished after that.

It is commonly known that Homo neanderthalensis is extinct, but why did this species go after more than 350,000 years of existence?

As of yet, we are unsure. The idea that we are the cause is one. Europe was first visited by early modern people about 40,000 years ago. It’s possible that Neanderthals couldn’t handle the competition from approaching Homo sapiens for resources.

In 1997, ancient DNA was first found in Neanderthal remains, and this led to the reconstruction of many whole genomes. These suggest that throughout the last 20,000 years, the population and variety of Neanderthals, who lived from Spain to Siberia, were comparatively low.

A second clue to the population’s small size and isolation may be found in the genome of one female person from the Altai Mountains, which displays evidence of long-term inbreeding.

It appears that throughout the course of the previous 100,000 years, frequent and occasionally severe climate swings have continuously split apart Neanderthal groups, preventing them from establishing sizable numbers and sustained range-wide distributions.

Not every Neanderthal went extinct at the same moment. Instead of being swiftly supplanted, their demise may have been gradual, indicating that early modern humans replaced them as a result of local population extinctions.

Another important element that may have played a significant role in the demise of the Neanderthals was rapid and extreme climatic change.

Neanderthals depended on a variety of flora and animals, which were likewise impacted by sudden, extreme temperature swings. Only the most resourceful and adaptive people could survive in such conditions.