Neanderthals



The Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) was a species of the Homo genus that inhabited Europe and parts of western Asia from about 230,000 to 29,000 years ago, during the Middle Paleolithic period. They became extinct about 40,000 years ago. Neanderthals and modern humans share 99.7% of their DNA and are hence closely related. (By comparison, both modern humans and Neanderthals share 98.8% of their DNA with their closest non-human living relatives, the chimpanzees.) Neanderthals left bones and stone tools in Eurasia, from Western Europe to Central and Northern Asia. Fossil evidence suggests Neanderthals evolved in Europe, separate from modern humans in Africa for more than 400,000 years. They are considered either a distinct species, Homo neanderthalensis, or more rarely as a subspecies of Homo sapiens (H. s. neanderthalensis). Read more




In the News ...





Neanderthals and Humans Were Hooking Up Way More Than Anyone Thought   BBC - November 29, 2018
Way more sex happened between Neanderthals and the ancestors of modern humans across Europe and Asia than scientists originally thought, a new study finds. Scientists initially thought that interbreeding among the two groups was more isolated to a particular place and time - specifically, when they encountered each other in western Eurasia shortly after modern humans left Africa. This idea stemmed from the fact that the genomes of modern humans from outside Africa are only about 2 percent Neanderthal, on average. Subsequent research, however, has found that Neanderthal ancestry is 12 to 20 percent higher in modern East Asians compared to modern Europeans.




Reconstruction of a 60,000-year-old ribcage using 3D imaging reveals Neanderthals stood straighter than humans   Daily Mail - October 30, 2018
Neanderthals were not hunched-over savages, according to a discovery that could radically alter our image of the ascent of man. Digital reconstruction of a Neanderthal's rib cage has revealed that the primitive hominid had a better posture than modern humans - as well as stronger lungs. Far from the knuckle-dragging beasts we thought them to be, the upright walking style of Neanderthals allowed them to walk far farther than Homo sapiens. This discovery has added more backing to the growing consensus that our ancient relatives were far more sophisticated than originally thought.




Inside the Siberian cave where a hybrid Neanderthal love child was found: Incredible photos show where the teenage daughter of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father lived 50,000 years ago   Daily Mail - August 28, 2018
Stunning images reveal the inside of a Siberian cave where an amazing inter-species love child known as Denny lived more than 50,000 years ago. The remarkable girl, who was believed to be aged around 13, was not Homo sapiens. Instead, DNA analysis of a small fragment of bone has revealed she was the product of a sexual liaison between a Neanderthal mother and a father from another now-extinct early human grouping, known as the Denisovans. Other discoveries from the cave where Denny lived which is found in the limestone foothills of the Altai Mountains have proven the Denisovans were more advanced than both Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.




Cave girl was half Neanderthal, half Denisovan   BBC - August 22, 2018
Once upon a time, two early humans of different ancestry met at a cave in Russia. Some 50,000 years later, scientists have confirmed that they had a daughter together. DNA extracted from bone fragments found in the cave show the girl was the offspring of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. The discovery, reported in Nature, gives a rare insight into the lives of our closest ancient human relatives. Neanderthals and Denisovans were humans like us, but belonged to different species.




Neanderthals and Denisovans Mated, New Hybrid Bone Reveals   Live Science - August 22, 2018
The closest known extinct relatives of modern humans were the thick-browed Neanderthals and the mysterious Denisovans. Now, a bone fragment from a Siberian cave, perhaps from a teenage girl, has revealed the first known hybrid of these groups, a new study concludes. The finding confirms interbreeding that had been only hinted at in earlier genetic studies. A number of now-extinct human lineages not only lived alongside modern humans but even interbred with them, leaving traces of their DNA in the modern human genome. These lineages included the stocky Neanderthals, as well as the enigmatic Denisovans, known only from a few teeth and bones unearthed in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains. Archaeological excavations have revealed that Neanderthals and Denisovans coexisted in Eurasia, with Neanderthal bones ranging from 200,000 to 40,000 years old unearthed mostly in western Eurasia and Denisovans so far only known from fossils ranging from 200,000 to 30,000 years old found in eastern Eurasia. Prior work unearthed Neanderthal remains in Denisova Cave, raising questions on how closely they interacted.




Neanderthal mother, Denisovan father! Hybrid fossil - Newly-sequenced genome sheds light on interactions between ancient hominins   Science Daily - August 22, 2018
Up until 40,000 years ago, at least two groups of hominins inhabited Eurasia -- Neanderthals in the west and Denisovans in the east. Now, researchers have sequenced the genome of an ancient hominin individual from Siberia, and discovered that she had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.




Bite marks on ancient bear bones reveal Neanderthals hunted the huge predators and even stole their caves 50,000 years ago   Daily Mail - April 17, 2018
Ancient Neanderthals may have ambushed bears twice the size of grizzlies to steal their caves, archaeologists have found. Researchers studying more than 1,700 prehistoric bear bones found evidence of cooking as well as bite marks that match Neanderthal teeth.A number of the bones show signs of blunt force trauma, perhaps inflicted as our heavy-browed ancestors attempted to extract the nutritious marrow inside.Archaeologists say the remains, which belonged to a total of 50 cave bears that lived 50,000 to 43,000 years ago, suggest Neanderthals waited until the predators drowsily awakened from hibernation before launching their attacks.





How Neanderthals influenced human genetics at the crossroads of Asia and Europe   Science Daily - October 24, 2017
A new study explores the genetic legacy of ancient trysts between Neanderthals and the ancestors of modern humans, with a focus on Western Asia, the region where the first relations may have occurred. When the ancestors of modern humans migrated out of Africa, they passed through the Middle East and Turkey before heading deeper into Asia and Europe. Here, at this important crossroads, it's thought that they encountered and had sexual rendezvous with a different hominid species: the Neanderthals. Genomic evidence shows that this ancient interbreeding occurred, and Western Asia is the most likely spot where it happened. A new study explores the legacy of these interspecies trysts, with a focus on Western Asia, where the first relations may have occurred.




Older Neanderthal survived with a little help from his friends   Science Daily - October 24, 2017
An older Neanderthal from about 50,000 years ago, who had suffered multiple injuries and other degenerations, became deaf and must have relied on the help of others to avoid prey and survive well into his 40s. More than his loss of a forearm, bad limp and other injuries, his deafness would have made him easy prey for the ubiquitous carnivores in his environment and dependent on other members of his social group for survival.




  Deformed and Elderly 50,000-Year-Old Skeleton Proves Neanderthals Cared About Each Other   Newsweek - October 24, 2017
Deaf Neanderthals didn't stand much chance at survival unless they had friends, according to a new analysis of a skeleton discovered half a century ago in Iraq. Despite losing his hearing, some of his sight and part of his right arm, a Neanderthal referred to as Shanidar 1 managed to live until his 40s. That may not seem like a terribly long life, but living until 40 was pretty rare 50,000 years ago, when this man was alive.




Neanderthals dosed themselves with painkillers and possibly penicillin   BBC - March 8, 2017
One sick Neanderthal chewed the bark of the poplar tree, which contains a chemical related to aspirin. He may also have been using penicillin, long before antibiotics were developed. The evidence comes from ancient DNA found in the dental tartar of Neanderthals living about 40,000 years ago in central Europe. Microbes and food stuck to the teeth of the ancient hominins gives scientists a window into the past. By sequencing DNA preserved in dental tartar, international researchers have found out new details of the diet, lifestyle and health of our closest extinct relatives.




Prehistoric 'Aspirin' Found in Sick Neanderthal's Teeth   National Geographic - March 8, 2017
Evidence of pain-killers is just one intriguing detail pulled from a closer look at the DNA in ancient tooth plaque. What looks to us like unsightly buildup has turned out to be a goldmine for microbiologists who study human evolution. Hardened plaque harvested from Neanderthals is loaded with genetic material from plants and animals these prehistoric hominins ate, as well as remnants of microbes that reveal a surprising amount about how they lived and even what made them sick.




Neanderthal middle ear structure found to be closer to modern human than apes   PhysOrg - September 27, 2016
There has been a change in perception of Neanderthals in recent years as archaeologists have uncovered evidence that has suggested the extinct species of human was far more capable than has been conventionally believed. They built primitive homes, for example, created jewelry and painted on walls, and now, it appears they had an ear structure that would have enabled them to use vocal communications similar to modern humans. Prior research has suggested that Neanderthals came to exist approximately 280,000 years ago and lived in much of Europe and parts of Asia - but inexplicably disappeared approximately 40,000 years ago.




Body ornamentation among Neanderthals: Dig in France confirmed as Neanderthal remains   Science Daily - September 20, 2016
Researchers have helped to solve an archaeological dispute -- confirming that Neanderthals were responsible for producing tools and artifacts previously argued by some to be exclusively in the realm of modern human cognitive abilities. Using ancient protein analysis, the team took part in an international research project to confirm the disputed origins of bone fragments in Chatelperron, France.




Neanderthals in Germany: First population peak, then sudden extinction   Science Daily - July 21, 2016
Neanderthals once populated the entire European continent. Around 45,000 years ago, Homo neanderthalensis was the predominant human species in Europe. Archaeological findings show that there were also several settlements in Germany. However, the era of the Neanderthal came to an end quite suddenly. Based on an analysis of the known archaeological sites comes to the conclusion that Neanderthals reached their population peak right before their population rapidly declined and they eventually became extinct.




Inbred Neanderthals left humans a genetic burden   PhysOrg - June 7, 2016
The Neanderthal genome included harmful mutations that made the hominids around 40% less reproductively fit than modern humans, according to estimates published in the latest issue of the journal Genetics. Non-African humans inherited some of this genetic burden when they interbred with Neanderthals, though much of it has been lost over time. The results suggest that these harmful gene variants continue to reduce the fitness of some populations today. The study also has implications for management of endangered species.




Neanderthals were stocky from birth   PhysOrg - May 26, 2016
If a Neanderthal were to sit down next to us on the underground, we would probably first notice his receding forehead, prominent brow ridges and projecting, chinless face. Only on closer inspection would we notice his wider and thicker body. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig have now investigated whether the differences in physique between Neanderthals and modern humans are genetic or caused by differences in lifestyle. Their analysis of two well-preserved skeletons of Neanderthal neonates shows that Neanderthals' wide bodies and robust bones were formed by birth. The evolutionary lines of modern humans and Neanderthals diverged around 600,000 years ago.

Paleo-anthropologists know from bone finds that Neanderthals possessed not only a receding forehead, prominent brow ridges and projecting, chinless face, but also a different physique. They had more robust bones, a wider pelvis and shorter limbs. This may have been an evolutionary adaptation to the colder climate of Europe and Asia, as a more compact body loses less heat to the environment. However, the skeletal differences may also have arisen as a result of different lifestyles and activity patterns, because mechanical stresses affect the formation of bones.




Neanderthals Built Mysterious Stone Circles   National Geographic - May 25, 2016
Rings of stalagmites found in a cave in France suggest that our ancient relatives were surprisingly skilled builders. Once illuminated by the flickering fires of prehistoric builders, an array of mysterious stone circles hid in darkness for millennia, tucked into the recesses of a cave in France. Now, these ancient structures are again emerging from the shadows. The strange rings are crafted from stalagmites and are roughly 176,000 years old, scientists report today. And if the rings were built by a bipedal species, as archaeologists suspect, then they could only be the work of Neanderthals, ancient human relatives that are proving to be much more human than anticipated.




DNA points to Neanderthal breeding barrier   BBC - April 8, 2016
Incompatibilities in the DNA of Neanderthals and modern humans may have limited the impact of interbreeding between the two groups. It's now widely known that many modern humans carry up to 4% Neanderthal DNA. But a new analysis of the Neanderthal Y chromosome, the package of genes passed down from fathers to sons, shows it is missing from modern populations.




Modern men lack Y chromosome genes from Neanderthals   Science Daily - April 7, 2016
Although it's widely known that modern humans carry traces of Neanderthal DNA, a new international study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine suggests that Neanderthal Y-chromosome genes disappeared from the human genome long ago.




How diet shaped human evolution   Science Daily - March 30, 2016
Homo sapiens, the ancestor of modern humans, shared the planet with Neanderthals, a close, heavy-set relative that dwelled almost exclusively in Ice-Age Europe, until some 40,000 years ago. Black carbon image of hunting on sandstone. The Ice-Age diet -- a high-protein intake of large animals -- triggered physical changes in Neanderthals, namely a larger ribcage and a wider pelvis. Neanderthals were similar to Homo sapiens, with whom they sometimes mated -- but they were different, too. Among these many differences, Neanderthals were shorter and stockier, with wider pelvises and rib-cages than their modern human counterparts.




A world map of Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry in modern humans   Science Daily - March 28, 2016
Most non-Africans possess at least a little bit Neanderthal DNA. But a new map of archaic ancestry suggests that many bloodlines around the world, particularly of South Asian descent, may actually be a bit more Denisovan, a mysterious population of hominids that lived around the same time as the Neanderthals. The analysis also proposes that modern humans interbred with Denisovans about 100 generations after their trysts with Neanderthals.




Do we owe our thick hair and tough skin to Neanderthals?   Daily Mail - March 28, 2016
World map of prehistoric ancestry shows how interbreeding has changed and even helped modern humans. The study has unearthed some surprising new benefits these illicit encounters have gifted to modern humans living today.For example genetic variants inherited from Denisovans appear to have given some people in south Asia a better ability to detect subtle scents and helped others to survive at high altitudes.




400,000-year-old fossils from Spain provide earliest genetic evidence of Neanderthals   Science Daily - March 16, 2016
Previous analyses of the hominins from Sima de los Huesos in 2013 showed that their maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA was distantly related to Denisovans, extinct relatives of Neanderthals in Asia. This was unexpected since their skeletal remains carry Neanderthals-derived features. Researchers have since worked on sequencing nuclear DNA from fossils from the cave, a challenging task as the extremely old DNA is degraded to very short fragments. The results now show that the Sima de los Huesos hominins were indeed early Neanderthals.




Neanderthals were wiped out because modern humans were more artistic - Cultural lifestyle gave us an edge and helped us innovate   Daily Mail - February 1, 2015
Modern humans have been blamed for killing off the Neanderthals around 30,000 years ago by breeding with them and even murdering them. But now experts believe it was our ancestors' artistic and innovative abilities that ultimately led to the Neanderthal's demise. The experts believe our more advanced lifestyle gave us a cultural and competitive edge over our ancient cousins and this paved the way for their extinction.




Ancient Man Had Neanderthal Great-Great Grandfather   National Geographic - June 22, 2015




Genetic analysis of 40,000-year-old jawbone reveals early modern humans interbred with Neanderthals   PhysOrg - June 22, 2015
Neanderthals lived in Europe until about 35,000 years ago, disappearing at the same time modern humans were spreading across the continent. The new study provides the first genetic evidence that humans interbred with Neanderthals in Europe.




Analysis of bones found in Romania offer evidence of human and Neanderthal interbreeding in Europe   PhysOrg - May 14, 2015
DNA testing of a human mandible fossil found in Romania has revealed a genome with 4.8 to 11.3 percent Neanderthal DNA - its original owner died approximately 40,000 years ago, Palaeogenomicist Qiaomei Fu reported to audience members at a Biology of Genomes meeting in New York last week. She noted also that she and her research team found long Neanderthal sequences. The high percentage suggests, she added, that the human had a Neanderthal in its family tree going back just four to six generations. The finding by the team provides strong evidence that humans and Neanderthals continued breeding in Europe, long after their initial co-mingling in the Middle East (after humans began migrating out of Africa.)




Fossil Teeth Suggest Humans Played Role in Neanderthal Extinction   Live Science - April 23, 2015
Ancient teeth from Italy suggest that the arrival of modern humans in Western Europe coincided with the demise of Neanderthals there, researchers said. This finding suggests that modern humans may have caused Neanderthals to go extinct, either directly or indirectly, scientists added. Neanderthals are the closest extinct relatives of modern humans. Recent findings suggest that Neanderthals, who once lived in Europe and Asia, were closely enough related to humans to interbreed with the ancestors of modern humans - about 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the DNA of anyone outside Africa is Neanderthal in origin. Recent findings suggest that Neanderthals disappeared from Europe between about 41,000 and 39,000 years ago.




Neanderthals shape up as globe's first jewelers   PhysOrg - March 21, 2015
The widely-held vision of Neanderthals as brutes may need a stark rethink after research found they crafted the world's earliest jewelry from eagle talons 130,000 years ago, long before modern humans appeared in Europe.




Neanderthal groups based part of their lifestyle on sexual division of labor   Science Daily - February 19, 2015
Neanderthals divided some of their tasks according to their sex. A new study analyzed 99 teeth of 19 individuals from three different sites (El Sidron, in Asturias - Spain, L'Hortus in France, and Spy in Belgium), reveals that the dental grooves in the female fossils follow the same pattern, different to that found in male individuals.




Neanderthals disappeared from the Iberian Peninsula before than from the rest of Europe   Science Daily - February 5, 2015
Until a few months ago different scientific articles dated the disappearance of the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) from Europe at around 40,000 years ago. However, a new study shows that these hominids could have disappeared before then in the Iberian Peninsula, closer to 45,000 years ago. In the Iberian Peninsula the Neanderthals may have disappeared 45,000 years ago.




DNA yields secrets of human pioneer   BBC - October 22, 2014
DNA analysis of a 45,000-year-old human has helped scientists pinpoint when our ancestors interbred with Neanderthals. The genome sequence from a thigh bone found in Siberia shows the first episode of mixing occurred between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago. The male hunter is one of the earliest modern humans discovered in Eurasia. The study in Nature journal also supports the finding that our species emerged from Africa some 60,000 years ago, before spreading around the world. The analysis raises the possibility that the human line first emerged millions of years earlier than current estimates.




Neanderthals and Humans First Mated 50,000 Years Ago, DNA Reveals   Live Science - October 22, 2014
The DNA from the 45,000-year-old bone of a man from Siberia is helping to pinpoint when modern humans and Neanderthals first interbred, researchers say. Although modern humans are the only surviving human lineage, others once lived on Earth. The closest extinct relatives of modern humans were the Neanderthals, who lived in Europe and Asiauntil they went extinct about 40,000 years ago. Recent findings revealed that Neanderthals interbred with ancestors of modern humans when modern humans began spreading out of Africa - 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the DNA of anyone living outside Africa today is Neanderthal in origin.




  Neanderthal 'artwork' found in Gibraltar cave   BBC - September 1, 2014
Mounting evidence suggests Neanderthals were not the brutes they were characterized as decades ago. But art, a high expression of abstract thought, was long considered to be the exclusive preserve of our own species. The scattered candidates for artistic expression by Neanderthals have not met with universal acceptance. However, the geometric pattern identified in Gibraltar, on the southern tip of Europe, was uncovered beneath undisturbed sediments that have also yielded Neanderthal tools.




Gibraltar Engravings Might be Oldest Neanderthal Art   Epoch Times - September 1, 2014
A series of lines scratched into rock in a cave near the southwestern tip of Europe could be proof that Neanderthals were more intelligent and creative than previously thought. The cross-hatched engravings inside Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar are the first known examples of Neanderthal rock art, according to a team of scientists who studied the site. The find is significant because it indicates that modern humans and their extinct cousins shared the capacity for abstract expression.




  New dates rewrite Neanderthal story   BBC - August 20, 2014
Modern humans and Neanderthals co-existed in Europe 10 times longer than previously thought, a study suggests. The most comprehensive dating of Neanderthal bones and tools ever carried out suggests that the two species lived side-by-side for up to 5,000 years. The new evidence suggests that the two groups may even have exchanged ideas and culture, say the researchers.


Did Neanderthals eat their vegetables?   PhysOrg - June 25, 2014
The popular conception of the Neanderthal as a club-wielding carnivore is, well, rather primitive, according to a new study conducted at MIT. Instead, our prehistoric cousin may have had a more varied diet that, while heavy on meat, also included plant tissues, such as tubers and nuts.




Skulls with mix of Neandertal and primitive traits illuminate human evolution   Science Daily - June 19, 2014
Researchers studying a collection of skulls in a Spanish cave identified both Neandertal-derived features and features associated with more primitive humans in these bones. This "mosaic pattern" supports a theory of Neandertal evolution that suggests Neandertals developed their defining features separately, and at different times - not all at once. Having this new data from the Sima de los Huesos site, as the Spanish cave is called, has allowed scientists to better understand hominin evolution during the Middle Pleistocene, a period in which the path of hominin evolution has been controversial.




Brutish and Short? DNA 'Switch' Sheds Light on Neanderthals   NBC - April 20, 2014
How can creatures as different in body and mind as present-day humans and their extinct Neanderthal cousins be 99.84 percent identical genetically? Four years after scientists discovered that the two species' genomes differ by a fraction of a percent, geneticists said they have an explanation: the cellular equivalent of "on"/"off" switches that determine whether DNA is activated or not. Hundreds of Neanderthals' genes were turned off while the identical genes in today's humans are turned on, the international team announced in a paper published online in Science. They also found that hundreds of other genes were turned on in Neanderthals, but are off in people living today.




Talking Neanderthals challenge the origins of speech   Science Daily - March 3, 2014
We humans like to think of ourselves as unique for many reasons, not least of which being our ability to communicate with words. But ground-breaking research shows that our 'misunderstood cousins,' the Neanderthals, may well have spoken in languages not dissimilar to the ones we use today. Pinpointing the origin and evolution of speech and human language is one of the longest running and most hotly debated topics in the scientific world. It has long been believed that other beings, including the Neanderthals with whom our ancestors shared Earth for thousands of years, simply lacked the necessary cognitive capacity and vocal hardware for speech.




Fifth of Neanderthals' genetic code lives on in modern humans   The Guardian - January 29, 2014
Traces are lasting legacy of sexual encounters between our direct ancestors and Neanderthals from 65,000 years ago. The last of the Neanderthals may have died out tens of thousands of years ago, but large stretches of their genetic code live on in people today. Though many of us can claim only a handful of Neanderthal genes, when added together, the human population carries more than a fifth of the archaic human's DNA, researchers found. The finding means that scientists can study about 20% of the Neanderthal genome without having to prise the genetic material from fragile and ancient fossils. The Neanderthal traces in our genetic makeup are the lasting legacy of sexual encounters between our direct ancestors and the Neanderthals they met when they walked out of Africa and into Eurasia about 65,000 years ago.




Which parts of us are Neanderthal? Our genes point to skin and hair   NBC - January 29, 2014
Researchers have found that Neanderthal genetic coding is found with high frequency in genes that affect skin characteristics. That suggests that beneficial coding was picked up from Neanderthals to help humans adapt to non-African environments. Earlier studies have suggested that the traits for redheadedness are of Neanderthal origin. A double-barreled comparison of ancient Neanderthal DNA with hundreds of modern-day genomes suggests that many of us have Neanderthal skin and hair traits - but other parts of the Neanderthal genome appear to have been bred out of us along the way.




Neanderthals gave us disease genes   BBC - January 29, 2014
Genes that cause disease in people today were picked up through interbreeding with Neanderthals, a major study in Nature journal suggests. They passed on genes involved in type 2 diabetes, Crohn's disease and - curiously - smoking addiction. Genome studies reveal that our species (Homo sapiens) mated with Neanderthals after leaving Africa. But it was previously unclear what this Neanderthal DNA did and whether there were any implications for human health.




Diabetes risk gene 'from Neanderthals'   BBC - December 26, 2013
A gene variant that seems to increase the risk of diabetes in Latin Americans appears to have been inherited from Neanderthals, a study suggests. We now know that modern humans interbred with a population of Neanderthals shortly after leaving Africa 60,000-70,000 years ago.




Neanderthals could speak like humans, study suggests   BBC - December 20, 2013
An analysis of a Neanderthal's hyoid bone - a horseshoe shaped structure in the neck - suggests they had the ability to speak. Until now the strongest support came from a 1989 Neanderthal hyoid fossil, the same shape as those of humans. But computer modeling of how it works has shown their hyoid bone was also used in a very similar way.








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