The first Neanderthal remains, discovered in Germany in 1856, were presented to the world of science at a meeting of the Lower Rhine Medical and Natural History Society held in Bonn in February 1857 and named a species, Homo, by William King in 1864. Some Neanderthal fossils and other remains are in excellent condition, giving a good idea of Neanderthal culture. In 1887, two complete skeletons were found in a cave near Spy in Belgium, and more from sites in France in 1887, 1908 and 1911. These and other finds showed that the Neanderthals had populated Europe widely from about 130, 000 to 28, 000 years ago after which they became extinct. Most of these fossils were found in caves. Usually they are associated with cold adapted species such as reindeer, arctic fox, lemming and mammoth.
The current conclusion drawn from fossil evidence is that Neanderthals emerged at least 230, 000 years and maybe even 300, 000 years ago. In the Far East, in contrast, there is quite a clear evolution from Homoerectus, by a generalized Homosapiens to Homosapiens sapiens with Mongoloid features, but no Neanderthal presence. In northern Spain, fossils of an 800, 000-year-old fossil named Homo, has also been proposed as the common ancestor to humans and Neanderthals. Others say that Homo is the more likely of modern and primitive features hints at some surprises as more fossils from this period are unearthed. One line of thought places Homo erg aster as ancestral to Homo in Africa. A population of Homo migrated via the Middle East to Europe about one million years ago and evolved into Homo and then into Neanderthals.
The population of Homo that remained in Africa evolved into Homo sapiens. Another possibility is that Homo is ancestral to both Homo sapiens and Homo. The Neanderthal was not human. Genetic evidence from a comparison of human and Neanderthal mitochondria shows that while chimpanzee and human lineage's diverged four million years ago, the Neanderthals diverged over 550, 000 to 690, 000 years ago. Human trunk and limb bones of Homo, recovered from the Ran Doling site, in the Sierra de Atapuerca have been dated at about 780, 000 old and are said to represent the last common ancestor for Homo sapiens and Homo. Living humans have on average eight differences in the 378-unit DNA strand investigated, while the Neanderthal differed in 27 places and the chimpanzees differ in 55 places.
Perhaps, where they coexisted, some difference prevented interbreeding or the production of hybrids between these populations and early human ancestors. Usually such differences between related species originate as adaptations to the environment, not as devices for reproductive isolation. Neanderthals were hunter-gatherers who moved across Europe with the advance and retreat of the Ice Age glaciers. Their total population probably never exceeded 100, 000. From 180, 000 to 130, 000 years ago large glaciers covered much of Europe and Neanderthal remains are scarce.
After 130, 000 years ago, tool technology developed rapidly to become the classic Neanderthal technology called the Mousterian tradition. They created sets of tools with great variety and finely trimmed cutting edges. Flint stone properly chipped forms a cutting edge sharper than a steel scalpel. Neanderthals were adapted to the cold northern climate, with short limbs and stocky bodies and flourished during a warmer interglacial period. There was great anatomical variation within this population. There is evidence that they took care of injured associates and sometimes carried out burials.
Fossil remains provide evidence that they moved in small groups possibly occupying areas seasonally and subsisting by hunting big game such as reindeer. As they did not use bows and arrows, or other projectiles, hunting such big game would have required a group strategy. Animal bones found With Neanderthal remains are mostly cold adapted species such as reindeer, bison, elk, arctic fox, lemming and mammoth. Anthropologists classify Neanderthal tools as Mousterian, a kit of stone-flake tools. Earlier Homoerectus Acheul ean tools are made of hand axes. Some early humans also used Mousterian tools, Ashland-axes, scrapers, borers, knives and points of stone, are found beyond the Neanderthal range and associated with non-Neanderthal fossils.
Their tools evolved little during their 100, 000-year history, and they did not use bone, antler or ivory. They used wood, such a spears, and regularly used fire. Why, they did not make tools from their prey is unexplained. At the end of their existence their tools became more complex, possibly through copying modern humans, trade, or as a direct response to this new competitor, but the change was too late. Some Neanderthals even started using bone tools, as in a beveled bone spear tip, found in Vind ija, Croatia. Three areas of Neanderthal habitation have distinct fossil remains.
Western Europe has many fossils dated at between 70, 000 and 40, 000 years old. The most recently existing remains are 36; 300 years old, while modern human fossil remains from the same area are 30, 000 to 34, 000 years old. Russia and central and Eastern Europe have sparser Neanderthal remains. One interesting find is a child buried and surrounded with goat skulls, these finds are between 40, 000 and 25, 000 years old.
It also shows some transition between Neanderthal and modern morphologies. In the Middle East, Neanderthal fossils as old as 100, 000 years have been found. Other finds come from Wales in the northwest, Gibraltar in the southwest, near Moscow in the north and Uzbekistan in the east Generally, the fossils fall between 40, 000 and 80, 000 years old Anthropologists date modern human fossils from the same area at between 92, 000 and 101, 000 years. With the arrival in Europe of modern humans, with an advanced and sophisticated technology 40, 000 years ago, Neanderthals started to vanish. Around 35, 000 years ago temperatures started to decline and the most recent Neanderthal remains are found south in isolated seaside caves in Spain. Some tools are 29, 000 years old.
Neanderthals were still living in Croatia as recently as 28, 000 years ago and in southern Spain only 30, 000 years ago. The Croatian population had some modern human anatomical characteristics. A fossil of a 24, 500-year-old early modern human child unearthed in Portugal shows distinctive Neanderthal characteristics, possibly the result of interbreeding. After that, all record vanish. Although DNA tests show that modern humans and Neanderthals diverged from a common ancestor more than 500, 000 years ago and that modern humans do not carry Neanderthal genes and so did not interbreed when they encountered each other 50, 000 years ago, the discovery of possible hybrids suggests that we still have not fully completed the Neanderthal story.