Neanderthals (, also Neandertals, ''Homo neanderthalensis'' or ''Homo sapiens neanderthalensis'') are an extinct
species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individu ...

subspecies In biological classification In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interacti ...
archaic humans A number of varieties of ''Homo ''Homo'' () is the genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of extant taxon, living and fossil organisms as well as Virus classif ...
who lived in
Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a ...

until about 40,000 years ago. They most likely went extinct due to assimilation into the modern
human genome The human genome is a complete set of nucleic acid sequences for humans, encoded as DNA within the 23 chromosome pairs in cell nuclei and in a small DNA molecule found within individual Mitochondrial DNA, mitochondria. These are usually treated se ...

human genome
(bred into extinction), great
climatic change ''Climatic Change'' is a biweekly Peer review, peer-reviewed scientific journal published by Springer Science+Business Media covering cross-disciplinary work on all aspects of climate change and variability. It was established in 1978 and the editor ...
, disease, or a combination of these factors. It is unclear when the line of Neanderthals split from that of
modern human Early modern human (EMH) or anatomically modern human (AMH) are terms used to distinguish ''Homo sapiens'' (the only extant Hominina species) that are Human anatomy, anatomically consistent with the Human variability, range of phenotypes seen in ...
s; studies have produced various intervals ranging from 315,000 to more than 800,000 years ago. The time of divergence of Neanderthals from their ancestor '''' is also unclear. The oldest potential Neanderthal bones date to 430,000 years ago, but the classification remains uncertain. Neanderthals are known from numerous fossils, especially from after 130,000 years ago. The
type specimen In biology, a type is a particular specimen (or in some cases a group of specimens) of an organism In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Bi ...
Neanderthal 1 Feldhofer 1, or Neanderthal 1 is the scientific name of the 40,000-year-old type specimen In biology, a type is a particular specimen (or in some cases a group of specimens) of an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, ...
, was found in 1856 in the
Neander Valley The Neandertal (, also , ; sometimes called "the Neander Valley" in English) is a small valley of the river Düssel in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia North Rhine-Westphalia (german: Nordrhein-Westfalen, ; Low Franconian: ''Noord ...
in present-day Germany. For much of the early 20th Century, researchers depicted Neanderthals as primitive, unintelligent, and brutish. Although knowledge and perception of them has markedly changed since then in the scientific community, the image of the unevolved
caveman The caveman is a stock character Stock (also capital stock) is all of the shares into which ownership of a corporation is divided.Longman Business English Dictionary In American English, the shares are collectively known as "stock". A si ...

archetype The concept of an archetype (; from Greek: + ) appears in areas relating to behavior, History of psychology#Emergence of German experimental psychology, historical psychology, and literary analysis. An ''archetype'' can be: # a statement, patter ...
remains prevalent in popular culture. Neanderthal technology was quite sophisticated. It includes the
Mousterian The Mousterian (or Mode III) is a techno-complex (archaeological industry) of stone tools A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool A tool is an object that can extend an individual's ability to modify features of the surroundin ...

stone-tool industry and the ability to create fire and build cave
hearth A hearth is the place in a where a is or was traditionally kept for home heating and for , usually constituted by at least a horizontal hearthstone and often enclosed to varying degrees by any combination of , , , smoke hood, or . Hearths a ...

s, make the adhesive
birch bark tar Birch tar Tar is a dark brown or black viscous liquid of hydrocarbons and free carbon, obtained from a wide variety of organic materials through destructive distillation. Tar can be produced from coal Coal is a combustible black or ...
, craft at least simple clothes similar to blankets and ponchos, weave, go seafaring through the Mediterranean, make use of
medicinal plants Medicinal plants, also called medicinal herbs, have been discovered and used in traditional medicine 250px, Jamaica_Plain.html"_;"title="Botánicas_such_as_this_one_in_Jamaica_Plain">Botánicas_such_as_this_one_in_Jamaica_Plain,_Boston,_cate ...
, as well as treat severe injuries, store food, and use various cooking techniques such as
roasting Roasting is a cooking method that uses dry heat where hot air covers the food, cooking it evenly on all sides with temperatures of at least from an open flame, oven, or other heat source. Roasting can enhance the flavor through caramelizatio ...
, boiling, and
smoking Smoking is a practice in which a substance is burned and the resulting smoke Smoke is a collection of airborne and es emitted when a material undergoes or , together with the quantity of air that is or otherwise mixed into the ma ...
. Neanderthals made use of a wide array of food, mainly hoofed mammals, but also other
megafauna In terrestrial zoology Zoology ()The pronunciation of zoology as is typically regarded as nonstandard, though it is not uncommon. is the branch of biology that studies the animal kingdom, including the anatomy, structure, embryology, evolutio ...
, plants, small mammals, birds, and aquatic and marine resources. Although they were probably
apex predator The great white shark (bottom) was originally considered the apex predator of the ocean; however, the killer whale (top) has proven to be a predator of the shark. An apex predator, also known as an alpha predator or top predator, is a predator ...
s, they still competed with
cave bear The cave bear (''Ursus spelaeus'') was a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the l ...
s, cave lions, cave hyaenas, and other large predators. A number of examples of symbolic thought and Palaeolithic art have been inconclusively attributed to Neanderthals, namely possible ornaments made from bird bones or shells, collections of unusual objects including crystals and fossils, engravings, music production indicated by the
Divje Babe Flute#REDIRECT Divje Babe flute The Divje Babe Flute is a cave bear femur pierced by spaced holes that was found in 1995 at the Divje Babe archaeology, archeological park located near Cerkno in northwestern Slovenia. It has been suggested that it was made ...

Divje Babe Flute
, and Spanish cave-paintings contentiously dated to before 65,000 years ago. Some claims of religious beliefs have been made. Neanderthals were likely capable of speech, possibly articulate, although the complexity of their language is not known. Compared with modern humans, Neanderthals had a more
robustRobustness is the property of being strong and healthy in constitution. When it is transposed into a system, it refers to the ability of tolerating perturbations that might affect the system’s functional body. In the same line ''robustness'' can be ...
build and proportionally shorter limbs. Researchers often explain these features as adaptations to conserve heat in a cold climate, but they may also have been adaptations for sprinting in the warmer, forested landscape that Neanderthals often inhabited. Nonetheless, they had cold-specific adaptations, such as specialised body-fat storage and an enlarged nose to warm air (although the nose could have been caused by
genetic drift Genetic drift (allelic drift or the Sewall Wright effect) is the change in the frequency of an existing gene In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical stru ...

genetic drift
). Average Neanderthal men stood around and women tall, similar to pre-industrial modern humans. The braincases of Neanderthal men and women averaged about and respectively, which is within the range of the values for modern humans. The total population of Neanderthals remained low, proliferating weakly harmful gene variants, and precluding effective long-distance networks. Nonetheless, there is evidence of regional cultures and thus of regular communication between communities. They may have frequented caves, and moved between caves seasonally. Neanderthals lived in a high-stress environment with high trauma rates, and about 80% died before the age of 40. The 2010 Neanderthal genome project's draft report presented evidence for interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans. It possibly occurred 316–219 ,000 years ago, but more likely 100,000 years ago and again 65,000 years ago. Neanderthals also appear to have interbred with
Denisovans The Denisovans or Denisova hominins ) are an extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system ...
, a different group of archaic humans, in Siberia. Around 1–4% of genomes of
Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a ...

Australo-Melanesians Australo-Melanesians (also known as Australasians or Australomelanesoid race or Australoid race) is an outdated historical grouping of various people indigenous to Melanesia Melanesia (, ) is a subregion of Oceania in the southwestern Pacific ...
Native Americans Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants * Native Americans in the United States * Indigenous peoples in Canada, the indigenous p ...
, and
North Africa North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in th ...

North Africa
ns is of Neanderthal ancestry, while the inhabitants of
sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, it consists of all list of sovereign states and dependent territories i ...

sub-Saharan Africa
have no detectable Neanderthal ancestry, save possible traces from early Sapiens-to-Neanderthal gene flow and/or more recent back-migration of Eurasians to Africa. In all, about 20% of distinctly Neanderthal gene variants survive today. Although many of the gene variants inherited from Neanderthals may have been detrimental and selected out, Neanderthal
introgression Introgression, also known as introgressive hybridization, in genetics Genetics is a branch of biology concerned with the study of genes, genetic variation, and heredity in organisms.Hartl D, Jones E (2005) Though heredity had been observed fo ...
appears to have affected the modern human
immune system The immune system is a network of biological processes that protects an organism from diseases. It detects and responds to a wide variety of pathogens, from viruses to parasitic worms, as well as Tumor immunology, cancer cells and objects such ...
, and is also implicated in several other biological functions and structures, but a large portion appears to be
non-coding DNA Non-coding DNA sequences are components of an organism's DNA Deoxyribonucleic acid (; DNA) is a molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scanning tunneling microscopy image of pentacene molecules, which consist of linear chains of ...



Neanderthals are named after the valley, the
Neandertal Neanderthals (, also Neandertals, ''Homo neanderthalensis'' or ''Homo sapiens neanderthalensis'') are an extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans who lived in Eurasia until about 40,000 years ago. They most likely went extinct due to as ...
, in which the first identified specimen was found. The valley was spelled ''Neanderthal'' and the species was spelled ''Neanderthaler'' in German until the spelling reform of 1901. The spelling ''Neandertal'' for the species is occasionally seen in English, even in scientific publications, but the scientific name, ''H. neanderthalensis'', is always spelled with ''th'' according to the
principle of priority #REDIRECT Principle of priority 270px, '' valid name. Priority is a fundamental principle of modern botanical nomenclature and zoological nomenclature. Essentially, it is the principle of recognising the first valid application of a name to a plan ...
. The vernacular name of the species in German is always ''Neandertaler'' ("inhabitant of the Neander Valley"), whereas ''Neandertal'' always refers to the valley. The valley itself was named after the late 17th century German theologian and hymn writer
Joachim Neander Joachim Neander (Neumann) (165031 May 1680) was a German Reformed (Calvinist) Christian Church, Church teacher, theologian and hymn writer whose most famous hymn, ''Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of ...
, who often visited the area. ''Neanderthal'' can be pronounced using the (as in ) or the standard English pronunciation of ''th'' with the fricative // (as ).
Neanderthal 1 Feldhofer 1, or Neanderthal 1 is the scientific name of the 40,000-year-old type specimen In biology, a type is a particular specimen (or in some cases a group of specimens) of an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, ...
, the
type specimen In biology, a type is a particular specimen (or in some cases a group of specimens) of an organism In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Bi ...
, was known as the "Neanderthal cranium" or "Neanderthal skull" in anthropological literature, and the individual reconstructed on the basis of the skull was occasionally called "the Neanderthal man". The binomial name ''Homo neanderthalensis''—extending the name "Neanderthal man" from the individual specimen to the entire species, and formally recognising it as distinct from humans—was first proposed by Irish geologist
William KingWilliam King may refer to: Arts *Willie King (1943–2009), blues guitarist and singer *William King (author) (born 1959), British science fiction author and game designer, also known as Bill King *William King (artist) (1925–2015), American scul ...
in a paper read to the 33rd
British Science Association The British Science Association (BSA) is a charity Charity may refer to: Giving * Charitable organization or charity, a non-profit organization whose primary objectives are philanthropy and social well-being * Charity (practice), the practice ...
in 1863. However, in 1864, he recommended that Neanderthals and modern humans be classified in different genera as he compared the Neanderthal braincase to that of a chimpanzee and argued that they were "incapable of moral and
theistic Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being or deities. In common parlance, or when contrasted with '' deism'', the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism Monotheism i ...
] conceptions".

Research history

The first Neanderthal remains—
Engis 2 Engis 2 refers to part of an Assemblage (archaeology), assemblage, discovered in 1829 by Dutch physician and naturalist Philippe-Charles Schmerling in the lower of the Schmerling Caves. The pieces that make up Engis 2 are a partially preserved Ca ...
(a skull)—were discovered in 1829 by Dutch naturalist in the Grottes d'Engis, Belgium, but he thought it was a fossil modern human skull. In 1848,
Gibraltar 1 ''Gibraltar 1'' is the specimen name of a Neanderthal Neanderthals (, also Neandertals, ''Homo neanderthalensis'' or ''Homo sapiens neanderthalensis'') are an extinct species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classif ...

Gibraltar 1
Forbes' Quarry Forbes' Quarry is located on the northern face of the Rock of Gibraltar The Rock of Gibraltar, also known as the Jabel-al-Tariq (named after the Berber commander who conquered Spain), is a monolithic limestone Limestone is a common ...

Forbes' Quarry
was presented to the Gibraltar Scientific Society by their Secretary Lieutenant Edmund Henry Réné Flint, but was also thought to be a modern human skull. In 1856, local schoolteacher
Johann Carl Fuhlrott Fuhlrott Prof. Dr. Johann Carl Fuhlrott (31 December 1803, Leinefelde, Germany – 17 October 1877, Wuppertal Wuppertal () is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, in and around the Wupper valley, east of Düsseldorf Düsseldo ...

Johann Carl Fuhlrott
recognised bones from in Neander Valley—Neanderthal 1 (the
holotype specimen A holotype is a single physical example (or illustration) of an organism, known to have been used when the species (or lower-ranked taxon) was formally described. It is either the single such physical example (or illustration) or one of several s ...
)—as distinct from modern humans, and gave them to German anthropologist Hermann Schaaffhausen to study in 1857. It comprised the cranium, thigh bones, right arm, left
humerus The humerus (; ) is a long bone in the arm that runs from the shoulder to the elbow. It connects the scapula and the two bones of the lower arm, the radius (bone), radius and ulna, and consists of three sections. The humeral upper extremity of h ...

ulna The ulna (''pl''. ulnae or ulnas) is a long bone The long bones are those that are longer than they are wide. They are one of five types of bone A bone is a rigid tissue Tissue may refer to: Biology * Tissue (biology), an ensemble of si ...

, left
ilium Ilium or Ileum may refer to: Places and jurisdictions * Ilion (Asia Minor), former name of Troy * Ilium (Epirus), an ancient city in Epirus, Greece * Ilium, ancient name of Cestria (Epirus), an ancient city in Epirus, Greece * Ilium Building, a ...
(hip bone), part of the right
shoulder blade The human shoulder is made up of three bones: the clavicle The clavicle, or collarbone, is a slender, S-shaped long bone approximately 6 inches (15 cm) long that serves as a strut between the scapula, shoulder blade and the sternum (bre ...

shoulder blade
, and pieces of the
rib In vertebrate anatomy, ribs ( la, costae) are the long curved bones which form the rib cage, part of the axial skeleton. In most tetrapods, ribs surround the chest, enabling the lungs to expand and thus facilitate breathing by expanding the ches ...
s. Following
Charles Darwin Charles Robert Darwin (; ; 12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that fu ...

Charles Darwin
's ''
On the Origin of Species ''On the Origin of Species'' (or, more completely, ''On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life''),The book's full original title was ''On the Origin of Species by Me ...
'', Fuhlrott and Schaaffhausen argued the bones represented an ancient modern human form; Schaaffhausen, a social Darwinist, believed that humans linearly progressed from savage to civilised, and so concluded that Neanderthals were barbarous cave-dwellers. Fuhlrott and Schaaffhausen met opposition namely from the prolific pathologist
Rudolf Virchow Rudolf Ludwig Carl Virchow (; or ; 13 October 18215 September 1902) was a Germans, German physician, anthropologist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist, writer, editor, and politician. He is known as "the father of modern pathology" and as th ...

Rudolf Virchow
who argued against defining new species based on only a single find. In 1872, Virchow erroneously interpreted Neanderthal characteristics as evidence of
senility Dementia manifests as a set of related symptoms, which usually surface when the brain is damaged by injury or disease. The symptoms Signs and symptoms are the observed or detectable signs, and experienced symptoms of an illness, injury, or ...
, disease, and malformation instead of archaicness, which stalled Neanderthal research until the end of the century. By the early 20th century, numerous other Neanderthal discoveries were made, establishing ''H. neanderthalensis'' as a legitimate species. The most influential specimen was La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 ("The Old Man") from La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France. French palaeontologist
Marcellin Boule Pierre-Marcellin Boule (1 January 1861 – 4 July 1942), better known as merely Marcellin Boule, was a French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the Fren ...
authored several publications, among the first to establish palaeontology as a science, detailing the specimen, but reconstructed him as slouching, ape-like, and only remotely related to modern humans. The 1912 'discovery' of
Piltdown Man , Charles Dawson, Arthur Smith Woodward. Front row: A. S. Underwood, Arthur Keith, W. P. Pycraft, and Ray Lankester. Note the portrait of Charles Darwin on the wall. Painting by John Cooke, 1915. The Piltdown Man was a paleoanthropology, paleo ...
(a hoax), appearing much more similar to modern humans than Neanderthals, was used as evidence that multiple different and unrelated branches of primitive humans existed, and supported Boule's reconstruction of ''H. neanderthalensis'' as a far distant relative and an evolutionary dead-end. He fuelled the popular image of Neanderthals as barbarous, slouching, club-wielding primitives; this image was reproduced for several decades and popularised in
science fiction Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction which typically deals with imagination, imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, Parall ...

science fiction
works, such as the 1911 '' The Quest for Fire'' by and the 1927 ''
The Grisly Folk H. G. Wells was a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction. His writing career spanned more than sixty years, and his early science fiction novels earned him the title (along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback) of "The Father of Science ...
'' by
H. G. Wells Herbert George Wells"Wells, H. G."
Revised 18 May 2015. ''
where they are depicted as monsters. In 1911, Scottish anthropologist
Arthur Keith Sir Arthur Keith FRS (5 February 1866 – 7 January 1955) was a Scottish anatomist and anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present S ...
reconstructed La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 as an immediate precursor to modern humans, sitting next to a fire, producing tools, wearing a necklace, and having a more humanlike posture, but this failed to garner much scientific rapport, and Keith later abandoned his thesis in 1915. By the middle of the century, based on the exposure of Piltdown Man as a hoax as well as a reexamination of La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 (who had
osteoarthritis Osteoarthritis (OA) is a type of degenerative joint disease An arthropathy is a disease of a joint. Signs and symptoms Arthralgia, Joint pain is a common but non-specific sign of joint disease. Signs will depend on the specific disease, and may ...

which caused slouching in life) and new discoveries, the scientific community began to rework its understanding of Neanderthals. Ideas such as Neanderthal behaviour, intelligence, and culture were being discussed, and a more humanlike image of them emerged. In 1939, American anthropologist Carleton Coon reconstructed a Neanderthal in a modern business suit and hat to emphasise that they would be, more or less, indistinguishable from modern humans had they survived into the present.
William Golding Sir William Gerald Golding, (19 September 1911 – 19 June 1993) was a British novelist, playwright, and poet. Best known for his debut novel A debut novel is the first novel a novelist publishes. Debut novels are often the author's first ...
's 1955 novel '' The Inheritors'' depicts Neanderthals as much more emotional and civilised. However, Boule's image continued to influence works until the 1960s. In modern-day, Neanderthal reconstructions are often very humanlike. Hybridisation between Neanderthals and early modern humans had been suggested early on, such as by English anthropologist
Thomas Huxley Thomas Henry Huxley (4 May 1825 – 29 June 1895) was an English biologist and anthropologist specialising in comparative anatomy. He has become known as "Darwin's Bulldog" for his advocacy of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. The stori ...
in 1890, Danish ethnographer in 1907, and Coon in 1962. In the early 2000s, supposed hybrid specimens were discovered:
Lagar Velho 1Lagar Velho 1, also known as the Lagar Velho boy or Lapedo child, is a complete prehistorical skeleton found in Portugal, believed to be a Hybrid (biology), hybrid that had a Neanderthal parent and an anatomically modern human parent. In 1998, this ...
and Muierii 1. However, similar anatomy could also have been caused by adapting to a similar environment rather than interbreeding.
Neanderthal admixture There is evidence for interbreeding between archaic and modern humans during the Middle Paleolithic and early Upper Paleolithic. The interbreeding happened in several independent events that included Neanderthals and Denisovans, as well as seve ...
was found to be present in modern populations in 2010 with the mapping of the first Neanderthal genome sequence. This was based on 3 specimens in
Vindija Cave Vindija Cave is an archaeological site associated with Neanderthals and anatomically modern human, modern humans, located in the municipality of Donja Voća, northern Croatia. Three of these Neanderthals were selected as the primary sources for th ...
, Croatia, which contained almost 4% archaic DNA (allowing for near complete sequencing of the genome). However, there was approximately 1 error for every 200 letters (
base pair A base pair (bp) is a fundamental unit of double-stranded nucleic acids Nucleic acids are biopolymer Biopolymers are natural polymers produced by the cells of Organism, living organisms. Biopolymers consist of monomeric units that are Covalent_ ...
s) based on the implausibly high mutation rate, probably due to the preservation of the sample. In 2012, British-American geneticist Graham Coop hypothesised that they instead found evidence of a different archaic human species interbreeding with modern humans, which was disproven in 2013 by the sequencing of a high-quality Neanderthal genome preserved in a toe bone from Denisova Cave, Siberia.


Neanderthals are
hominid The Hominidae (), whose members are known as great apes or hominids (), are a taxonomic family In , family (from la, familia) is a of people related either by (by recognized birth) or (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose ...
s in the
genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), circumscribing) and classifying gr ...
Homo ''Homo'' () is the genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), cir ...

'', humans, and generally classified as a distinct
species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individu ...

, ''H. neanderthalensis'', although sometimes as a
subspecies In biological classification In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interacti ...
of modern human as ''H. sapiens neanderthalensis''. This would necessitate the classification of modern humans as '' H. s. sapiens''. A large part of the controversy stems from the vagueness of the term "species", as it is generally used to distinguish two genetically isolated populations, but admixture between modern humans and Neanderthals is known to have occurred. However, the absence of Neanderthal-derived patrilineal
Y-chromosome The Y chromosome is one of two sex chromosomes (allosomes) in therian mammals, including humans, and many other animals. The other is the X chromosome. Y is normally the Sex chromosome#Sex determination, sex-determining chromosome in many species, ...
and matrilineal
mitochondrial DNA Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA or mDNA) is the DNA Deoxyribonucleic acid (; DNA) is a molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scanning tunneling microscopy image of pentacene molecules, which consist of linear chains of five car ...

mitochondrial DNA
(mtDNA) in modern humans, along with the underrepresentation of Neanderthal
X chromosome The X chromosome is one of the two sex-determining chromosome A chromosome is a long DNA molecule with part or all of the genome, genetic material of an organism. Most eukaryotic chromosomes include packaging proteins called histones whic ...

X chromosome
DNA, could imply reduced fertility or frequent sterility of some hybrid crosses, representing a partial biological reproductive barrier between the groups, and therefore species distinction. In 2014, geneticist Svante Pääbo described such "
taxonomic Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also refer to a specific classification scheme. Originally used only about biological ...
wars" as unresolvable, "since there is no definition of species perfectly describing the case". Neanderthals are thought to have been more closely related to
Denisovan The Denisovans or Denisova hominins ) are an extinct species or subspecies of archaic human that ranged across Asia during the Lower Paleolithic, Lower and Middle Paleolithic. Denisovans are known from few remains, and, consequently, most of wha ...
s than to modern humans. Likewise, Neanderthals and Denisovans share a more recent
last common ancestor In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanis ...
(LCA) than to modern humans, based on
nuclear DNA Nuclear DNA (nDNA), or nuclear deoxyribonucleic acid, is the DNA Deoxyribonucleic acid (; DNA) is a molecule A scanning tunneling microscopy image of pentacene molecules, which consist of linear chains of five carbon rings. A mole ...
(nDNA). However, Neanderthals and modern humans share a more recent mitochondrial LCA (observable by studying mtDNA). This likely resulted from an interbreeding event subsequent to the Neanderthal/Denisovan split which introduced another mtDNA line. This involved either introgression coming from an unknown archaic human into Denisovans, or introgression from an earlier unidentified modern human wave from Africa into Neanderthals.


It is largely thought that '''' was the last common ancestor of Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans before populations became isolated in Europe, Asia, and Africa, respectively. The taxonomic distinction between ''H. heidelbergensis'' and Neanderthals is mostly based on a fossil gap in Europe between 300 and 243 thousand years ago during
marine isotope stage Marine isotope stages (MIS), marine oxygen-isotope stages, or oxygen isotope stages (OIS), are alternating warm and cool periods in the Earth's paleoclimate, deduced from Oxygen isotope ratio cycle, oxygen isotope data reflecting changes in temp ...
8. "Neanderthals", by convention, are fossils which date to after this gap. However, 430 thousand year ( ka) old bones at Sima de los Huesos could represent early Neanderthals or a closely related group, and the 400,000 year old
Aroeira 3 Aroeira 3 is a 400,000 year old ''Homo heidelbergensis ''Homo heidelbergensis'' (also ''H. sapiens heidelbergensis'') is an extinct species or subspecies of archaic human which existed during the Middle Pleistocene. It was subsumed as a subspeci ...
could represent a transitional phase.
Ancestral An ancestor, also known as a forefather, fore-elder or a forebear, is a parent A parent is a caregiver of the offspring In biology, offspring are the young born of living organism, organisms, produced either by a single organism or, in the ...
and derived morphs could have lived concurrently. It is also possible that there was gene flow between Western Europe and Africa during the Middle Pleistocene, obscuring Neanderthal characteristics in such specimens, namely from Ceprano, Italy, and , Serbia. The fossil record is much more complete from 130,000 years ago onwards, and specimens from this period make up the bulk of known Neanderthal skeletons. Dental remains from the Italian Visogliano and Fontana Ranuccio sites indicate that Neanderthal dental features had evolved by around 450–430 thousand years ago during the Middle Pleistocene. There are two main hypotheses regarding the evolution of Neanderthals following the Neanderthal/human split: two-phase and accretion. Two-phase argues a single major environmental event—such as the Saale glaciation—caused European ''H. heidelbergensis'' to rapidly increase body size and robustness, as well as undergo a lengthening of the head (phase 1), which then led to other changes in skull anatomy (phase 2). However, Neanderthal anatomy may not have been driven entirely by adapting to cold weather. Accretion holds that Neanderthals slowly evolved over time from the ancestral ''H. heidelbergensis'', divided into 4 stages: early-pre-Neanderthals (Anglian stage, MIS 12, Elster glaciation), pre-Neanderthals ''sensu lato'' (MIS Marine Isotope Stage 11, 11–Marine Isotope Stage 9, 9, Holstein interglacial), early Neanderthals (MIS 7–Marine Isotope Stage 5, 5, Saale glaciation–Eemian), and classic Neanderthals ''sensu stricto'' (MIS 4–3, Würm glaciation). Numerous dates for the Neanderthal/human split have been suggested. The date of around 250,000 years ago cites "''Florisbad Skull, H. helmei''" as being the last common ancestor (LCA), and the split is associated with the Levallois technique of making stone tools. The date of about 400,000 years ago uses ''H. heidelbergensis'' as the LCA. 600,000 years ago says that "''Homo rhodesiensis, H. rhodesiensis''" was the LCA, which split off into modern human lineage and a Neanderthal/''H. heidelbergensis'' lineage. 800,000 years ago has ''Homo antecessor, H. antecessor'' as the LCA, but different variations of this model would push the date back to 1 million years ago. However, a 2020 analysis of ''H. antecessor'' enamel proteomes suggests that ''H. antecessor'' is related but not a direct ancestor. DNA studies have yielded various results on Neanderthal/human divergence time, such as 538–315, 553–321, 565–503, 654–475, 690–550, 765–550, 741–317, and 800–520 thousand years ago; and a dental analysis concluded before 800,000 years ago. Neanderthals and Denisovans are more closely related to each other than they are to modern humans, meaning the Neanderthal/Denisovan split occurred after their split with modern humans. Assuming a mutation rate of 1x10−9 or 0.5x10−9 per
base pair A base pair (bp) is a fundamental unit of double-stranded nucleic acids Nucleic acids are biopolymer Biopolymers are natural polymers produced by the cells of Organism, living organisms. Biopolymers consist of monomeric units that are Covalent_ ...
(bp) per year, the Neanderthal/Denisovan split occurred around either 236–190 or 473–381 thousand years ago respectively. Using 1.1x10−8 per generation with a new generation every 29 years, the time is 744,000 years ago. Using 5x10−10 nucleotide sites per year, it is 644,000 years ago. Using the latter dates, the split had likely already occurred by the time hominins spread out across Europe, and unique Neanderthal features had begun evolving by 600–500 thousand years ago. Before splitting, Neanderthal/Denisovans (or "Neandersovans") migrating out of Africa into Europe apparently interbred with an unidentified "superarchaic" human species who were already present there; these superarchaics were the descendants of a very early migration out of Africa around 1.9 mya.



Pre- and early Neanderthals, living before the Eemian interglacial (130,000 years ago), are poorly known and come mostly from Western European sites. From 130,000 years ago onwards, the quality of the fossil record increases dramatically with classic Neanderthals, who are recorded from Western, Central, Eastern, and Mediterranean Europe, as well as Neanderthals in Southwest Asia, Southwest, Central, and Northern Asia up to the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia. Pre- and early Neanderthals, on the other hand, seem to have continuously occupied only France, Spain, and Italy, although some appear to have moved out of this "core-area" to form temporary settlements eastward (although without leaving Europe). Nonetheless, southwestern France has the highest density of sites for pre-, early, and classic Neanderthals. The southernmost find was recorded at Shuqba Cave, Levant; reports of Neanderthals from the North African Jebel Irhoud and Haua Fteah have been reidentified as ''H. sapiens''. Their easternmost presence is recorded at Denisova Cave, Siberia 85th meridian east, 85°E; the southeast Chinese Maba Man, a skull, shares several physical attributes with Neanderthals, although these may be the result of convergent evolution rather than Neanderthals extending their range to the Pacific Ocean. The northernmost bound is generally accepted to have been 55th parallel north, 55°N, with unambiguous sites known between 50th parallel north, 50–53rd parallel north, 53°N, although this is difficult to assess because glacial advances destroy most human remains, and palaeoanthropologist Trine Kellberg Nielsen has argued that a lack of evidence of Southern Scandinavian occupation is (at least during the Eemian interglacial) due to the former explanation and a lack of research in the area. Middle Palaeolithic artefacts have been found up to 60°N on the Russian plains, but these are more likely attributed to modern humans. A 2017 study claimed the presence of ''Homo'' at the 130,000 year old Californian Cerutti Mastodon site in North America, but this is largely considered implausible. It is unknown how the rapidly fluctuating climate of the last glacial period (Dansgaard–Oeschger events) impacted Neanderthals, as warming periods would produce more favourable temperatures but encourage forest growth and deter megafauna, whereas frigid periods would produce the opposite. However, Neanderthals may have preferred a forested landscape. Populations may have peaked in cold but not extreme intervals, such as marine isotope stages 8 and 6 (respectively 300 and 191 thousand years ago during the Saale glaciation). It is possible their range expanded and contracted as the ice retreated and grew respectively to avoid permafrost areas, residing in certain Refugium (population biology), refuge zones during glacial maxima. In 2021, Israeli anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz and colleagues suggested the 140 to 120 thousand years old Israeli Nesher Ramla Homo, Nesher Ramla remains, which feature a mix of Neanderthal and more ancient ''Homo erectus, H. erectus'' traits, represent one such source population which recolonised Europe following a glacial period.


Like modern humans, Neanderthals probably descended from a very small population with an effective population—the number of individuals who can bear or father children—of 3,000 to 12,000 approximately. However, Neanderthals maintained this very low population, proliferating weakly harmful genes due to the reduced effectivity of natural selection. Various studies, using mtDNA analysis, yield varying effective populations, such as about 1,000 to 5,000; 5,000 to 9,000 remaining constant; or 3,000 to 25,000 steadily increasing until 52,000 years ago before declining until extinction. However, all agree on low population, which may have been less than 1/10th of the contemporary human populations in Western Europe possibly because Neanderthals had much lower fertility rates. Estimates giving a total population in the higher tens of thousands are contested. A consistently low population may be explained in the context of the "Ester Boserup, Boserupian Trap": a population's carrying capacity is limited by the amount of food it can obtain, which in turn is limited by its technology. Innovation increases with population, but if the population is too low, innovation will not occur very rapidly and the population will remain low. This is consistent with the apparent 150,000 year stagnation in Neanderthal lithic technology. In a sample of 206 Neanderthals, based on the abundance of young and mature adults in comparison to other age demographics, about 80% of them above the age of 20 died before reaching 40. This high mortality rate was probably due to their high-stress environment. However, it has also been estimated that the age pyramids for Neanderthals and contemporary modern humans were the same. Infant mortality was estimated to have been very high for Neanderthals, about 43% in northern Eurasia.



Neanderthals had more
robustRobustness is the property of being strong and healthy in constitution. When it is transposed into a system, it refers to the ability of tolerating perturbations that might affect the system’s functional body. In the same line ''robustness'' can be ...
and stockier builds than modern humans, wider and barrel-shaped rib cages; wider pelvises; and proportionally shorter forearms and forelegs. Based on 45 Neanderthal long bones from 14 men and 7 women, the average height was for males and for females. For comparison, the average height of 28 males and 10 females Upper Palaeolithic humans is respectively and , although this decreases by nearer the end of the period based on 21 males and 15 females; and the average in the year 1900 was and , respectively. The fossil record shows adult Neanderthals varied from about in height, although some may have grown much taller. For Neanderthal weight, samples of 26 specimens found an average of for males and for females. Using , the body mass index for Neanderthal males was calculated to be 26.9–28.2, which in modern humans correlates to being overweight. This indicates a very robust build. The Neanderthal LEPR gene concerned with storing fat and thermogenesis, body heat production is similar to that of the woolly mammoth, and so was likely an adaptation for cold climate. The neck vertebrae of Neanderthals are longer and thicker than those of modern humans, lending to stability, possibly due to different head shape and size. Although the Neanderthal thorax (where the ribcage is) was similar in size to modern humans, the longer and straighter ribs would have equated to a widened mid-lower thorax and stronger breathing in the lower thorax, which are indicative of a larger Thoracic diaphragm, diaphragm and possibly greater lung capacity. The lung capacity of Kebara 2 was estimated to have been . The Neanderthal chest was also more pronounced (expanded front-to-back, or antero-posteriorly). The sacrum (where the pelvis connects to the vertebral column, spine) was more vertically inclined, and was placed lower in relation to the pelvis, causing the spine to be less curved (exhibit less lordosis) and to fold in on itself somewhat (to be invaginated). Such modifications to the spine would have enhanced side-to-side (mediolateral) flexion, better supporting the wider lower thorax. This condition may be normal for ''Homo'', with the condition of a narrower thorax in modern humans being a unique characteristic. Body proportions are usually cited as being "hyperarctic" as adaptations to the cold, because they are similar to those of human populations which developed in cold climates—the Neanderthal build is most similar to that of Inuit and Siberian Yupiks among modern humans—and shorter limbs equates to higher retention of body heat. Nonetheless, Neanderthals from more temperate climates—such as Iberia—still retain the "hyperarctic" physique. In 2019, English anthropologist John Stewart and colleagues suggested Neanderthals instead were adapted for sprinting because of evidence of Neanderthals preferring more warmer wooded areas over the colder mammoth steppe, and DNA analysis indicating a higher proportion of skeletal muscle#Physics, fast-twitch muscle fibres in Neanderthals than modern humans. He explained their body proportions and greater muscle mass as adaptations to sprinting as opposed to the endurance running hypothesis, endurance-oriented modern human physique, as persistence hunting may only be effective in hot climates where the hunter can run prey to the point of heat exhaustion (hyperthermia). They had longer heel bones, reducing their ability for endurance running, and their shorter limbs would have reduced moment arm at the limbs, allowing for greater rotational force at the wrists and ankles without extra exertion of the rotating muscles at the elbows and knees by increasing the speed at which the muscles contracted, causing faster acceleration. In 1981, American palaeoanthropologist Erik Trinkaus made note of this alternate explanation, but considered it less likely.


Neanderthals had a reduced chin, sloping forehead, and large nose, which also started somewhat higher on the face than in modern humans. The Neanderthal skull is typically more elongated and less globular than that of modern humans, and features an occipital bun, or "chignon", a protrusion on the back of the skull, although it is within the range of variation for humans who have it. It is caused by the cranial base and temporal bones being placed higher and more towards the front of the skull, and a flatter calvaria (skull), skullcap. They also had larger eyes likely to adapt to the low-light environment. The large Neanderthal nose and paranasal sinuses have generally been explained as having warmed air as it entered the lungs and retained moisture ("nasal radiator" hypothesis); but sinuses are generally reduced in cold-adapted creatures, and it may have been that the large nose was caused instead by
genetic drift Genetic drift (allelic drift or the Sewall Wright effect) is the change in the frequency of an existing gene In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical stru ...

genetic drift
. Also, the sinuses are not grossly large, and are comparable in size to those of modern humans. However, sinus size is not an important factor for breathing cold air, and their actual function is unclear, so they may not be a good indicator of evolutionary pressures to evolve such a nose. Further, a computer reconstruction of the Neanderthal nose and predicted soft tissue patterns shows some similarities to those of modern Arctic peoples, potentially meaning the noses of both populations convergently evolved for breathing cold, dry air. Neanderthals featured a protrusion of the jaw (prognathism), which was once cited as a response to a large bite force evidenced by heavy wearing of Neanderthal front teeth (the "anterior dental loading" hypothesis), but similar wearing trends are seen in contemporary humans. It could also have evolved to fit larger teeth in the jaw, which would better resist wear and abrasion, and the increased wear on the front teeth compared to the back teeth probably stems from repetitive use. Neanderthal dental wear patterns are most similar to those of modern Inuit. The incisors are large and shovel-shaped, and, compared to modern humans, there was an unusually high frequency of taurodontism, a condition where the molar tooth, molars are bulkier due to an enlarged pulp (tooth), pulp (tooth core). Taurodontism was once thought to have been a distinguishing characteristic of Neanderthals which lent some mechanical advantage or stemmed from repetitive use, but was more likely simply a product of genetic drift. The bite force of Neanderthals and modern humans is now thought to be about the same, about and in modern human males and females, respectively.


The Neanderthal braincase averages for males and for females, within the possible range of modern humans, which is, on average, for males and for females in present-day. For 28 modern human specimens from 190 to 25 thousand years ago, the average was about disregarding sex, and modern human brain size is suggested to have decreased since the Upper Palaeolithic. The largest Neanderthal brain, Amud 1, was calculated to be , one of the largest ever recorded in hominids. Both Neanderthal and human infants measure about . In Neanderthals, the occipital lobe—operating vision—was much larger than in modern humans, and, similarly, they had larger eyes, probably as an adaptation to lower light conditions in Europe. More brain tissue was devoted to bodily maintenance and control, and, consequently, the cognitive areas of the brain were proportionally smaller than in modern humans, including the cerebellum (operating muscle memory, and possibly language, attention, working memory, social abilities, and thought), the parietal lobes (visuospatial function and episodic memory), the temporal lobes (language comprehension and associations with emotions), the orbitofrontal cortex (decision making), and the olfactory bulb (sense of smell).

Hair and skin colour

The lack of sunlight most likely led to the proliferation of lighter skin in Neanderthals, although light skin in modern Europeans was not particularly prolific until perhaps the Bronze Age. Genetically, BNC2 was present in Neanderthals, which is associated with light skin colour; however, a second variation of BNC2 was also present, which is associated with darker skin colour in the UK Biobank. It is likely Neanderthal skin colour varied from region to region. The DNA of three Croatian Neanderthals shows they had darker hair, skin, and eye colour than modern Europeans. In modern humans, skin and hair colour is regulated by the melanocyte-stimulating hormone—which increases the proportion of eumelanin (black pigment) to phaeomelanin (red pigment)—which is encoded by the MC1R gene. There are 5 known variants in modern humans of the gene which cause loss-of-function and are associated with light skin and hair colour, and another unknown variant in Neanderthals (the R307G variant) which could be associated with pale skin and red hair. The R307G variant was identified in a Neanderthal from Valpolicella, Monti Lessini, Italy, and possibly Cueva del Sidrón, Spain. However, as in modern humans, red was probably not a very common hair colour because the variant is not present in many other sequenced Neanderthals.


Maximum natural lifespan and the timing of adulthood, menopause, and gestation were most likely very similar to modern humans. However, it has been hypothesised that Neanderthals matured faster than modern humans based on the growth rates of teeth and tooth enamel, although this is not backed up by age biomarkers. The main differences in maturation are the atlas (anatomy), atlas bone in the neck as well as the middle thoracic vertebrae fused about 2 years later in Neanderthals than in modern humans, but this was more likely caused by a difference in anatomy rather than growth rate. Generally, models on Neanderthal calorie, caloric requirements report significantly higher intakes than those of modern humans because they typically assume Neanderthals had higher basal metabolic rates (BMRs) due to higher muscle mass, faster growth rate, and greater body heat production against the cold; and higher daily physical activity levels (PALs) due to greater daily travelling distances while foraging. However, using a high BMR and PAL, American archaeologist Bryan Hockett estimated that a pregnant Neanderthal would have consumed 5,500 calories per day, which would have necessitated a heavy reliance on big game meat; such a diet would have caused numerous deficiencies or nutrient poisonings, so he concluded that these are unfair assumptions to make. Neanderthals may have been more active during dimmer light conditions rather than broad daylight because they lived in regions with reduced daytime hours, hunted large game (such predators typically hunt at night to enhance ambush tactics), and had large eyes and visual processing neural centres. Genetically, colour blindness (which may enhance mesopic vision) is typically correlated with northern-latitude populations, and the Neanderthals from Vindija Cave, Croatia, had some substitutions in the Opsin genes which could have influenced colour vision. However, the functional implications of these substitutions are inconclusive. Neanderthal-derived alleles near ASB1 and EXOC6 are associated with being an evening person, narcolepsy, and day-time napping.


Neanderthals suffered a high rate of traumatic injury, with an estimated 79–94% of specimens showing evidence of healed major trauma, of which 37–52% were severely injured, and 13–19% injured before reaching adulthood. One extreme example is Shanidar 1, who shows signs of an amputation of the right arm likely due to a nonunion after breaking a bone in adolescence, osteomyelitis (a bone infection) on the left clavicle, an abnormal gait, vision problems in the left eye, and possible hearing loss (perhaps swimmer's ear). In 1995, Trinkaus estimated that about 80% succumbed to their injuries and died before reaching 40, and thus theorised that Neanderthals employed a risky hunting strategy ("rodeo rider" hypothesis). However, rates of cranial trauma are not significantly different between Neanderthals and Middle Palaeolithic modern humans (although Neanderthals seem to have had a higher mortality risk), there are few specimens of both Upper Palaeolithic modern humans and Neanderthals who died after the age of 40, and there are overall similar injury patterns between them. In 2012, Trinkaus concluded that Neanderthals instead injured themselves in the same way as contemporary humans, such as by interpersonal violence. A 2016 study looking at 124 Neanderthal specimens argued that high trauma rates were instead caused by animal attacks, and found that about 36% of the sample were victims of bear attacks, 21% big cat attacks, and 17% wolf attacks (totalling 92 positive cases, 74%). There were no cases of hyaena attacks, although hyaenas still nonetheless probably attacked Neanderthals, at least opportunistically. Such intense predation probably stemmed from common confrontations due to competition over food and cave space, and from Neanderthals hunting these carnivores. Low population caused a low genetic diversity and probably inbreeding, which reduced the population's ability to filter out harmful mutations (inbreeding depression). However, it is unknown how this affected a single Neanderthal's genetic burden and, thus, if this caused a higher rate of birth defects than in modern humans. It is known, however, that the 13 inhabitants of Sidrón Cave collectively exhibited 17 different birth defects likely due to inbreeding or genetic disorder, recessive disorders. Likely due to advanced age (60s or 70s), La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 had signs of Baastrup's disease, affecting the spine, and osteoarthritis. Shanidar 1, who likely died at about 30 or 40, was diagnosed with the most ancient case of diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH), a degenerative disease which can restrict movement, which, if correct, would indicate a moderately high incident rate for older Neanderthals. Neanderthals were likely subject to several infectious diseases and parasites. Modern humans likely transmitted diseases to them; one possible candidate is the stomach bacteria ''Helicobacter pylori''. The modern human papillomavirus infection, human papillomavirus variant 16A may descend from Neanderthal introgression. A Neanderthal at Cueva del Sidrón, Spain, shows evidence of a gastrointestinal ''Enterocytozoon bieneusi'' infection. The leg bones of the French La Ferrassie 1 feature lesions that are consistent with periostitis—inflammation of the tissue enveloping the bone—likely a result of hypertrophic osteoarthropathy, which is primarily caused by a chest infection or lung cancer. Neanderthals had a lower tooth decay, cavity rate than modern humans, despite some populations consuming typically cavity-causing foods in great quantity, which could indicate a lack of cavity-causing oral bacteria, namely ''Streptococcus mutans''. Two 250,000-year-old Neanderthal children from Payré, France, present the earliest known cases of lead exposure of any hominin. They were exposed on two distinct occasions either by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, or inhaling lead-laced smoke from a fire. There are two lead mines within of the site.


Social structure

Group dynamics

Neanderthals likely lived in more sparsely distributed groups than contemporary modern humans, but group size is thought to have averaged 10 to 30 individuals, similar to modern hunter-gatherers. Reliable evidence of Neanderthal group composition comes from Cueva del Sidrón, Spain, and the footprints at Le Rozel, France: the former shows 7 adults, 3 adolescents, 2 juveniles, and an infant; whereas the latter, based on footprint size, shows a group of 10 to 13 members where juveniles and adolescents made up 90%. A Neanderthal child's teeth analysed in 2018 showed it was weaned after 2.5 years, similar to modern hunter gatherers, and was born in the spring, which is consistent with modern humans and other mammals whose birth cycles coincide with environmental cycles. Indicated from various ailments resulting from high stress at a low age, such as stunted growth, British archaeologist Paul Pettitt hypothesised that children of both sexes were put to work directly after weaning; and Trinkaus said that, upon reaching adolescence, an individual may have been expected to join in hunting large and dangerous game. However, the bone trauma is comparable to modern Inuit, which could suggest a similar childhood between Neanderthals and contemporary modern humans. Further, such stunting may have also resulted from harsh winters and bouts of low food resources. Sites showing evidence of no more than three individuals may have represented nuclear families or temporary camping sites for special task groups (such as a hunting party). Bands likely moved between certain caves depending on the season, indicated by remains of seasonal materials such as certain foods, and returned to the same locations generation after generation. Some sites may have been used for over 100 years. Cave bears may have greatly competed with Neanderthals for cave space, and there is a decline in cave bear populations starting 50,000 years ago onwards (although their extinction occurred well after Neanderthals had died out). Although Neanderthals are generally considered to have been cave dwellers, with 'home base' being a cave, open-air settlements near contemporaneously inhabited cave systems in the Levant could indicate mobility between cave and open-air bases in this area. Evidence for long-term open-air settlements is known from the 'Ein Qashish site in Israel, and Moldova I in Ukraine. Although Neanderthals appear to have had the ability to inhabit a range of environments—including plains and plateaux—open-air Neanderthals sites are generally interpreted as having been used as slaughtering and butchering grounds rather than living spaces.

Inter-group relations

Canadian ethnoarchaeology, ethnoarchaeologist Brian Hayden calculated a self-sustaining population that avoids inbreeding to consist of about 450–500 individuals, which would necessitate these bands to interact with 8–53 other bands, but more likely the more conservative estimate given low population density. Analysis of the mtDNA of the Neanderthals of Cueva del Sidrón, Spain, showed that the three adult men belonged to the same maternal lineage, while the three adult women belonged to different ones. This suggests a patrilocal residence (that a woman moved out of her group to live with her husband). However, the DNA of a Neanderthal from Denisova Cave, Russia, shows that she had an inbreeding coefficient of (her parents were either half-siblings with a common mother, double first cousins, an uncle and niece or aunt and nephew, or a grandfather and granddaughter or grandmother and grandson) and the inhabitants of Cueva del Sidrón show several defects, which may have been caused by inbreeding or recessive disorders. Considering most Neanderthal artefacts were sourced no more than from the main settlement, Hayden considered it unlikely these bands interacted very often, and mapping of the Neanderthal brain and their small group size and population density could indicate that they had a reduced ability for inter-group interaction and trade. However, a few Neanderthal artefacts in a settlement could have originated 20, 30, 100, and 300 km (12.5, 18.5, 60, and 185 mi) away. Based on this, Hayden also speculated that macro-bands formed which functioned much like those of the low-density hunter-gatherer societies of the Western Desert cultural bloc, Western Desert of Australia. Macro-bands collectively encompass , with each band claiming , maintaining strong alliances for mating networks or to cope with leaner times and enemies. Similarly, British anthropologist Eiluned Pearce and Cypriot archaeologist Theodora Moutsiou speculated that Neanderthals were possibly capable of forming geographically expansive ethnolinguistic group, ethnolinguistic tribes encompassing upwards of 800 people, based on the transport of obsidian up to from the source compared to trends seen in obsidian transfer distance and tribe size in modern hunter-gatherers. However, likely due to a significantly lower population, their model also reported that Neanderthals would not have been as efficient at maintaining long-distance networks as contemporary humans. Hayden noted an apparent cemetery of six or seven individuals at La Ferrassie, France, which, in modern humans, is typically used as evidence of a corporate group (sociology), corporate group which maintained a distinct social identity and controlled some resource, trading, manufacturing, and so on. La Ferrassie is also located in one of the richest animal-migration routes of Pleistocene Europe. Genetic analysis indicates there were at least 3 distinct geographical groups—Western Europe, the Mediterranean coast, and east of the Caucasus—with some migration among these regions. Post-Eemian Western European
Mousterian The Mousterian (or Mode III) is a techno-complex (archaeological industry) of stone tools A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool A tool is an object that can extend an individual's ability to modify features of the surroundin ...

lithic technology, lithics can also be broadly grouped into 3 distinct macro-regions: Acheulean-tradition Mousterian in the southwest, Micoquien in the northeast, and Mousterian with bifacial tools (MBT) in between the former two. MBT may actually represent the interactions and fusion of the two different cultures. Southern Neanderthals exhibit regional anatomical differences from northern counterparts: a less protrusive jaw, a shorter gap behind the molars, and a vertically higher jawbone. These all instead suggest Neanderthal communities regularly interacted with neighbouring communities within a region, but not as often beyond. Nonetheless, over long periods of time, there is evidence of large-scale cross-continental migration. Early specimens from Mezmaiskaya Cave in the Caucasus and Denisova Cave in the Siberian Altai Mountains differ genetically from those found in Western Europe, whereas later specimens from these caves both have genetic profiles more similar to Western European Neanderthal specimens than to the earlier specimens from the same locations, suggesting long-range migration and population replacement over time. Similarly, artefacts and DNA from Chagyrskaya Cave, Chagyrskaya and Okladnikov Cave, Okladnikov Caves, also in the Altai Mountains, resemble those of eastern European Neanderthal sites about away more than they do artefacts and DNA of the older Neanderthals from Denisova Cave, suggesting two distinct migration events into Siberia. Neanderthals seem to have suffered a major population decline during MIS 4 (71–57 thousand years ago), and the distribution of the Micoquian tradition could indicate that Central Europe and the Caucasus were repopulated by communities from a refuge zone either in eastern France or Hungary (the fringes of the Micoquian tradition) who dispersed along the rivers Prut and Dniester. There is also evidence of inter-group conflict: a skeleton from La Roche à Pierrot, France, showing a healed fracture on top of the skull apparently caused by a deep blade wound, and another from Shanadir Cave, Iraq, found to have a rib lesion characteristic of projectile weapon injuries.

Social hierarchy

It is sometimes suggested, since they were hunters of challenging big game and lived in small groups, there was no sexual division of labour as seen in modern hunter-gatherer societies. That is, men, women, and children all had to be involved in hunting, instead of men hunting with women and children foraging. However, with modern hunter-gatherers, the higher the meat dependency, the higher the division of labour. Further, tooth-wearing patterns in Neanderthal men and women suggest they commonly used their teeth for carrying items, but men exhibit more wearing on the upper teeth, and women the lower, suggesting some cultural differences in tasks. It is controversially proposed that some Neanderthals wore decorative clothing or jewellery—such as a leopard skin or raptor (bird), raptor feathers—to display elevated status in the group. Hayden postulated that the small number of Neanderthal graves found was because only high-ranking members would receive an elaborate burial, as is the case for some modern hunter-gatherers. Trinkaus suggested that elderly Neanderthals were given special burial rites for lasting so long given the high mortality rates. Alternatively, many more Neanderthals may have received burials, but the graves were infiltrated and destroyed by bears. Given that 20 graves of Neanderthals aged under 4 have been found—over a third of all known graves—deceased children may have received greater care during burial than other age demographics. Looking at Neanderthal skeletons recovered from several natural rock shelters, Trinkaus said that, although Neanderthals were recorded as bearing several trauma-related injuries, none of them had significant trauma to the legs that would debilitate movement. He suggested that self worth in Neanderthal culture derived from contributing food to the group; a debilitating injury would remove this self-worth and result in near-immediate death, and individuals who could not keep up with the group while moving from cave to cave were left behind. However, there are examples of individuals with highly debilitating injuries being nursed for several years, and caring for the most vulnerable within the community dates even further back to ''H. heidelbergensis''. Especially given the high trauma rates, it is possible that such an altruistic strategy ensured their survival as a species for so long.


Hunting and gathering

Neanderthals were once thought of as scavengers, but are now considered to have been
apex predator The great white shark (bottom) was originally considered the apex predator of the ocean; however, the killer whale (top) has proven to be a predator of the shark. An apex predator, also known as an alpha predator or top predator, is a predator ...
s. In 1980, it was hypothesised that two piles of mammoth skulls at La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey, at the base of a gulley were evidence of mammoth game drive system, drive hunting (causing them to stampede off a ledge), but this is contested. Living in a forested environment, Neanderthals were likely ambush hunters, getting close to and attacking their target—a prime adult—in a short burst of speed, thrusting in a spear at close quarters. Younger or wounded animals may have been hunted using traps, projectiles, or pursuit. Nonetheless, they were able to adapt to a variety of habitats. They appear to have eaten predominantly what was abundant within their immediate surroundings, with steppe-dwelling communities (generally outside of the Mediterranean) subsisting almost entirely on meat from large game, forest-dwelling communities consuming a wide array of plants and smaller animals, and waterside communities gathering aquatic resources. Contemporary humans, in contrast, seem to have used more complex food extraction strategies and generally had a more diverse diet. Nonetheless, Neanderthals still would have had to have eaten a varied enough diet to prevent nutrient deficiencies and protein poisoning, especially in the winter when they presumably ate mostly lean meat. Any food with high contents of other essential nutrients not provided by lean meat would have been vital components of their diet, such as fat-rich brains, carbohydrate-rich and abundant underground storage organs (including roots and tubers), or, like modern Inuit, the stomach contents of herbivorous prey items. For meat, they appear to have fed predominantly on ungulate, hoofed mammals, namely red deer and reindeer as these two were the most abundant game, but also on other Pleistocene megafauna such as Capra (genus), ibex, wild boar, aurochs, mammoth, straight-tusked elephant, woolly rhinoceros, and so on. There is evidence of directed cave and brown bear, brown bear hunting both in and out of hibernation, as well as butchering. Analysis of Neanderthal bone collagen from Vindija Cave, Croatia, shows nearly all of their protein needs derived from animal meat. Some caves show evidence of regular rabbit and tortoise consumption. At Gibraltar sites, there are remains of 143 different bird species, many ground-dwelling such as the common quail, corn crake, woodlark, and crested lark. Neanderthals also exploited marine resources on the Iberian, Italian, and Peloponnese, Peloponnesian Peninsulas, where they waded or dived for shellfish, as early as 150,000 years ago at Cueva Bajondillo, Spain, similar to the fishing record of modern humans. At Vanguard Cave, Gibraltar, the inhabitants consumed Mediterranean monk seal, short-beaked common dolphin, common bottlenose dolphin, Atlantic bluefin tuna, Diplodus, sea bream, and Paracentrotus lividus, purple sea urchin; and at Nature Park of Arrábida, Gruta da Figueira Brava, Portugal, there is evidence of large-scale harvest of shellfish, crabs, and fish. Evidence of freshwater fishing was found in Castelcivita Cave, Grotte di Castelcivita, Italy, for trout, chub, and eel; Abri du Maras, France, for chub and European perch; Payré, France; and Kudaro Cave, Russia, for Black Sea salmon. Edible plant and mushroom remains are recorded from several caves. Neanderthals from Cueva del Sidrón, Spain, based on dental tartar, likely had a meatless diet of mushrooms, pine nuts, and moss, indicating they were forest foragers. Remnants from Amud Cave, Israel, indicates a diet of figs, palm tree fruits, and various cereals and edible grasses. Several bone traumas in the leg joints could possibly suggest habitual squatting, which, if the case, was likely done while gathering food. Dental Calculus (dental), tartar from Spy Cave, Grotte de Spy, Belgium, indicates the inhabitants had a meat-heavy diet including woolly rhinoceros and mouflon sheep, while also regularly consuming mushrooms. Neanderthal faecal matter from El Salt, Spain, dated to 50,000 years ago—the oldest human faecal matter remains recorded—show a diet mainly of meat but with a significant component of plants. Evidence of cooked plant foods—mainly legumes and, to a far lesser extent, acorns—was discovered in Kebara Cave, Israel, with its inhabitants possibly gathering plants in spring and fall and hunting in all seasons except fall, although the cave was probably abandoned in late summer to early fall. At Shanidar Cave, Iraq, Neanderthals collected plants with various harvest seasons, indicating they scheduled returns to the area to harvest certain plants, and that they had complex food-gathering behaviours for both meat and plants.

Food preparation

Neanderthals probably could employ a wide range of cooking techniques, such as
roasting Roasting is a cooking method that uses dry heat where hot air covers the food, cooking it evenly on all sides with temperatures of at least from an open flame, oven, or other heat source. Roasting can enhance the flavor through caramelizatio ...
, and they may have been able to heat up or boil soup, stew, or animal Stock (food), stock. The abundance of animal bone fragments at settlements may indicate the making of fat stocks from boiling bone marrow, possibly taken from animals that had already died of starvation. These methods would have substantially increased fat consumption, which was a major nutritional requirement of communities with low carbohydrate and high protein intake. Neanderthal tooth size had a decreasing trend after 100,000 years ago, which could indicate an increased dependence on cooking or the advent of boiling, a technique that would have softened food. At Cueva del Sidrón, Spain, Neanderthals likely cooked and possibly smoking (cooking), smoked food, as well as used certain plants—such as yarrow and camomile—as flavouring, although these plants may have instead been used for their medicinal properties. At Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar, Neanderthals may have been roasting pinecones to access pine nuts. At Grotte du Lazaret, France, a total of 23 red deer, 6 ibexes, 3 aurochs, and 1 roe deer appear to have been hunted in a single autumn hunting season, when strong male and female deer herds would group together for rut (mammalian reproduction), rut. The entire carcasses seem to have been transported to the cave and then butchered. Because this is such a large amount of food to consume before spoilage, it is possible these Neanderthals were curing (food preservation), curing and preserving it before winter set in. At 160,000 years old, it is the oldest potential evidence of food storage. The great quantities of meat and fat which could have been gathered in general from typical prey items (namely mammoths) could also indicate food storage capability. With shellfish, Neanderthals needed to eat, cook, or in some manner preserve them soon after collection, as shellfish spoils very quickly. At Cave of Los Aviones, Cueva de los Aviones, Spain, the remains of edible, algae eater, algae eating shellfish associated with the alga ''Jania rubens'' could indicate that, like some modern hunter gatherer societies, harvested shellfish were held in water-soaked algae to keep them alive and fresh until consumption.


Competition from large Ice Age predators was rather high. Panthera spelaea, Cave lions likely targeted horses, large deer and wild cattle; and Panthera pardus spelaea, leopards primarily reindeer and roe deer; which heavily overlapped with Neanderthal diet. To defend a kill against such ferocious predators, Neanderthals may have engaged in a group display of yelling, arm waving, or stone throwing; or quickly gathered meat and abandoned the kill. However, at Grotte de Spy, Belgium, the remains of wolves, cave lions, and cave bears—which were all major predators of the time—indicate Neanderthals hunted their competitors to some extent. Neanderthals and cave hyaenas may have exemplified niche differentiation, and actively avoided interspecific competition, competing with each other. Although they both mainly targeted the same groups of creatures—deer, horses, and cattle—Neanderthals mainly hunted the former and cave hyaenas the latter two. Further, animal remains from Neanderthal caves indicate they preferred to hunt prime individuals, whereas cave hyaenas hunted weaker or younger prey, and cave hyaena caves have a higher abundance of carnivore remains. Nonetheless, there is evidence that cave hyaenas stole food and leftovers from Neanderthal campsites and scavenged on dead Neanderthal bodies.


There are several instances of Neanderthals practising human cannibalism, cannibalism across their range. The first example came from Krapina Neanderthal site, Krapina, Croatia, in 1899, and other examples were found at Cueva del Sidrón and Zafarraya in Spain; and the French Moula-Guercy Cave, Grotte de Moula-Guercy, Les Pradelles, and La Quina. For the five cannibalised Neanderthals at the Goyet Caves, Grottes de Goyet, Belgium, there is evidence that the upper limbs were disarticulated, the lower limbs excarnation, defleshed and also smashed (likely to extract bone marrow), the chest cavity disemboweled, and the jaw dismembered. There is also evidence that the butchers used some bones to retouch (lithics), retouch their tools. The processing of Neanderthal meat at Grottes de Goyet is similar to how they processed horse and reindeer. About 35% of the Neanderthals at Marillac-le-Franc, France, show clear signs of butchery, and the presence of digested teeth indicates that the bodies were abandoned and eaten by scavengers, likely hyaenas. These cannibalistic tendencies have been explained as either ritual defleshing, pre-burial defleshing (to prevent scavengers or foul smell), an act of war, or simply for food. Due to a small number of cases, and the higher number of cut marks seen on cannibalised individuals than animals (indicating inexperience), cannibalism was probably not a very common practice, and it may have only been done in times of extreme food shortages as in some List of incidents of cannibalism, cases in recorded human history.


Personal adornment

Neanderthal are known to have used ochre, a clay earth pigment. Ochre is well-documented from 60 to 45 thousand years ago in Neanderthal sites, with the earliest example dating to 250–200 thousand years ago from Maastricht-Belvédère, the Netherlands (a similar timespan to the ochre record of ''H. sapiens''). It has been hypothesised to have functioned as body paint, and analyses of pigments from Pech de l’Azé, France, indicates they were applied to soft materials (such as a hide or human skin). However, modern hunter gatherers, in addition to body paint, also use ochre for medicine, for tanning hides, as a food preservative, and as an insect repellent, so its use as decorative paint for Neanderthals is speculative. Containers apparently used for mixing ochre pigments were found in Cioarei Cave, Peștera Cioarei, Romania, which could indicate modification of ochre for solely aesthetic purposes. Neanderthals are known to have collected uniquely shaped objects and are suggested to have modified them into pendants, such as a fossil ''Aspa marginata'' sea snail shell possibly painted red from Grotta di Fumane, Italy, transported over to the site about 47,500 years ago; 3 shells, dated to about 120–115 thousand years ago, perforated through the umbo (bivalve), umbo belonging to a Acanthocardia tuberculata, rough cockle, a ''Glycymeris insubrica'', and a ''Spondylus gaederopus'' from Cueva de los Aviones, Spain, the former two associated with red and yellow pigments, and the latter a red-to-black mix of hematite and pyrite; and a Pecten maximus, king scallop shell with traces of an orange mix of goethite and hematite from Cueva Antón, Spain. The discoverers of the latter two claim that pigment was applied to the exterior to make it match the naturally vibrant inside colouration. Excavated from 1949 to 1963 from the French Grotte du Renne, Châtelperronian beads made from animal teeth, shells, and ivory were found associated with Neanderthal bones, but the dating is uncertain and Châtelperronian artefacts may actually have been crafted by modern humans and simply redeposited with Neanderthal remains. Most notably by Gibraltarian palaeoanthropologists Clive Finlayson, Clive and Geraldine Finlayson, Neanderthals are suggested to have used various bird parts as artistic mediums, specifically black feathers. In 2012, the Finlaysons and colleagues examined 1,699 sites across Eurasia, and argued that Raptor (bird), raptors and corvids, species not typically consumed by any human species, were overrepresented and show processing of only the wing bones instead of the fleshier torso, and thus are evidence of feather plucking of specifically the large flight feathers for use as personal adornment. They specifically noted the cinereous vulture, red-billed chough, kestrel, lesser kestrel, alpine chough, rook (bird), rook, jackdaw, and the white tailed eagle in Middle Palaeolithic sites. Other birds claimed to present evidence of modifications by Neanderthals are the golden eagle, rock pigeon, common raven, and the bearded vulture. The earliest claim of bird bone jewellery is a number of 130,000 year old white tailed eagle talons found in a cache near Krapina, Croatia, speculated, in 2015, to have been a necklace. A similar 39,000-year-old Spanish imperial eagle talon necklace was reported in 2019 at Cova Foradà in Spain, though from the contentious Châtelperronian layer. In 2017, 17 incision-decorated raven bones from the Zaskalnaya VI rock shelter, Ukraine, dated to 43–38 thousand years ago were reported. Because the notches are more-or-less equidistant to each other, they are the first modified bird bones that cannot be explained by simple butchery, and for which the argument of design intent is based on direct evidence. Discovered in 1975, the so-called Mask of la Roche-Cotard, a mostly flat piece of flint with a bone pushed through a hole on the midsection—dated to 32, 40, or 75 thousand years ago—has been purported to resemble the upper half of a face, with the bone representing eyes. It is contested whether it represents a face, or if it even counts as art. In 1988, American archaeologist Alexander Marshack speculated that a Neanderthal at Grotte de L'Hortus, France, wore a leopard pelt as personal adornment to indicate elevated status in the group based on a recovered leopard skull, phalanges, and tail vertebrae.


As of 2014, 63 purported engravings have been reported from 27 different European and Middle Eastern Lower-to-Middle Palaeolithic sites, of which 20 are on flint cortexes from 11 sites, 7 are on slabs from 7 sites, and 36 are on pebbles from 13 sites. It is debated whether or not these were made with symbolic intent. In 2012, Gorham's Cave#Scratched floor, deep scratches on the floor of Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar, were discovered, dated to older than 39,000 years ago, which the discoverers have interpreted as Neanderthal abstract art. The scratches could have also been produced by a bear. In 2021, an Irish elk phalanx with five engraved offset Chevron (insignia), chevrons stacked above each other was discovered at the entrance to the Einhornhöhle, Einhornhöhle cave in Germany, dating to about 51,000 years ago. In 2018, some red-painted dots, disks, lines, and hand stencils on the cave walls of the Spanish La Pasiega, Maltravieso, and Doña Trinidad were dated to be older than 66,000 years ago, at least 20,000 years prior to the arrival of modern humans in Western Europe. This would indicate Neanderthal authorship, and similar iconography recorded in other Western European sites—such as Vallée des merveilles, Les Merveilles, France, and Cave of El Castillo, Cueva del Castillo, Spain—could potentially also have Neanderthal origins. However, the dating of these Spanish caves, and thus attribution to Neanderthals, is contested. Neanderthals are known to have collected a variety of unusual objects—such as crystals or fossils—without any real functional purpose or any indication of damage caused by use. It is unclear if these objects were simply picked up for their aesthetic qualities, or if some symbolic significance was applied to them. These items are mainly quartz crystals, but also other minerals such as cerussite, iron pyrite, calcite, and galena. A few findings feature modifications, such as a mammoth tooth with an incision and a fossil nummulite shell with a cross etched in from Tata, Hungary; a large slab with 18 cupstones hollowed out from a grave in La Ferrassie, France; and a geode from Peștera Cioarei, Romania, coated with red ochre. A number of fossil shells are also known from French Neanderthals sites, such as a rhynchonellid and a ''Taraebratulina'' from Combe Grenal; a belemnite beak from Grottes des Canalettes; a polyp (zoology), polyp from Grotte de l'Hyène; a sea urchin from La Gonterie-Boulouneix; and a rhynchonella, feather star, and belemnite beak from the contentious Châtelperronian layer of Grotte du Renne.


Purported Neanderthal bone flute fragments made of bear long bones were reported from Potok Cave, Potočka zijalka, Slovenia, in the 1920s, and Istállós-kő, Istállós-kői-barlang, Hungary, and Mokriška jama, Slovenia, in 1985; but these are now attributed to modern human activities. The 1995 43 thousand year old
Divje Babe Flute#REDIRECT Divje Babe flute The Divje Babe Flute is a cave bear femur pierced by spaced holes that was found in 1995 at the Divje Babe archaeology, archeological park located near Cerkno in northwestern Slovenia. It has been suggested that it was made ...

Divje Babe Flute
from Slovenia has been attributed by some researchers to Neanderthals, and Canadian musicologist Robert Fink said the original flute had either a diatonic scale, diatonic or pentatonic scale, pentatonic musical scale. However, the date also overlaps with modern human immigration into Europe, which means it is also possible it was not manufactured by Neanderthals. In 2015, zoologist Cajus Diedrich argued that it was not a flute at all, and the holes were made by a scavenging hyaena as there is a lack of cut marks stemming from whittling, but in 2018, Slovenian archaeologist Matija Turk and colleagues countered that it is highly unlikely the punctures were made by teeth, and cut marks are not always present on bone flutes.


Despite the apparent 150 thousand year stagnation in Neanderthal lithic innovation, there is evidence that Neanderthal technology was more sophisticated than was previously thought. However, the high frequency of potentially debilitating injuries could have prevented very complex technologies from emerging, as a major injury would have impeded an expert's ability to effectively teach a novice.

Stone tools

Neanderthals made stone tools, and are associated with the Mousterian industry. The Mousterian is also associated with North African ''H. sapiens'' as early as 315,000 years ago and was found in Northern China about 47–37 thousand years ago. It evolved around 300,000 years ago with the Levallois technique which developed directly from the preceding Acheulean industry (invented by ''H. erectus'' about 1.8 mya). Levallois made it easier to control flake shape and size, and as a difficult-to-learn and unintuitive process, the Levallois technique may have been directly taught generation to generation rather than via purely observational learning. There are distinct regional variants of the Mousterian industry, such as: the Quina Mousterian, Quina and La Ferrassie subtypes of the Charentian industry in southwestern France, Acheulean-tradition Mousterian subtypes A and B along the Atlantic and northwestern European coasts, the Micoquien industry of Central and Eastern Europe and the related Sibiryachikha variant in the Siberian Altai Mountains, the Denticulate tool, Denticulate Mousterian industry in Western Europe, the racloir industry around the Zagros Mountains, and the cleaver (tool), flake cleaver industry of Cantabria, Spain, and both sides of the Pyrenees. In the mid-20th century, French archaeologist François Bordes debated against American archaeologist Lewis Binford to explain this diversity (the "Bordes–Binford debate"), with Bordes arguing that these represent unique ethnic traditions and Binford that they were caused by varying environments (essentially, form vs. function). The latter sentiment would indicate a lower degree of inventiveness compared to modern humans, adapting the same tools to different environments rather than creating new technologies. A continuous sequence of occupation is well-documented in Grotte du Renne, France, where the lithic tradition can be divided into the Levallois–Charentian, Discoid–Denticulate (43.3±0.929–40.9±0.719 thousand years ago), Levallois Mousterian (40.2±1.5–38.4±1.3 thousand years ago), and Châtelperronian (40.93±0.393–33.67±0.450 thousand years ago). There is some debate if Neanderthals had long-ranged weapons. A wound on the neck of an African wild ass from Umm el Tlel, Syria, was likely inflicted by a heavy Levallois-point javelin, and bone trauma consistent with habitual throwing has been reported in Neanderthals. Some spear tips from Abri du Maras, France, may have been too fragile to have been used as thrusting spears, possibly suggesting their use as dart (missile), darts.

Organic tools

The Châtelperronian in central France and northern Spain is a distinct industry from the Mousterian, and is controversially hypothesised to represent a culture of Neanderthals borrowing (or by process of acculturation) tool-making techniques from immigrating modern humans, crafting bone tools and ornaments. In this frame, the makers would have been a transitional culture between the Neanderthal Mousterian and the modern human Aurignacian. The opposing viewpoint is that the Châtelperronian was manufactured by modern humans instead. Abrupt transitions similar to the Mousterian/Châtelperronian could also simply represent natural innovation, like the Quina–Neronian industry, Neronian transition 50,000 years ago featuring technologies generally associated with modern humans such as blade (archaeology), bladelets and microliths. Other ambiguous transitional cultures include the Italian Uluzzian industry, and the Balkan Szeletian industry. Before immigration, the only evidence of Neanderthal bone tools are animal rib lissoirs — which are rubbed against hide to make it more supple or waterproof — although this could also be evidence for modern humans immigrating earlier than expected. In 2013, two 51.4–41.1 thousand year old deer rib lissoirs were reported from Pech-de-l’Azé and the nearby Abri Peyrony in France. In 2020, 5 more lissoirs made of aurochs or bison ribs were reported from Abri Peyrony, with one dating to about 51,400 years ago and the other four to 47.7–41.1 thousand years ago. This indicates the technology was in use in this region for a long time. Since reindeer remains were the most abundant, the use of less abundant bovine ribs may indicate a specific preference for bovine ribs. Potential lissoirs have also been reported from Geissenklösterle, Grosse Grotte, Germany (made of mammoth), and Grottes des Canalettes, France (red deer). The Neanderthals in 10 coastal sites in Italy (namely Grotta del Cavallo and Grotta dei Moscerini) and Kalamakia Cave, Greece, are known to have crafted scrapers using smooth clam shells, and possibly hafted them to a wooden handle. They probably chose this clam species because it has the most durable shell. At Grotta dei Moscerini, about 24% of the shells were gathered alive from the seafloor, meaning these Neanderthals had to wade or dive into shallow waters to collect them. At Grotta di Santa Lucia, Italy, in the Campanian volcanic arc, Neanderthals collected the porous volcanic pumice, which, for contemporary humans, was probably used for polishing points and needles. The pumices are associated with shell tools. At Abri du Maras, France, twisted fibres and a 3-ply inner-bark-fibre cord fragment associated with Neanderthals show that they produced string and cordage, but it is unclear how widespread this technology was because the materials used to make them (such as animal hair, hide, sinew, or plant fibres) are biodegradable and preserve very poorly. This technology could indicate at least a basic knowledge of weaving and knotting, which would have made possible the production of nets, containers, packaging, baskets, carrying devices, ties, straps, harnesses, clothes, shoes, beds, bedding, mats, flooring, roofing, walls, and snares, and would have been important in hafting, fishing, and seafaring. Dating to 52–41 thousand years ago, the cord fragment is the oldest direct evidence of fibre technology, although 115,000-year-old perforated shell beads from Cueva Antón possibly strung together to make a necklace are the oldest indirect evidence. In 2020, British archaeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes expressed cautious support for the genuineness of the find, but pointed out that the string would have been so weak that it would have had limited functions. One possibility is as a thread for attaching or stringing small objects. The archaeological record shows that Neanderthals commonly used animal hide and birch bark, may have used them to make cooking containers, although this is based largely on circumstantial evidence, because neither fossilize well. It is possible the Neanderthals at Kebara Cave, Israel, used the shells of the spur-thighed tortoise as containers. At the Italian Poggetti Vecchi site, there is evidence they used fire to process boxwood branches to make digging sticks, a common implement in hunter-gatherer societies.

Fire and construction

Many Mousterian sites have evidence of fire, some for extended periods of time, though it is unclear if they were capable of starting fire or simply scavenged from naturally occurring wildfires. Indirect evidence of fire starting ability includes pyrite residue on a couple dozen bifaces from late Mousterian (c. 50,000 years ago) northwestern France (which could indicate they were used as percussion Fire striker, fire starters), and collection of manganese dioxide by late Neanderthals which can lower the combustion temperature of wood. They were also capable of zoning areas for specific activities, such as for knapping, butchering, hearths, and wood storage. Many Neanderthal sites lack evidence for such activity perhaps due to natural degradation of the area over tens of thousands of years, such as by bear infiltration after abandonment of the settlement. In a number of caves, evidence of
hearth A hearth is the place in a where a is or was traditionally kept for home heating and for , usually constituted by at least a horizontal hearthstone and often enclosed to varying degrees by any combination of , , , smoke hood, or . Hearths a ...

s has been detected. Neanderthals likely considered air circulation when making hearths as a lack of proper ventilation for a single hearth can render a cave uninhabitable in several minutes. Capellades, Abric Romaní rock shelter, Spain, indicates eight evenly spaced hearths lined up against the rock wall, likely used to stay warm while sleeping, with one person sleeping on either side of the fire. At Cueva de Bolomor, Spain, with hearths lined up against the wall, the smoke flowed upwards to the ceiling, and led to outside the cave. In Grotte du Lazaret, France, smoke was probably naturally ventilated during the winter as the interior cave temperature was greater than the outside temperature; likewise, the cave was likely only inhabited in the winter. In 1990, two 176,000 year old ring structures made of broken stalagmite pieces, several metres wide, were discovered in a large chamber more than from the entrance within Bruniquel Cave, Grotte de Bruniquel, France. One ring was with stalagmite pieces averaging in length, and the other with pieces averaging . There were also 4 other piles of stalagmite pieces for a total of or worth of stalagmite pieces. Evidence of the use of fire and burnt bones also suggest human activity. A team of Neanderthals was likely necessary to construct the structure, but the chamber's actual purpose is uncertain. Building complex structures so deep in a cave is unprecedented in the archaeological record, and indicates sophisticated lighting and construction technology, and great familiarity with subterranean environments. The 44,000 year old Moldova I open-air site, Ukraine, shows evidence of a ring-shaped dwelling made out of mammoth bones meant for long-term habitation by several Neanderthals, which would have taken a long time to build. It appears to have contained hearths, cooking areas, and a flint workshop, and there are traces of woodworking. Upper Palaeolithic modern humans in the Russian plains are thought to have also made housing structures out of mammoth bones.

Bark tar

Neanderthal produced the adhesive
birch bark tar Birch tar Tar is a dark brown or black viscous liquid of hydrocarbons and free carbon, obtained from a wide variety of organic materials through destructive distillation. Tar can be produced from coal Coal is a combustible black or ...
, perhaps using plant-based resins for hafting. It was long believed that birch bark tar required a complex recipe to be followed, and that it thus showed complex cognitive skills and cultural transmission. However, a 2019 study showed it can be made simply by burning birch bark on smooth vertical surfaces, such as a flat, inclined rock.


Neanderthals were likely able to survive in a similar range of temperatures as modern humans while sleeping: about while naked in the open and windspeed , or while naked in an enclosed space. Since ambient temperatures were markedly lower than this—averaging during the Eemian interglacial in July and in January and dropping to as a low as on the coldest days—Danish physicist Bent Sørensen (physicist), Bent Sørensen hypothesised that Neanderthals required tailored clothing capable of preventing airflow to the skin. Especially during extended periods of travelling (such as a hunting trip), tailored footwear completely enwrapping the feet may have been necessary. Nonetheless, as opposed to the bone sewing-needles and stitching awls assumed to have been in use by contemporary modern humans, the only known Neanderthal tools that could have been used to fashion clothes are hide scraper (archaeology), scrapers, which could have made items similar to blankets or ponchos, and there is no direct evidence they could produce fitted clothes. Indirect evidence of tailoring by Neanderthals includes the ability to manufacture string, which could indicate weaving ability, and a naturally-pointed horse metatarsal bone from Cueva de los Aviones, Spain, which was speculated to have been used as an awl, perforating dyed hides, based on the presence of orange pigments. Whatever the case, Neanderthals would have needed to cover up most of their body, and contemporary humans would have covered 80–90%. Since human/Neanderthal admixture is known to have occurred in the Middle East, and no modern body louse species descends from their Neanderthal counterparts (body lice only inhabit clothed individuals), it is possible Neanderthals (and/or humans) in hotter climates did not wear clothes, or Neanderthal lice were highly specialised.


Remains of Middle Palaeolithic stone tools on Greek islands indicate early seafaring by Neanderthals in the Ionian Sea possibly starting as far back as 200–150 thousand years ago. The oldest stone artefacts from Crete date to 130–107 thousand years ago, Cephalonia 125 thousand years ago, and Zakynthos 110–35 thousand years ago. The makers of these artefacts likely employed simple reed boats and made one-day crossings back and forth. Other Mediterranean islands with such remains include Sardinia, Melos, Alonnisos, and Naxos (although Naxos may have been connected to land), and it is possible they crossed the Strait of Gibraltar. If this interpretation is correct, Neanderthals' ability to engineer boats and navigate through open waters would speak to their advanced cognitive and technical skills.


Given their dangerous hunting and extensive skeletal evidence of healing, Neanderthals appear to have lived lives of frequent traumatic injury and recovery. Well-healed fractures on many bones indicate the setting of splint (medicine), splints. Individuals with severe head and rib traumas (which would have caused massive blood loss) indicate they had some manner of dressing major wounds, such as bandages made from animal skin. By-and-large, they appear to have avoided severe infections, indicating good long-term treatment of such wounds. Their knowledge of
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was comparable to that of contemporary humans. An individual at Cueva del Sidrón, Spain, seems to have been medicating a dental abscess using Populus, poplar—which contains medical uses of salicylic acid, salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin—and there were also traces of the antibiotic-producing ''Penicillium chrysogenum''. They may have also used yarrow and camomile, and their bitter taste—which should act as a deterrent as it could indicate poison—means it was likely a deliberate act. In Kebara Cave, Israel, plant remains which have historically been used for their medicinal properties were found, including the common grape vine, the pistachio tree, pistachios of the Persian turpentine tree, ervil seeds, and oak acorns.


The degree of language complexity is difficult to establish, but given that Neanderthals achieved some technical and cultural complexity, and interbred with humans, it is reasonable to assume they were at least fairly articulate, comparable to modern humans. A somewhat complex language—possibly using syntax—was likely necessary to survive in their harsh environment, with Neanderthals needing to communicate about topics such as locations, hunting and gathering, and tool-making techniques. The FOXP2 gene in modern humans is associated with speech and language development. FOXP2 was present in Neanderthals, but not the gene's modern human variant. Neurologically, Neanderthals had an expanded Broca's area—operating the formulation of sentences, and speech comprehension, but out of a group 48 genes believed to affect the neural substrate of language, 11 had different DNA methylation, methylation patterns between Neanderthals and modern humans. This could indicate a stronger ability in modern humans than in Neanderthals to express language. In 1971, cognitive scientist Philip Lieberman attempted to reconstruct the Neanderthal vocal tract and concluded that it was similar to that of a newborn and incapable of producing nasalization, nasal sounds, due to the large size of the mouth and thus no need for a descended larynx to fit the entire tongue inside the mouth. He claimed that they were anatomically unable to produce the sounds /a/, /i/, /u/, /ɔ/, /g/, and /k/ and thus lacked the capacity for articulate speech, though were still able to speak at a level higher than non-human primates. However, the lack of a descended larynx does not necessarily equate to a reduced vowel capacity. The 1983 discovery of a Neanderthal hyoid bone—used in speech production in humans—in Kebara 2 which is almost identical to that of humans suggests Neanderthals were capable of speech, and the ancestral Archaeological site of Atapuerca, Sima de los Huesos hominins had humanlike hyoid and ear bones, which could suggest the early evolution of the modern human vocal apparatus. However, the hyoid does not definitively provide insight into vocal tract anatomy. Subsequent studies reconstruct the Neanderthal vocal apparatus as comparable to that of modern humans, with a similar vocal repertoire. In 2015, Lieberman hypothesized that Neanderthals were capable of syntax, syntactical language, although nonetheless incapable of mastering any human dialect. It is debated if Behavioral modernity, behavioural modernity is a recent and uniquely modern human innovation, or if Neanderthals also possessed it.



Claims that Neanderthals held funerals for their dead with symbolic meaning are heavily contested and speculative. Although Neanderthals did bury their dead, at least occasionally—which may explain the abundance of fossil remains— it is not indicative of a religious belief of life after death, as such burial could have also had non-symbolic motivations, such as great emotion or to prevent scavenging. The debate on Neanderthal funerals has been active since the 1908 discovery of La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 in a small, artificial hole in a cave in southwestern France, very controversially postulated to have been buried in a symbolic fashion. Another grave at Shanidar Cave, Iraq, was associated with the pollen of several flowers that may have been in bloom at the time of deposition—yarrow, Centaurea, centaury, ragwort, grape hyacinth, joint pine, and hollyhock. The medicinal properties of the plants led American archaeologist Ralph Solecki to claim that the man buried was some leader, healer, or shaman, and that "The association of flowers with Neanderthals adds a whole new dimension to our knowledge of his humanness, indicating that he had 'soul' ". However, it is also possible the pollen was deposited by a small rodent after the man's death. The graves of children and infants, especially, are associated with grave goods such as artefacts and bones. The grave of a newborn from La Ferrassie, France, was found with three flint scrapers, and an infant from Cave, Syria, was found with a triangular flint placed on its chest. A 10-month-old from Amud Cave, Israel, was associated with a red deer mandible, likely purposefully placed there given other animal remains are now reduced to fragments. Teshik-Tash 1 from Uzbekistan was associated with a circle of ibex horns, and a limestone slab argued to have supported the head. A child from Kizil-Koba culture, Kiik-Koba, Crimea, Ukraine, had a flint flake with some purposeful engraving on it, likely requiring a great deal of skill. Nonetheless, these contentiously constitute evidence of symbolic meaning as the grave goods' significance and worth are unclear.


It was once argued that the bones of the cave bear, particularly the skull, in some European caves were arranged in a specific order, indicating an ancient bear cult that killed bears and then ceremoniously arranged the bones. This would be consistent with bear-related rituals of modern human Arctic hunter-gatherers, but the alleged peculiarity of the arrangement could also be well-explained by natural causes, and bias could be introduced as the existence of a bear cult would conform with the idea that totemism was the earliest religion, leading to undue extrapolation of evidence. It was also once thought that Neanderthals ritually hunted, killed, and cannibalised other Neanderthals and used the skull as the focus of some ceremony. In 1962, Italian palaeontologist Alberto Blanc believed a skull from Mount Circeo, Grotta Guattari, Italy, had evidence of a swift blow to the head—indicative of ritual murder—and a precise and deliberate incising at the base to access the brain. He compared it to the victims of headhunting, headhunters in Malaysia and Borneo, putting it forward as evidence of a skull cult. However, it is now thought to have been a result of cave hyaena predation. Although Neanderthals are known to have practiced cannibalism, there is unsubstantial evidence to suggest ritual defleshing. In 2019, Gibraltarian palaeoanthropologists Stewart, Geraldine Finlayson, Geraldine, and Clive Finlayson, Clive Finlayson and Spanish archaeologist Francisco Guzmán speculated that the golden eagle had iconic value to Neanderthals, as exemplified in some modern human societies because they reported that golden eagle bones had a conspicuously high rate of evidence of modification compared to the bones of other birds. They then proposed some "Cult of the Sun Bird" where the golden eagle was a symbol of power.


Interbreeding with modern humans

The first Neanderthal genome sequence was published in 2010, and strongly indicated interbreeding between Neanderthals and early modern humans. The genomes of all non-sub-Saharan populations contain Neanderthal DNA. Various estimates exist for the proportion, such as 1–4% or 3.4–7.9% in modern Eurasians, or 1.8–2.4% in modern Europeans and 2.3–2.6% in modern East Asians. Pre-agricultural Europeans appear to have had similar percentages to modern East Asians, and the numbers may have decreased in the former due to dilution with a group of people which had split off before Neanderthal introgression. Typically, studies have reported finding no significant levels of Neanderthal DNA in Subsaharan Africans, but a 2020 study detected 0.3-0.5% in the genomes of five African sample populations, likely the result of Eurasians back-migrating and interbreeding with Africans, as well as human-to-neanderthal gene flow from dispersals of ''Homo sapiens'' preceding the larger Recent African origin of modern humans, Out-of-Africa migration. Such low percentages of Neanderthal DNA in all present day populations indicate infrequent past interbreeding, unless interbreeding was more common with a different population of modern humans which did not contribute to the present day gene pool. Of the inherited Neanderthal genome, 25% in modern Europeans and 32% in modern East Asians may be related to viral immunity. In all, approximately 20% of the Neanderthal genome appears to have survived in the modern human gene pool. However, due to their small population and resulting reduced effectivity of natural selection, Neanderthals accumulated several weakly harmful mutations, which were introduced to and slowly selected out of the much larger modern human population; the initial hybridised population may have experienced up to a 94% reduction in fitness compared to contemporary humans. By this measure, Neanderthals may have substantially increased in fitness. A 2017 study focusing on archaic genes in Turkey found associations with coeliac disease, malaria severity, and Costello syndrome. Nonetheless, some genes may have helped modern human Europeans adapt to the environment; the Val92Met variant of the MC1R gene, which may be weakly associated with red hair, may descend from Neanderthals although this is contested as the variant was rare in Neanderthals, and light skin in modern humans did not become prevalent until the Holocene. Some genes related to the
immune system The immune system is a network of biological processes that protects an organism from diseases. It detects and responds to a wide variety of pathogens, from viruses to parasitic worms, as well as Tumor immunology, cancer cells and objects such ...
appear to have been affected by introgression, which may have aided migration, such as OAS1, STAT2, TLR6, TLR1, TLR10, and several related to immune response. In addition, Neanderthal genes have also been implicated in the structure and function of the brain, intermediate filament, keratin filaments, sugar metabolism, muscle contraction, body fat distribution, enamel thickness, and oocyte meiosis. Nonetheless, a large portion of surviving introgression appears to be non-coding DNA, non-coding ("junk") DNA with few biological functions. Due to the absence of Neanderthal-derived mtDNA (which is passed on from mother to child) in modern populations, it has been suggested that the progeny of Neanderthal females who mated with modern human males were either rare, absent, or sterile—that is to say, admixture stems from the progeny of Neanderthal males with modern human females. Due to the lack of Neanderthal-derived Y-chromosomes in modern humans (which is passed on from father to son), it has also been suggested that the hybrids that contributed ancestry to modern populations were predominantly females, or the Neanderthal Y-chromosome was not compatible with ''H. sapiens'' and became extinct. According to linkage disequilibrium mapping, the last Neanderthal gene flow into the modern human genome occurred 86–37 thousand years ago, but most likely 65–47 thousand years ago. It is thought that Neanderthal genes which contributed to the present day human genome stemmed from interbreeding in the Near East rather than the entirety of Europe. However, interbreeding still occurred without contributing to the modern genome The approximately 40,000 year old modern human Oase 2 was found, in 2015, to have had 6–9% (point estimate 7.3%) Neanderthal DNA, indicating a Neanderthal ancestor up to four to six generations earlier, but this hybrid Romanian population does not appear to have made a substantial contribution to the genomes of later Europeans. In 2016, the DNA of Neanderthals from Denisova Cave revealed evidence of interbreeding 100,000 years ago, and interbreeding with an earlier dispersal of ''H. sapiens'' may have occurred as early as 120,000 years ago in places such as the Levant. The earliest ''H. sapiens'' remains outside of Africa occur at Misliya Cave 194–177 thousand years ago, and Skhul and Qafzeh hominins, Skhul and Qafzeh 120–90 thousand years ago. The Qafzeh humans lived at approximately the same time as the Neanderthals from the nearby Tabun Cave. The Neanderthals of the German Hohlenstein-Stadel have deeply divergent mtDNA compared to more recent Neanderthals, possibly due to introgression of human mtDNA between 316 and 219 thousand years ago, or simply because they were genetically isolated. Whatever the case, these first interbreeding events have not left any trace in modern human genomes. Detractors of the interbreeding model argue that the genetic similarity is only a remnant of a common ancestor instead of interbreeding, although this is unlikely as it fails to explain why sub-Saharan Africans do not have Neanderthal DNA.

Interbreeding with Denisovans

Although nDNA confirms that Neanderthals and Denisovans are more closely related to each other than they are to modern humans, Neanderthals and modern humans share a more recent maternally-transmitted mtDNA common ancestor, possibly due to interbreeding between Denisovans and some unknown human species. The 400,000-year-old Neanderthal-like humans from Sima de los Huesos in northern Spain, looking at mtDNA, are more closely related to Denisovans than Neanderthals. Several Neanderthal-like fossils in Eurasia from a similar time period are often grouped into ''H. heidelbergensis'', of which some may be relict (biology), relict populations of earlier humans, which could have interbred with Denisovans. This is also used to explain an approximately 124,000 year old German Neanderthal specimen with mtDNA that diverged from other Neanderthals (except for Sima de los Huesos) about 270,000 years ago, while its genomic DNA indicated divergence less than 150,000 years ago. Sequencing of the genome of a Denisovan from Denisova Cave has shown that 17% of its genome derives from Neanderthals. This Neanderthal DNA more closely resembled that of a 120,000-year-old Neanderthal bone from the same cave than that of Neanderthals from
Vindija Cave Vindija Cave is an archaeological site associated with Neanderthals and anatomically modern human, modern humans, located in the municipality of Donja Voća, northern Croatia. Three of these Neanderthals were selected as the primary sources for th ...
, Croatia, or Mezmaiskaya Cave in the Caucasus, suggesting that interbreeding was local. For the 90,000-year-old Denisova 11, it was found that her father was a Denisovan related to more recent inhabitants of the region, and her mother a Neanderthal related to more recent European Neanderthals at Vindija Cave, Croatia. Given how few Denisovan bones are known, the discovery of a first-generation hybrid indicates interbreeding was very common between these species, and Neanderthal migration across Eurasia likely occurred sometime after 120,000 years ago.



Whatever the cause of their extinction, Neanderthals were replaced by modern humans, indicated by near full replacement of Middle Palaeolithic Mousterian stone technology with modern human Upper Palaeolithic Aurignacian stone technology across Europe (the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic Transition) from 41 to 39 thousand years ago. However, it is postulated that Iberian Neanderthals persisted until about 35,000 years ago indicated by the date range of transitional lithic assemblages—Châtelperronian, Uluzzian, Protoaurignacian, and Early Aurignacian. The latter two are attributed to modern humans, but the former two have unconfirmed authorship, potentially products of Neanderthal/modern human cohabitation and cultural transmission. Further, the appearance of the Aurignacian south of the Ebro River has been dated to roughly 37,500 years ago, which has prompted the "Ebro Frontier" hypothesis which states that the river presented a geographic barrier preventing modern human immigration, and thus prolonging Neanderthal persistence. However, the dating of the Iberian Transition is debated, with a contested timing of 43–40.8 thousand years ago at Cueva Bajondillo, Spain. The Châtelperronian appears in northeastern Iberia about 42.5–41.6 thousand years ago. Some Neanderthals in Gibraltar were dated to much later than this—such as Zafarraya (30,000 years ago) and Gorham's Cave (28,000 years ago)—which may be inaccurate as they were based on ambiguous artefacts instead of direct dating. A claim of Neanderthals surviving in a polar refuge in the Ural Mountains is loosely supported by Mousterian stone tools dating to 34–31 thousand years ago from the northern Siberian Byzovaya site at a time when modern humans may not yet have colonised the northern reaches of Europe; however, modern human remains are known from the nearby Mamontovaya Kurya site dating to 40,000 years ago. Indirect dating of Neanderthals remains from Mezmaiskaya Cave reported a date of about 30,000 years ago, but direct dating instead yielded 39.7±1.1 thousand years ago, more in line with trends exhibited in the rest of Europe. The earliest indication of Upper Palaeolithic modern human immigration into Europe is the Balkan Bohunician industry beginning 48,000 years ago, likely deriving from the Levantine Emiran industry, and the earliest bones in Europe date to roughly 45–43 thousand years ago in Bulgaria, Italy, and Britain. This wave of modern humans replaced Neanderthals. However, Neanderthals and ''H. sapiens'' have a much longer contact history. DNA evidence indicates ''H. sapiens'' contact with Neanderthals and admixture as early as 120–100 thousand years ago. A 2019 reanalysis of 210,000 year old skull fragments from the Greek Apidima Cave assumed to have belonged to a Neanderthal concluded that they belonged to a modern human, and a Neanderthal skull dating to 170,000 years ago from the cave indicates ''H. sapiens'' were replaced by Neanderthals until returning about 40,000 years ago. This identification was refuted by a 2020 study. Archaeological evidence suggests that Neanderthals displaced modern humans in the Near East around 100,000 years ago until about 60–50 thousand years ago.


Modern humans

Historically, modern human technology was viewed as vastly superior to that of Neanderthals, with more efficient weaponry and subsistence strategies, and Neanderthals simply went extinct because they could not compete. The discovery of Neanderthal/modern human introgression has caused the resurgence of the multiregional origin of modern humans, multiregional hypothesis, wherein the present day genetic makeup of all humans is the end result of complex genetic contact among several different populations of humans dispersed across the world. By this model, Neanderthals and other recent archaic humans were simply assimilated into the modern human genome – that is, they were effectively bred out into extinction.

Climate change

Their ultimate extinction coincides with Heinrich event 4, a period of intense seasonality; later Heinrich events are also associated with massive cultural turnovers when European human populations collapsed. This climate change may have depopulated several regions of Neanderthals, like previous cold spikes, but these areas were instead repopulated by immigrating humans, leading to Neanderthal extinction. It has also been proposed that climate change was the primary driver, as their low population left them vulnerable to any environmental change, with even a small drop in survival or fertility rates possibly quickly leading to their extinction. However, Neanderthals and their ancestors had survived through several glacial periods over their hundreds of thousands of years of European habitation. It is also proposed that around 40,000 years ago, when Neanderthal populations may have already been dwindling from other factors, the Campanian Ignimbrite Eruption in Italy could have led to their final demise, as it produced 2–4 °C cooling for a year and acid rain for several more years.


Modern humans may have introduced African diseases to Neanderthals, contributing to their extinction. A lack of immunity, compounded by an already low population, was potentially devastating to the Neanderthal population, and low genetic diversity could have also rendered fewer Neanderthals naturally immune to these new diseases ("differential pathogen resistance" hypothesis). However, compared to modern humans, Neanderthals had a similar or higher genetic diversity for 12 major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes associated with the adaptive immune system, casting doubt on this model. Low population and inbreeding depression may have caused maladaptive birth defects, which could have contributed to their decline (mutational meltdown). In late-20th-century New Guinea, due to cannibalistic funerary practices, the Fore people were decimated by transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, specifically Kuru (disease), kuru, a highly virulent disease spread by ingestion of prions found in brain tissue. However, individuals with the 129 variant of the PRNP gene were naturally immune to the prions. Studying this gene led to the discovery that the 129 variant was widespread among all modern humans, which could indicate widespread cannibalism at some point in human prehistory. Because Neanderthals are known to have practised cannibalism to an extent and to have co-existed with modern humans, British palaeoanthropologist Simon Underdown speculated that modern humans transmitted a kuru-like spongiform disease to Neanderthals, and, because the 129 variant appears to have been absent in Neanderthals, it quickly killed them off.

In popular culture

Neanderthals have been portrayed in popular culture including appearances in literature, visual media, and comedy. The "
caveman The caveman is a stock character Stock (also capital stock) is all of the shares into which ownership of a corporation is divided.Longman Business English Dictionary In American English, the shares are collectively known as "stock". A si ...

archetype The concept of an archetype (; from Greek: + ) appears in areas relating to behavior, History of psychology#Emergence of German experimental psychology, historical psychology, and literary analysis. An ''archetype'' can be: # a statement, patter ...
often mocks Neanderthals and depicts them as primitive, hunchbacked, knuckle-dragging, club-wielding, grunting, nonsocial characters driven solely by animal instinct. "Neanderthal" can also be used as an insult. In literature, they are sometimes depicted as brutish or monstrous, such as in H. G. Wells' ''The Grisly Folk'' and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' ''The Animal Wife'', but sometimes with a civilised but unfamiliar culture, as in William Golding's ''The Inheritors'', Björn Kurtén's ''Dance of the Tiger'', and Jean M. Auel's ''Clan of the Cave Bear'' and her ''Earth's Children'' series.

See also

* * Early human migrations * * * * *

Explanatory notes


General bibliography

* * * * * * * *

External links

Human Timeline (Interactive)
– Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian, National Museum of Natural History (August 2016). * : Includes Neanderthal mtDNA sequences
GenBank records for ''H. s. neanderthalensis''
maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) {{Authority control Neanderthals, Fossil taxa described in 1864 Stone Age Europe Stone Age Asia