We explain what Neanderthal man was, what his anatomy and diet were like. Also, what are its characteristics and habitat.

Neanderthal manNeanderthal man
Homo neanderthalensis was a species of the human genus that lived 200,000 years ago.

What was Neanderthal Man?

Neanderthal man, or homo neanderthalensisIt was a species of the genus Homo which became extinct 30,000 years ago. She lived with him Homo sapiens during a significant part of its existence. It lived from 230,000 to 30,000 years ago in Europe, the Near East, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

Its name comes from the valley in which the first fossil of the species was found., in the Neander Valley, Germany. Since the old German word for valley is Thalthe find became known as the “Neanderthal Man”.

Our species and the Neanderthals had a common origin and throughout their coexistence they showed signs of hybridization, that is, interspecies mixture. There are different debates about the relationship between homo neanderthalensis and the Homo sapiens sapiens (the current human being). Some specialists consider that the homo neanderthalensis was a subspecies of Homo sapiens and others, a different species.

The evolution of man and the history of its evolutionary phases is a subject in constant investigation, which is studied from different disciplines. On many occasions, specialists debate how to interpret the findings of fossil and material remains, how are the relationships between the different species and subspecies and how the evolutionary leaps between them took place. For this reason, there are different categorizations or definitions that, in turn, change over time based on new findings and research.

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See also: Cro-Magnon Man

The Neanderthal man in the evolutionary scheme

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Specialists debate the relationship between Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens.

The homo neanderthalensis inhabited Europe between 230,000 and 30,000 years ago. It is believed that she is a descendant of Homo heidelbergensis (a subspecies of Homo erectus).

There are different perspectives on the place of homo neanderthalensis in the evolutionary scheme of man. During decades, specialists considered that the homo neanderthalensis it was a different species and older than Homo sapiens. However, with the findings and studies of the last decades, this perspective has been put into discussion and many specialists consider that the homo neanderthalensis is a subspecies of Homo sapienssame as him Homo sapiens sapiensthe modern human being.

Today it is known with certainty that both subspecies coexisted for thousands of years and maintained biological and cultural contacts. There are even those who propose that a hybridization process could have occurred between the two.

Neanderthal Man lifestyle

Neanderthal societies They were structured in bands of 15 to 30 people.. They led a nomadic life based on hunting and gathering food. They had differentiated survival strategies for environmental conditions and seasons of the year.

Like the Homo sapiensThey had egalitarian societies in which there were no imposed hierarchies or stable leaders. Some Neanderthal settlements show a complex organizational structure, with designated places for punctual and specific activitiesaround a central bonfire.

They made stone and flint tools., through carving and hammering techniques using bones and other rocks. In addition, they mastered the use of fire and used it to cook their food.

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Physical traits of Neanderthals

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Neanderthals had an elongated skull and prominent teeth.

Neanderthals had a body adapted to the freezing cold of his time, robust and short. They had a broad ribcage and broad-finned nose. His skeleton denotes a robust musculature that surely gave him much more strength than that of the Homo sapiensand a much more developed sense of smell.

They had an elongated skull and prominent teeth. From his remains, it is assumed that their larynx would have allowed them articulate languagealthough with much more limited phonetics than that of modern man.

The average Neanderthal He was not more than 1.65 meters tall and weighed around 70 kg.

Neanderthal culture

Even whether or not Neanderthals produced symbolic art forms is debated. There are those who affirm that it is, and that many objects found with marks and incisions, such as eagle claws, animal bones or scratches on walls, have a proto-artistic or decorative function. Remains of sea shells, bird feathers and other elements that could have been used to make necklaces or pendants for ritual use have also been found.

Other positions deny that Neanderthals have developed artistic elements and they maintain that these findings do not constitute sufficient evidence to speak of an artistic development.

Extinction of the Neanderthals

The last remnants of homo neanderthalensis They were discovered in the south of the Iberian Peninsula and date back 30,000 years.

Though the exact reasons for its extinction are unknownmost of the studies point to the migrations of groups of Homo sapiens from Africa, and their competitive coexistence in the same habitats as the Homo neanderthalensis. However, even today the level of contact between both species and the possibility of biological and cultural exchanges are debated.

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Archeological sites

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The most recent fossil remains of Homo neanderthalensis are found in Spain.

The main archaeological and paleontological sites in which fossil and material remains of Homo neanderthalensis were found are:

  • Germany. Ehringsdorf, Neander river valley, Salzgitter-Lebenstedt.
  • Belgium. Engis, La Naulette, Veldwezelt-Hezerwater, Scladina cave of the Meuse valley.
  • Croatia. Ganovce, Ochoz, Sala.
  • Slovenia. Divje Babe.
  • Spain. L’Arbreda, Cueva de los Aviones, Axlor, Atapuerca, Banyoles, El Esquilleu, Lezetxiki, Abric Romaní, Zafarraya, Siega Verde, Valdegoba.
  • France. Hortus, Fontechevade, Arcy-sur-Cure, Bau de l’Aubesier.
  • Italy. Mount Circeo, Guattari, Saccopastore.
  • Iran. Shanidar.
  • Israel. Skul, Qafzeh, Zuttiyeh, Tabún, Cuevas de Amud, Kebara and Nahal Me’arot.
  • Portugal. Lagar Velho, Figueira Brava, Côa Valley.
  • United Kingdom. Forbes’ Quarry, Bontnewydd, Jersey.
  • Romania. Subalyuk.
  • Russia. Denisova Caves, Mezmaiskaya.
  • Syria. Dederiyeh.
  • Ukraine. Kiik-Koba, Molodova, Staroselje.
  • uzbekistan. Aman-Kutan and Teshik Tash.

Continue with: Hominins


  • Wong, K. (2000). Who were the Neanderthals? research and science(285), 74-83.
  • Lopez Serrano, A. (1996). Hominization process and material culture. The contribution of historical anthropology.
  • Harris, M. (1981). Introduction to general anthropology. Alliance.
  • “Homo neanderthalensis” on Wikipedia.
  • “How did the Neanderthal man live?” (video) on TVMDocu.
  • “The amazingly simple reason why the Neanderthal man became extinct” in Infobae.
  • “Characteristics of Neanderthal man” in History and Biographies.
  • “Homo neanderthalensis” in Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
  • “Neanderthal” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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