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Photograph of a Neanderthal cranium at three-quarter view.


AAC Catalogue Number: 2004.11.40

Dates: 127,000-30,000 years ago

Geographic Range: Europe and Western Asia

Anatomical Features: 

  • Large brains
  • Rounded crania
  • Small back teeth, heavily worn front teeth
  • Robust, short, heavily muscled bodies

Technology Used: Neanderthals likely used Mode III tools (made using a prepared core technique), also known as the Mousterian Industry. 

Diet: Neanderthals diets varied regionally. Most Neanderthals ate a variety of plants and small game. There is also evidence suggesting that Neanderthals hunted large game including woolly rhinoceros and other extinct mammals.

Other Info: 

  • Skeletal pathologies indicate that Neanderthals lived short, difficult lives. Their skeletons reflect a great deal of trauma, much of which may have been a result of close-quarters hunting. There is also evidence of healed injuries and old age, indicating that members of the group cared for those in need. 
  • Neanderthals crafted some personal ornaments and art, and they may have intentionally buried their dead.
  • Ancient DNA extracted from Neanderthal bones indicates that Neanderthals and humans interbred. Neanderthals also interbred with another extinct hominin population called the Denisovans.

Description (from Bone Clones):

“Neanderthal, having features that best represent the features of its anatomy, including a low-vaulted cranium with projecting face and low forehead, pronounced double brow ridge, wide cheekbones, weak chin, heavily worn front teeth, a substantial nasal opening, and very large brain capacity (more than 1,600 cc). Some consider Neanderthal not much more than a subspecies, H. s. neanderthalensis, of Homo sapiens, and that, rather than becoming extinct, they were absorbed into the modern human population. Others consider them a separate species, H. neanderthalensis, that eventually became extinct. Neanderthals are thought to have lived between 200,000 and 30,000 years ago.”

Remaining Questions: 

  • Given the evidence for interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals, should they be considered separate species?
  • What was the nature of cultural interactions between modern humans and archaic humans such as Neanderthals?