Palaeoanthropus neanderthalensis
H. s. neanderthalensis
The Neanderthal (short for Neanderthal man, pronounced /niːˈændərtɑːl/, /niːˈændərθɔːl/ or /neɪˈændərtɑːl/ in English; sometimes spelled Neandertal) is an extinct member of the Homo genus known from Pleistocene specimens found in Europe and parts of western and central Asia. Neanderthals are classified either as a subspecies of modern humans (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) or as a separate human species (Homo neanderthalensis).
The first proto-Neanderthal traits appeared in Europe as early as 600,000–350,000 years ago. Proto-Neanderthal traits are occasionally grouped with another phenetic 'species', Homo heidelbergensis, or a migrant form, Homo rhodesiensis.
Genetic evidence suggests interbreeding took place with Homo sapiens (anatomically modern humans) between roughly 80,000 and 50,000 years ago in the Middle East, resulting in 1–4% of the genome of people from Eurasia having been contributed by Neanderthals.
The youngest Neanderthal finds include Hyaena Den (UK), considered older than 30,000 years ago, while the Vindija (Croatia) Neanderthals have been re-dated to between 33,000 and 32,000 years ago. No definite specimens younger than 30,000 years ago have been found; however, evidence of fire by Neanderthals at Gibraltar indicate they may have survived there until 24,000 years ago. Cro-Magnon or early modern human skeletal remains with 'Neanderthal traits' were found in Lagar Velho (Portugal), dated to 24,500 years ago and interpreted as indications of extensively admixed populations.
The earliest Mousterian stone tool culture, associated with the Neaderthal, is dated 300,000 years ago and and developed by Neanderthals in Europe. Later Mousterian culture is also developed in Asia; in Africa dated after 150,000 years ago in Jebel Irhoud site located 620 km south of Giblartar. The late Mousterian artifact were found in Gorham's Cave on the remote south-facing coast of Gibraltar. Other tool cultures associated with Neanderthal include Châtelperronian, Aurignacian, and Gravettian, developed with gradual continuity not distributed by population change.
Neanderthal cranial capacity is thought to have been as large as that of a Homo sapiens, perhaps larger, indicating their brain size may have been comparable, or larger, as well. In 2008, a group of scientists created a study using three-dimensional computer-assisted reconstructions of Neanderthal infants based on fossils found in Russia and Syria. The study showed Neanderthal and modern human brains were the same size at birth, but by adulthood, the Neandertal brain was larger than the modern human brain. Neanderthal males stood about 164–168 cm (65–66 in), and were heavily built with robust bone structure. They were much stronger than Homo sapiens, having particularly strong arms and hands. Females stood about 152–156 cm (60–61 in) tall.
In 2010 a U.S. researcher reported finding cooked plant matter in the teeth of a Neanderthal skull, contradicting the earlier belief they were exclusively (or almost exclusively) carnivorous and apex predators.[not in citation given]