A trove of Neanderthal fossils including bones of children and adults, discovered in a cave in Greece suggests that the area may have been a key crossroad for ancient humans.
The fossils suggests Neanderthals and humans may have at least had the opportunity to interact, or cross paths, there, the researchers added.
Neanderthals were the closest relatives of modern humans, apparently even occasionally interbreeding with our ancestors. Neanderthals entered Europe before modern humans, and may have lasted there until about 35,000 years ago.
Neanderthals are classified either as a subspecies of Homo sapiens (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) or as a separate species of the same genus (Homo neanderthalensis). The first humans with proto-Neanderthal traits are believed to have existed in Europe as early as 600,000–350,000 years ago.
The species is named after the site of its first discovery, about 12 km (7.5 mi) east of Düsseldorf, Germany, in the Feldhofer Cave in the river Düssel’s Neander valley named for Joachim Neander, a 17th-century German pastor and hymnist. Neander’s own name was a Greek translation of the German Neumann (lit. “New man”). Thal is the older spelling of Tal (both with the same pronunciation), the German word for ‘valley’ (cognate with English dale).
Comparison of the DNA of Neanderthals and homo sapiens suggests that they diverged from a common ancestor between 350,000 and 400,000 years ago. This ancestor is not certain, but was probably Homo heidelbergensis (sometimes called homo rhodesiensis). Heidelbergensis originated between 800,000 and 1,300,000 years ago, and continued until about 200,000. It ranged over east and south Africa, Europe and west Asia. Between 350,000 and 400,000 years ago the African branch is thought to have started evolving towards modern humans and the European branch towards Neanderthals. Scientists do not agree when Neanderthals can first be recognised in the fossil record, with dates ranging 200,000 and 300,000 years BP.
Recently a study has been able to accurately determine the age of the Neanderthal remains found in the El Sidrón cave (Asturias, Spain) for which previous studies had provided inexact measurements.
- Remains of First Human-Neanderthal Offspring Possibly Identified (geekosystem.com)
- First Love Child of Human, Neanderthal Found (livescience.com)
- Brain comparison suggests that Neanderthals lacked social skills (science.nbcnews.com)
- Neanderthal big eyes ’caused demise’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Neanderthal brains focused on vision and movement leaving less room for social networking (sciencedaily.com)
- Large eyes led to Neanderthals downfall: study – Indian Express (indianexpress.com)
- Tidbit: Neanderthals and Modern Man Might Not Have Coexisted (gizadeathstar.com)