The Neanderthal (short for Neanderthal Man, in English pronounced /niːˈændərtɑːl/, /niːˈændərθɔːl/) or /neɪˈændərtɑːl/; also spelledNeandertal) is an extinct member of the Homo genus that is known from Pleistocene specimens found in Europe and parts of western andcentral Asia. Neanderthals are either classified as a subspecies (or race) of humans (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) or as a separatespecies (Homo neanderthalensis).
The exact date of their extinction is disputed. Fossils found in the Vindija Cave in Croatia have been dated to between 33,000 and 32,000 years old, and Neanderthal artifacts from Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar are believed to be less than 30,000 years old, but a recent study has redated fossils at two Spanish sites as 45,000 years old, 10,000 years older than previously thought, and may cast doubt on recent datings of other sites. Cro-Magnon (Eurasian Early Modern Human) skeletal remains showing some "Neanderthal traits" have been found in Lagar Velho in Portugal and dated to 24,500 years ago, and in Cioclovina in Romania dated to 35,000 years ago, suggesting that there may have been an extensive admixture of the Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal populations throughout Europe.
Several cultural assemblages have been linked to the Neanderthals in Europe. The earliest, the Mousterian stone tool culture, dates to about 300,000 years ago. Late Mousterian artifacts were found in Gorham's Cave on the south-facing coast of Gibraltar.
With an average cranial capacity of 1600 cc, Neanderthal's cranial capacity is notably larger than the 1400 cc average for modern humans, indicating that their brain size was larger. However, due to larger body size, Neanderthals are less encephalized. In 2008, a group of scientists produced a study using three-dimensional computer-assisted reconstructions of Neanderthal infants based on fossils found in Russia and Syria. The study indicated that Neanderthal and modern human brains were the same size at birth, but by adulthood, the Neanderthal brain was larger than the modern human brain. They were much stronger than modern humans, having particularly strong arms and hands. Males stood 164–168 cm (65–66 in) and females about 152–156 cm (60–61 in) tall.
Genetic evidence published in 2010 suggests that Neanderthals contributed to the DNA of anatomically modern humans, probably through interbreeding between 80,000 and 28,000 years ago with a population of anatomically modern humans. According to the study, by the time that population began dispersing across Eurasia, Neanderthal genes constituted as much as 1–4% of its genome (roughly equivalent to having one Neanderthal great-great-great-grandparent). Ötzi the iceman, Europe's oldest preserved mummy, was found to possess an even higher percentage of Neanderthal ancestry. Recent findings suggest there may be even more Neanderthal genes in non-African humans than previously expected: approximately 20% of the Neanderthal gene pool was present in a broad sampling of non-African individuals, yet each individual's genome was only 2% Neanderthal.
In December 2013, researchers reported evidence that Neanderthals practiced burial behavior and intentionally buried their dead. In addition, scientists reported, for the first time, the entire genome of a Neanderthal. The genome was extracted from the toe bone of a 130,000-year-old Neanderthal found in a Siberian cave.
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 after Joachim Neander, a 17th-century German pastor and hymnist. Neander's own name was in turn 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).
Neanderthal 1 was known as the "Neanderthal skull" or "Neanderthal cranium" 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 type specimen to the entire species – was first proposed by the Anglo-Irish geologist William King in 1864 and this had priority over the proposal put forward in 1866 by Ernst Haeckel, Homo stupidus. The practice of referring to "the Neanderthals" and "a Neanderthal" emerged in the popular literature of the 1920s.
The German pronunciation of Neanderthaler and Neandertaler is [neˈandɐˌtʰaːlɐ] in the International Phonetic Alphabet. In British English, "Neanderthal" is pronounced with the /t/ as in German but different vowels (IPA: /niːˈændərtɑːl/). In layman's American English, "Neanderthal" is pronounced with a /θ/ (the voiceless th as in thin) and /ɔ/ instead of the longer British /aː/ (IPA: /niːˈændərθɔːl/), although scientists typically use the /t/ as in German.
For some time, scientists have debated whether Neanderthals should be classified as Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, the latter placing Neanderthals as a subspecies of H. sapiens. Some morphological studies support the view that H. neanderthalensis is a separate species and not a subspecies. Others, for example University of Cambridge Professor Paul Mellars, say "no evidence has been found of cultural interaction" and evidence from mitochondrial DNA studies has been interpreted as evidence Neanderthals were not a subspecies of H. sapiens.