The Homo neanderthalensis class is similar to the Homo sapien is some ways, however unique characteristics allow the Homo neanderthalensis to be a species of its own. It is said that the Homo neanderthalensis was an evolved species of the Homo heidelbergensis and some anthropologists have hypothesized that the ancestor lineage of both the Homo neanderthalensis and the Homo sapien meet somewhere between 690,000 and 550,000 ya. One distinctive characteristic of the Homo neanderthalensis is the large cranium and brain size. “The classic Neandertal cranium is large, long, low, and bulging at the sides, the occipital bone is somewhat bun shaped, the forehead rises vertically and the browridges arch over the orbits instead of forming a straight bar” (Pg. 335) “Compared with anatomically modern humans, the Neandertal face stands out.” (Pg. 335) The Neandertals are said to appear particularly robust, with shorter limbs than seen in most modern Homo sapiens populations. Evidence that has been found at excavation sites in southern France has revealed cannibalism behavior. Detailed analysis of Neandertal remains show cut marks, pits, scars and other features clearly suggests that these individuals were processed, “that is, they were defleshed and disarticulated.” (Pg. 335)
Besides the interesting behaviors of the Neandertals, further evidence demonstrates that this species was well crafted and elaborate in the manufacturing method of specialized tools. In addition, the Neandertals have been documented to live at least until their 40s, were capable of articulate speech, buried their dead, and implemented a sense of humanity. The unknown cause of the Neandertals demise has left researchers without much help in answering this question. It has even been viewed as an evolutionary dead end. However, understanding the Neandertal disappearance and ultimate replacement by anatomically modern Upper Paleolithic peoples is definitely important and necessary in understanding the significance in evolution of the Homo sapien.
Jurmain, Robert; Kilgore, Lynn; Trevathan, Wenda; Ciochon, Russell. 2008. Introduction to Physical Anthropology, Eleventh Edition. Thomson Wadsworth, a part of The Thomson Corporation.