Neanderthal - a small valley near Düsseldorf

...and discovery site of Neandertal Man fossils


Editor Bob
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The Neanderthal is a small valley five kilometers to the east of Düsseldorf. The valley was named after Joachim Neander who lived nearby. It was here in 1856 that he discovered the fossils of Homo neanderthalensis, also known as Neanderthal Man.

The Neanderthal valley was originally a scenic paradise. A limestone canyon with waterfalls and caves. However, industrial mining during the 19th and 20th centuries removed almost all of the limestone and dramatically changed the shape of the valley. It was during such a mining operation that the bones of the original Neanderthal man were found in a cave. Neither the cave nor the cliff in which it was located exist anymore.

There is, however, a museum that you can visit. It is open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am to 6pm and admission is €6.50 for adults. They have fossils on display as well as various multimedia exhibits that explain the evolution of man.

See: Neanderthal museum

Neanderthals lived between 230,000 and 28,000 years ago in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. They started to die out after modern humans appeared in Europe. By 20,000 years ago they were exitinct. It was not known whether modern humans destroyed them, or whether their distinctive characteristics disappeared through interbreeding. Contrary to popular belief, Neanderthals had larger brains than modern humans, and almost the same manual dexterity too. They never managed to develop sophisticated culture and technology though.

Links:
Eleanor Rigby
Neanderthals did have larger brains, everything about them was larger than homo sapiens but larger disn't mean better. Homo Sapiens were clearly more intelligent and advanced than their neanderthal cousins. The most popular theory is that the were hunted and killed into extinction by the homo sapiens. While Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals share a common ancestor, they are two separate species of human that for a short period of time co-existed. If I remember correctly this was the only time in history that two species of human existed together at the same time in the same place.
Owain Glyndwr
another theory is that they are alive today and spend their weekends going to football matches and drinking vast quantities of lager and chanting tribal slogans. They have spread throughout Europe and beyond but there last tribal gathering was here in Germany where they all came from.
boomtown_rat
that two species of human existed together
out of interest, how is a species defined? i.e. what makes neanderthals and homo sapiens different species rather than different variations on the same species
Eleanor Rigby
I think it's a classification based on DNA. It's the same as classifying different species of monkeys and apes although I couldn't tell you anymore exactly what the classifications are based on.
Cookie
The most popular theory is that the were hunted and killed into extinction by the homo sapiens.
Not this week it's not.

Neanderthals and Humans: Perhaps They Never Met

The overlap figure shrank in February with new research by Paul Mellars of Cambridge University based on improved carbon-14 dating to show that modern humans started encroaching from Israel upon Neanderthal territory in the Balkans 3,000 years sooner than previously thought. This rate suggests Neanderthals succumbed sooner to big climate shifts or competition from modern humans for resources and that they might have overlapped for only 1,000 years at sites in western France.

Try zero years, says anthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

There is no longer any biological evidence of overlap between Neanderthals and non-Neanderthals in Europe, Hawks wrote recently in his blog. Many anthropologists are aware of this but "would like to sweep it under a rug," Hawks told LiveScience.
Edited coz I forgot some of the quote
eurovol
Depends on if they can mate or not. They are both of the Hominidae family.
Most likely the Neanderthals were wiped out by a virus or at least devastated to the point of no return.
Pirulero
crap trivia...

"Neanderthal man" should actually be called "Gibraltar Woman" if you follow the logic of naming something after the place and gender of first discovery. The first ever "neanderthal" skull ( a female one) was actually discovered in a quarry in Gibraltar but was not recognised as a big discovery until the uncovering and subsequent study of the skull in Neanderthal a couple of years later.
fnkygbn
Can recommend the museum, though the architecture is a bit disconcerting - no steps, just a continuous ramp till you get the cafe at the top (which is to be avoided at all costs - waited 1/2 there for tomato soup). They offer free headsets in various languages which you can plug in to appropriate sockets for the full multimedia experience. These are also handy if you go along to the 'Fundstelle' (don't try to put your ticket in slot to open the gate - you'll lose it; just climb round). Not really much to see there - ie no cave with Neaderesque paintings & artifacts as you might expect - but then it did serve as a slag heap for a few decades.

Enjoy.
xanafunny
crap trivia...

"Neanderthal man" should actually be called "Gibraltar Woman" if you follow the logic of naming something after the place and gender of first discovery. The first ever "neanderthal" skull ( a female one) was actually discovered in a quarry in Gibraltar but was not recognised as a big discovery until the uncovering and subsequent study of the skull in Neanderthal a couple of years later.
NOT TRUE!!!

The species (provided it is recognized as such) is correctly named Homo neanderthalensis. The first discovery of a specimen currently considered to be a member of this species is from Engis in Belgium (if you visit the Roots exhibit in Bonn, the audio guide will tell you all about what might have become known as "Engis Man"). It is true that the Gibraltar remains were also discovered before the Neandertal remains. But the significance of the Engis and Gibraltar finds were not realized until later. Thus according to the rules of International Code of Zoological Nomenclature the species has been named accurately.

Let us not overlook the importance of the discovery at Neandertal -- it was this discovery that gave rise to the field of paleoanthropology.
xanafunny
I made the pilgrimage to Neanderthal years ago (at the time I hadn't even heard of Duesseldorf yet)!! If you are in the area, I would recommend visiting the location -- the "ice age mammals" and sculpture walk is great on a sunny weekend. If you are more interested in learning about human evolution and seeing the ACTUAL skeleton of the Neanderthal type specimen, you need to go to the Rheinisches LandesMuseum in Bonn which had bought the fossil at a bargain price. If you get there by November 19th you'll have the rare opportunity to see many other exciting hominin fossils as well in the Roots exhibit!

BTW while Neanderthal brains are larger than recent human brains, the anatomicaly modern humans who lived at the same time as the Neanderthalers had brains that were just as large -- apparently modern human brains have gotten a bit smaller. If you would like to see an early modern human from the area, you should also go to the Rheinisches LandesMuseum, where the Bonn-Oberkassel fossil is located (although the Oberkassel brain is not so huge).
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