Friday, August 8, 2008


[Excerpted from The Guardian]

Neanderthal "Eve" lived around 660,000 years ago, when the species last shared a common ancestor with humans. Neanderthals may only ever have existed in relatively small numbers, with less than 10,000 alive at any one time. Theories of what drove the Neanderthals to extinction range from an inability to adapt to a quickly changing environment, to genocide by early humans. The species is though to have died out in Europe around 30,000 years ago, shortly after the arrival of early humans. Neanderthals were short and stocky and well adapted to a cold climate. The tallest male, found in a cave in France, was only 5ft 5in (1.71m). Despite having barrel chests, strong ridges above their eyes and a lack of chins, their brains were on average larger than those of modern humans. Some fossil evidence suggests that they were occasional cannibals, though more commonly hunted large animals including horses and mammoths. Remains of Neanderthals dating back 400,000 years suggest they crafted tools and weapons and buried their dead.