Neanderthals and Their Contemporaries

  • Katerina Harvati
Living reference work entry


Neanderthals are the group of fossil humans that inhabited Western Eurasia from the mid-Middle Pleistocene until ca. 40 Ka ago, when they disappeared from the fossil record, only a few millennia after the first modern humans appear in Europe. They are characterized by a suite of morphological features that in combination produce a unique morphotype. They are commonly associated with the Mousterian lithic industry, although toward the end of their tenure they are sometimes found with assemblages resembling those produced by early modern humans. Although there is still discussion over their taxonomic status and relationship with modern humans, it is now commonly recognized that they represent a distinct, Eurasian evolutionary lineage sharing a common ancestor with modern humans in the Middle Pleistocene. This lineage is thought to have been isolated from the rest of the Old World, probably due to the climatic conditions of the glacial cycles. Glacial climate conditions are often thought to have been at least in part responsible for the evolution of some of the distinctive Neanderthal morphology, although genetic drift was probably also very important. The causes of the Neanderthal extinction are not well understood. Worsening climate and competition with modern humans are implicated.


Modern Human Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Oxygen Isotope Stage Symbolic Thought 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Paleoanthropology, Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment, Eberhard Karls Universität TübingenTübingenGermany

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