Wikipedia says this about Neanderthals.
Neanderthals were members of a now-extinct species, or species sub-group, closely related to modern humans that is known from Pleistocene specimens found in Europe and parts of western and central Asia. Like modern humans they are classified as part of the genus Homo. The term "Neanderthal", a shortening of "Neanderthal man", is sometimes spelled Neandertal, the modern spelling of the location in Germany where the species was first discovered.Following are links to scientific reports about Neanderthals.
Neanderthals are classified alternatively as a subspecies of Homo sapiens (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) or as a separate human species (Homo neanderthalensis). Genetic evidence suggests they are closer to non-African than African anatomically modern humans, which is probably due to interbreeding between Neanderthals and the ancestors of the Eurasians. This is thought to have occurred between 80,000 and 50,000 years ago, shortly after (or perhaps before) the proto-Eurasians emigrated from Africa, and while they were still one population. It resulted in 1–4% of the genome of people from Eurasia having been contributed by Neanderthals.
The first proto-Neanderthal traits appeared in Europe as early as 600,000–350,000 years ago. Proto-Neanderthal traits are occasionally grouped with another phenetic 'species', Homo heidelbergensis, or a migrant form, Homo rhodesiensis.
The youngest Neanderthal finds include Hyena Den (UK), considered older than 30,000 years ago, while the Vindija (Croatia) Neanderthals have been re-dated to between 33,000 and 32,000 years ago. No definite specimens younger than 30,000 years ago have been found; however, evidence of fire by Neanderthals at Gibraltar indicate they may have survived there until 24,000 years ago. Cro-Magnon or early modern human skeletal remains with 'Neanderthal traits' were found in Lagar Velho (Portugal), dated to 24,500 years ago and interpreted as indications of extensively admixed populations.
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 remote south-facing coast of Gibraltar. Other tool cultures associated with Neanderthal include Châtelperronian, Aurignacian, and Gravettian. These latter tool assemblages appear to have developed gradually within the populations, rather than being introduced by new population groups arriving in the region.
Neanderthal cranial capacity is thought to have been as large as that of modern humans, perhaps larger, indicating their brain size may have been comparable, or larger, as well. In 2008, a group of scientists created a study using three-dimensional computer-assisted reconstructions of Neanderthal infants based on fossils found in Russia and Syria. The study showed Neanderthal and modern human brains were the same size at birth, but by adulthood, the Neandertal 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.
In 2010 a U.S. researcher reported finding cooked vegetable in the teeth of a Neanderthal skull, contradicting the earlier belief they were exclusively (or almost exclusively) carnivorous and apex predators.
Scientists have found that Neanderthals organized their living spaces in ways that would be familiar to modern humans, a discovery that once again shows similarities between these two close cousins.
The search for a common ancestor linking modern humans with the Neanderthals who lived in Europe thousands of years ago has been a compelling subject for research. But a new study suggests the quest isn't nearly complete.
The researchers, using quantitative methods focused on the shape of dental fossils, find that none of the usual suspects fits the expected profile of an ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans. They also present evidence that the lines that led to Neanderthals and modern humans diverged nearly 1 million years ago, much earlier than studies based on molecular evidence have suggested.
In a joint study, Professor Hervé Bocherens of the University of Tübingen, Germany, together with colleagues from the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg, Russia and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, Belgium have found at a cave in the Caucasus Mountains indirect hints of fish consumption by Neandertals. The scientists challenge the hypothesis of evolutionary advantage of modern humans on basis of dietary choice. Bone analyses ruled out cave bears and cave lions to have consumed the fish whose remains were found at the Caucasian cave.
A study by a postgraduate researcher at the University of Southampton has found that Neanderthals were more culturally complex than previously acknowledged. Two cultural traditions existed among Neanderthals living in what is now northern Europe between 115,000 to 35,000 years ago.
Modern humans replaced Neandertals in Europe about 40,000 years ago, but the Neandertals' capabilities are still greatly debated. Some argue that before they were replaced, Neandertals had cultural capabilities similar to modern humans, while others argue that these similarities only appear once modern humans came into contact with Neandertals.
Although Neanderthals' brains were similar in size to their contemporary modern human counterparts, fresh analysis of fossil data suggests that their brain structure was rather different. Results imply that larger areas of the Neanderthal brain, compared to the modern human brain, were given over to vision and movement and this left less room for the higher level thinking required to form large social groups.
The theory that the last Neanderthals -- Homo neanderthalensis -- persisted in southern Iberia at the same time that modern humans -Homo sapiens- advanced in the northern part of the peninsula, has been widely accepted by the scientific community during the last twenty years. An international study, in which researchers of the Spanish National Distance Education University (UNED) participate, questions this hypothesis.
The team estimate that Neandertals and modern humans last exchanged genes between 37,000 and 86,000 years ago, well after modern humans appeared outside Africa but potentially before they started spreading across Eurasia. This suggests that Neandertals (or their close relatives) had children with the direct ancestors of present-day people outside Africa.
There are precious few Neandertal skeletons available to science. One of the more complete was discovered in 1957 in France, roughly 900 yards away from the famous Lascaux Cave. That skeleton was dubbed "Regourdou." Then, about two decades ago, researchers examined Regourdou's arm bones and theorized that he had been right-handed.
In the last two years, a number of studies have suggested that modern humans and Neanderthals had at some point interbred. Genetic evidence shows that on average Eurasians and Neanderthals share between 1-4 per cent of their DNA. In contrast, Africans have almost none of the Neanderthal genome. The previous studies concluded that these differences could be explained by hybridisation which occurred as modern humans exited Africa and bred with the Neanderthals who already inhabited Europe.
An international team of researchers, led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the University of York, has provided the first molecular evidence that Neanderthals not only ate a range of cooked plant foods, but also understood its nutritional and medicinal qualities.
Direct studies of ancient DNA from Neanderthal bones suggest interbreeding did occur after anatomically modern humans had migrated from their evolutionary cradle in Africa to the cooler climates of Eurasia, but what had happened in Africa remained a mystery -- until now.
Shaw explains, "The skeletal remains of Neandertals suggests that they were doing something intense or repetitive, or both, that significantly impacted their lives. While hunting was important to Neandertals, our research suggests that much of their time was spent performing other tasks, such as preparing the skins of large animals. If we are right, it changes our picture of the daily activities of Neandertals."
The results indicate that most Neanderthals in Europe died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After that, a small group of Neanderthals recolonised central and western Europe, where they survived for another 10,000 years before modern humans entered the picture.