The Neanderthals were hominids (erect primates) who lived during the Middle Paleolithic Age (also called the Mesolithic Period), about 125,000 to 33,000 B.C. Some scientists now consider Neanderthals the ancestors of humans. Scientists learned of the Neanderthals' existence in 1856, when workers in Dusseldorf, Germany, discovered a skull and skeletal remains that appeared to be human. Yet the skull was markedly different from that of modern humans: It had a larger, deeply ridged brow and a receding chin. Later discoveries of other Neanderthal skeletons showed that groups of Neanderthals lived in Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. Scientists speculate that the Neanderthals disappeared at an undetermined time and for an unknown reason. One controversial theory is that they mated with modern humans and produced hybrid (the offspring of two different species) children with the genes of both species.
Further Information: Corbishley, Mike. The Ancient World. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1992; Lemonick, Michael D., and Andrea Dorfam. "Up From the Apes." Time. August 23, 1999, pp. 50–58; "Neanderthal.de" Website of Neanderthal Museum. [Online] Available http://www.neanderthal.de/, October 20, 2000. Recer, Paul. "Ancient Bones Pose a Question." Associated Press. October 27, 1999; Sept, Jeanne. Human Origins and Evolution in Africa. [Online] Available http://www.indiana.edu/~origins/, October 20, 2000.