Let’s learn about Neandertals
These extinct cousins of modern humans were smarter than you might think
The word “Neandertal” is sometimes used as an insult. But Neandertals were hardly dumb brutes. These extinct cousins of modern humans made clothes, jewelry and tools. They controlled fires and hunted animals. They even seem to have used natural forms of medicine and buried their dead.
Neandertals were part of the same genus as modern humans. Modern people are of the species Homo sapiens. Neandertals made up the closely related species Homo neanderthalensis. They were around about 400,000 to 40,000 years ago.
Neandertals lived in Europe and Asia. For thousands of years, their territory overlapped with that of our species. In those areas, some Neandertals mated with modern humans. As a result, Neandertal DNA makes up a few percent of the genetic material in many modern humans. So Neandertals may be extinct, but their legacy lives on in people today.
Want to know more? We’ve got some stories to get you started:
Neandertals were a lot like our human ancestors From toolmaking to healthcare, new research finds that Neandertals shared many cultural and social similarities with our human ancestors. (1/19/2023) Readability: 6.3
Watching meat rot helps decode what Neandertals ate One scientist has measured the chemical makeup of decaying meat. She’s comparing it against what’s in fossil bones to figure out what Neandertals ate. (1/28/2019) Readability: 7.4
Researchers role-played as Neandertals to learn how they hunted birds By pretending to be Neandertals, researchers showed that the ancient hominids likely had the skills to hunt crowlike birds called choughs. (11/21/2021) Readability: 6.5
Neandertal toe contains human DNA
Fossils point to Neandertal diets — and medicine use
Fiery tests suggest gooey tech by Neandertals
Europe’s ancient humans often hooked up with Neandertals
Examining Neandertal and Denisovan DNA wins a 2022 Nobel Prize
Some Neandertal genes may up the risk of severe COVID-19
Our species may have reached Europe while Neandertals were there
Just a tiny share of the DNA in us is unique to humans
For a look at some of the remains that have taught us about our extinct cousins, check out the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s online gallery of Neandertal fossils.