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THE NEANDERTHALS About 150000 or 200000 years ago Europe and western Asia witnessed the emergence of a distinctive new kind of human The group is known informally as the Neanderthals after the German site in the valley of the Neander River that in 1857 The earliest probable Neanderthal fossil is a broken braincase from Ehringsdorf in germany dated to 200000 years ago or perhaps even earlier However the reconstruction of this specimin is disputed and for better evidence we have to move up to about 150000 years ago An interesting discovery in Germany The Neanderthal people were named after the Neander Valley near near Dusseldorf Germany through which the river Dussel flows In1856 workers were quarrying lime and they invetigated a cave about 20 yards up a cliff like slope in the narrow steep valley Inside they found a collection of fossil bones in the deep mud of the cave floor Not recognising their importance the quarrymen excavated them but left them jumpled with other debris A local teacher became interested in the find and he retrieved part of the top of the skull along with some of the limb bones He passed them to the professor of Anatomy at the university of Bonn Hermann Schaaffhausen who concluded that they were probably human and very old He was practically struck by the impressive jutting brow ridges over the eyes and the thickness and strength of the browed limbed bones with their large anchorage points for obviously powerful muscles Schaaffhausen described the find to the Lower Rhine Medical and Natural History Society in Bonn on February 4 1857 The Neanderthal age When did the Neanderthal people live Fossils of the typical representatives are dated from 70000 to 35000 years ago This was the time when ice advanced from the north down across much of Europe during the penultimate great Ice Age One of the latest Neanderthal specimens
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