Neanderthals – Early Humans in Europe and Asia

 

The Neanderthals were primitive forms of modern human beings who lived in Europe and Asia from about 200,000 to 20,000 years ago. Although some scientists claim that Neanderthals were an early form of humans, others say they were a separate species. The name comes from Neander Valley in northwestern Germany, where the first bones were found in the 19th century.

Neanderthals had the perfect muscular body to survive during the harsh climate of the Ice Age and the warmer periods in between. These early people were short, but well built. They had short strong arms with which they could thrust their heavy stone-tipped spears. They had a wide chest and short legs. Neanderthals did not live in great numbers. Probably, there were not more than 10,000 to 20,000 at any given time.

Neanderthals lived in and around forests.  From there they hunted wild animals like deer, horses or wild cattle. Popular theory says that Neanderthals were dumb creatures but, in fact, they had a brain that was about 20% bigger than ours. Some experts claim they had an intelligence that was similar to ours. They knew how to use fire and were the first people to bury their dead in simple graves. Life expectancy, however, was not very high. Few Neanderthals lived to become 40.

Scientists are convinced that they had some form of language even if it didn’t resemble the way we speak today. Recent DNA testing has showed that modern humans share about 1% to 4% of their genes with Neanderthals.


About 20,000 years ago the Neanderthals suddenly disappeared. Not very much is known about why and they became extinct. One explanation may be that forests disappeared and thus changed the environment of these early people. In the open grasslands and plains they would not have felt so secure and may have feared attack. Another theory says that modern humans came to Europe from Africa and started to mix with Neanderthals.

Neanderthal Head

What a Neanderthal Male May Have Looked Like -
Tim Evanson - http://www.flickr.com/photos/23165290@N00/7283199754/

 

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Words

  • although = while
  • brain = the organ inside your head that controls how you feel and think
  • bury = to put a dead person in a grave
  • cattle = cows that are kept for milk and meat
  • century = a period of a hundred years
  • chest = the front part of your body, between your neck and your stomach
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • convinced = feeling certain that something is true
  • creature = a living thing
  • disappear = to go away; not be seen
  • DNA = the material that carries the genetic information in the cells of the body
  • environment = the world around us
  • expert = a person who knows a lot about a subject
  • extinct = die out
  • gene = part of a cell in a living thing that controls  what it looks like, how it grows and develops
  • grave = place under ground where a dead person is buried
  • harsh = tough ,cruel
  • however = but
  • human being = person
  • life expectancy = how long someone will live , on average
  • muscular = very strong
  • plains =flat area of land, with much grass and usually without forests
  • popular theory = what people have thought over a long time
  • resemble = be like
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in the laboratory
  • secure = safe
  • separate = their own
  • similar = like
  • spear = a pole with a sharp pointed piece of metal at the end
  • species = a groups of animals or plants  whose members are similar and  can breed together and have babies
  • stone-tipped = with a stone point at the end
  • survive = to live on after a dangerous situation
  • thrust = push with a lot of power, throw