Abstract and Keywords
The 'classical' Neanderthals lived for about 100 000 years in Europe and western Asia. They differed from coeval Africans in their cold-adapted body proportions and less gracilized cranio-facial anatomy. However, they left an archaeological record that, in technology, subsistence, and social organization, is analogous to that of ethnographically documented hunter-gatherers, and as varied in time and space as should be expected from their geographical range and the fluctuating climatic conditions under which they lived. Long suspected of a lack of symbolism, perhaps even language, their behavioural repertoire includes not only ritual burials but also decorated bone tools and personal ornaments. The palaeontological evidence for admixture at the time of contact and the genetic evidence for the persistence of Neanderthal genes in extant human populations indicate that their disappearance, between 35 000 and 40 000 years ago, occurred via assimilation into a larger gene pool of ultimately African origin.
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