The next men we have to talk about are all members of a related group. These are the Neanderthal group. “Neanderthal man” himself was found in the Neander Valley, near Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1856. He was the first human fossil to be recognized as such.
Some of us think that the neanderthaloids proper are only those people of Western Europe who didn’t get out before the beginning of the last great glaciation, and who found themselves hemmed in by the glaciers in the Alps and northern Europe. Being hemmed in; they intermarried a bit too much and developed into a special type. Professor F. Clark Howell sees it this way. In Europe, the earliest trace of men we now know is the Heidelberg jaw. Evolution continued in Europe, from Heidelberg through the Swanscombe and Steinheim types to a group of pre-neanderthaloids. There are traces of these pre-neanderthaloids pretty much throughout Europe during the third interglacial period—say 100,000 years ago. The pre-neanderthaloids are represented by such finds as the ones at Ehringsdorf in Germany and Saccopastore in Italy. I won’t describe them for you, since they are simply less extreme than the neanderthaloids proper--about half way between Steinheim and the classic Neanderthal people.
Professor Howell believes that the pre-neanderthaloids who happened to get caught in the pocket of the southwest corner of Europe at the onset of the last great glaciation became the classic Neanderthalers. Out in the Near East, Howell thinks, it is possible to see traces of people evolving from the pre-neanderthaloid type toward that of fully modern man. Certainly, we don’t see such extreme cases of “neanderthaloidism” outside of Western Europe.
There are at least a dozen good examples in the main or classic Neanderthal group in Europe. They date to just before and in the earlier part of the last great glaciation (85,000 to 40,000 years ago). Many of the finds have been made in caves. The “cave men” the movies and the cartoonists show you are probably meant to be Neanderthalers. I’m not at all sure they dragged their women by the hair; the women were probably pretty tough, too!
Neanderthal men had large bony heads, but plenty of room for brains. Some had brain cases even larger than the average for modern man. Their faces were heavy, and they had eyebrow ridges of bone, but the ridges were not as big as those of Java man. Their foreheads were very low, and they didn’t have much chin. They were about five feet three inches tall, but were heavy and barrel-chested. But the Neanderthalers didn’t slouch as much as they’ve been blamed for, either.
One important thing about the Neanderthal group is that there is a fair number of them to study. Just as important is the fact that we know something about how they lived, and about some of the tools they made.