Who Were The Neanderthals?

By | July 6, 2019

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Neanderthal man at the human evolution exhibit at the Natural History Museum in London, England, United Kingdom. Source: (photo by Mike Kemp/Getty Images)

From 430 to thirty thousand years ago, a different species of human inhabited a wide swath of Eurasia from Spain to Central Asia. Known as Neanderthals from the 1856 discovery of their fossils in the Neander Valley of Germany, they represent an object of fascination for pre-historians.

So what do we know about them? Interestingly, of all the extinct species of humans, we know the most about the Neanderthals since we have more fossils of them than any other extinct species of human. In fact, recent scientific studies show that we may be more closely related to Neanderthals than we once thought.

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Reconstitution of Le Moustier Homo neanderthalensis by Charles R. Knight. Source: (Wikipedia)

NeanderTHAL versus NeanderTAL

Let’s set the ground rules. Homo neanderthalensis may be spelled with the TH or just the T, but when pronouncing, the hard T should always be used. The reason: Neanderthal as a description is German for the Neander Valley, which in that region of Germany in the mid-19th century was Neander Thal. In the 20th century, German spelling was standardized and Thal became Tal. Either way, the pronunciation was always the same as the hard T. The TH sound was only used by English speakers who used their own pronunciation of the TH.