"Wise Man" & Neanderthals Illustration

Early Humans for Kids
Homo Sapiens
"Wise Man" & Neanderthals
500,000 BCE to 30,000 BCE


Homo sapiens is different from Homo Erectus.  The skull of Homo Sapiens is larger with a more pronounced forehead allowing the brain to be much larger.

Like Homo Erectus, Homo Sapiens was a hunter/gatherer, meaning that they gathered up much of their food from available vegetation and they did some hunting and fishing to eke out their diet.  To do this they created stone and bone tools, needles and fish hooks.  They tanned animal skins to make clothing and boots.

One of the earliest discoveries of early man was found under the ground of a Tal, or small hill, near the village of Neander.  Thus we get the Neandertal man or Homo Neandertalensis.  You might also see it spelled as Neanderthal.  Either spelling is correct and each is used in noted archeology.  The skeleton discovered was of a male.  Archeologists first thought that Neanderthal was the link between ape and man since the skeleton showed a being that walked with bent knees, a thick neck and head stuck out forward much like an ape.

As scientific techniques improved, it was found that Neanderthal was actually an old man who had disfiguring arthritis, which caused him to be bent into the shape he was.

Later discoveries showed that Neanderthal man was actually taller then modern humans with a larger skull (and larger brain), and very strong (thick bones).  From remains found, scientists have discovered that they lived in caves and had fires in which they cooked their food.  They were good hunters.

Another interesting fact about Neandertal is that they buried their dead.  They also had some sort of ceremony because they painted the bodies of the dead.

Neandertals disappeared around 30,000 BCE.  We don't know if they were killed off by another branch of Homo Sapiens or if they intermingled with other groups and gradually merged with them.  But disappear they did.

Neanderthals on Trial (pbs)

See the difference between mtDNA and nuclear DNA - interactive family tree

Skull comparison between Neanderthal and Cro Magnon

Dig and Deduce (interactive)

On Becoming Human

Early Humans Q&A Quiz Interactive

Free Presentations in PowerPoint format about Neanderthals