Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens once coexisted for a period of time in the distant past during the late Pleistocene era (Benazzi et al. 2011), so there is speculation that they may have shared various similarities. Whether they occupied the same niche, or used and created tools that resembled equivalent shape and form, or whether both species lived in groups that paralleled in hierarchy and social behaviors are questions that many researchers have been trying to answer (Wynn and Coolidge 2008). At the same time, there have been discoveries that allow us to recognize the distinctions that set Neanderthals and Homo sapiens apart.
During the Pleistocene era, which began around 1.8 million years ago, the continents had shifted to the locations that they are in today (Zimmerman 2009). According to Polly (www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/), the Pleistocene was discovered to be comprised of biomes that were similar to the ones that are identified today. Various forms of flora and fauna began to arise in this era as well, such as pines, mosses, flowering plants, insects, birds and mammals. Further into the Upper Pleistocene, it is theorized that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens originated in Africa and diverged around 450,000 – 485,000 years ago (Ovchinnikov 2010).
It is suggested that Neanderthals traveled to areas in Europe, India, and Asia from parts of Africa. This detached hominid group diverged into Neanderthal man over thousands of years while residing in the northwest India-Afghanistan region (Weckler 1954). Homo neanderthalensis dispersed much earlier than our own species had, which continued to occupy Africa for quite some time and eventually became confined to this region because of barriers such as massive lakes and highly elevated mountains. The two species of hominids may have had very limited interaction for thousands of years until Homo sapiens traveled across Europe during a cold period approximately 50,000 years ago (Smithsonian 2014).
Dramatic fluctuations in climate and temperature in the Pleistocene Epoch produced many preserved fossils of Neanderthal and early Homo sapiens fragments and bones as well as ancient tools and animal bones (www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/). This occurrence has allowed researchers to approximate the date of divergence, track the dispersal and inhabited regions of these species, as well as being able to identify other findings that enhance our knowledge of the Neanderthal species as well as our own.
The purpose of this paper includes the examination of the different aspects of this hominid group, Homo Neanderthalensis, which will cover dispersals, distinguishing anatomical features, language, and the social behaviors and cultural ways of life. In addition to the first objective, I will continuously discuss the comparisons as well as the distinctions that are found between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. Another important element to be considered is the circulating question of why Homo sapiens managed to prevail and...