Neanderthal man was a species that lived in Europe and sections of western Asia during the Middle Paleolithic period, between 29,000 and 230,000 years ago. An excellent reference on Neanderthals is www.neanderthals.us.
According to this site, the physical attributes of Neanderthals, who lived in bands, show that they learned to adapt to the cold. Evidence of this includes large braincases, short yet robust body types and large noses, all of which are present in modern sub-arctic groups. Their actual brain size might well have been about the same as ours.
Most Neanderthal males were just under 5’6″ tall and relatively heavy and muscular. These traits suggest that they were very physically active. Females stood between 5’0″ and 5’2″.
Archaeological excavation of Neanderthal sites suggests that bands used stone tools with a characteristic style attributed by anthropologists to the Mousterian Culture. This culture was named after a prominent site where certain tools were first found. The tools recovered suggest that Neanderthals used soft hammer percussion. Near the end of the species’ existence, archaeologists suggest that they utilized more advanced tools they either invented or adapted from objects used by modern humans they might have encountered.
Artistic renditions of Neanderthals depict them as almost startling in their resemblance to current man. They’re usually shown wearing or carrying pelts or furs, apparently to suggest life in a cold climate.
They fashioned everyday implements from antlers, shell or other bone materials in addition to making stone tools. Digs have uncovered stone axes and spears, many of which were very sharp. However, while they made weapons, there is no evidence yet that they were used as projectiles. Spears had long wooden shafts with a head firmly attached but were apparently used like a lance.
Neanderthals buried their dead, although the arrangements were apparently less elaborate than the practices used of anatomically modern humans. The existence of certain flower pollen suggests the burials involved some type of rituals. Excavations have also revealed grave items such as bison and auroch bones, tools and ochre pigment.
Bands performed advanced tasks usually linked to humans. They built complex shelters, controlled fire and skinned animals. One artifact recovered is a hollowed-out bone with four spaced holes to resemble a flute. It was recovered in what is now known as western Slovenia in 1995.
The anthropological jury is still out of the exact relationship between Neanderthals and modern man. The most recent evidence comes from mitochondrial DNA studies and suggests that they were not a subspecies of Homo sapiens. However, some scientists believe that based on fossil evidence, the two groups at some point interbred and were in fact the same biological species.