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Remains left by Neanderthals include bone and stone tools, which are found in Eurasia, from Western Europe to Central, Northern, and Western Asia.

Neanderthals are generally classified by paleontologists as the species Homo neanderthalensis, having separated from the Homo sapiens lineage 600,000 years ago, or alternatively, as a subspecies of Homo sapiens (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis).

Compared to Homo sapiens, Neanderthals had a lower surface-to-volume ratio, with shorter legs and a bigger body in conformance with Bergmann's rule, as an energy-loss reduction adaptation to life in a high-latitude (i.e. Their average cranial capacity of 1600 cm The Neanderthal genome project published papers in 20 stating that Neanderthals contributed to the DNA of modern humans, including most humans outside sub-Saharan Africa, as well as a few sub-Saharan Africa's populations, through interbreeding, likely between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago.

In 2016, research indicated that modern humans had three distinct interbreeding events with Neanderthals: the first encounter involved the ancestors of all non-African modern humans, probably soon after leaving Africa; the second, after the ancestral Melanesian group had branched off (and subsequently had a unique breeding event with Denisovans); and the third, involving the ancestors of East Asians only.In addition, scientists reported having sequenced the entire genome of a Neanderthal for the first time.The genome was extracted from the toe bone of a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal found in a Siberian cave.In 2016, elaborate constructions of rings of broken stalagmites made by early Neanderthals around 176,000 years ago were discovered 336 m (1,102 ft) inside Bruniquel Cave in south-western France.This would have required a more advanced social structure than previously known for Neanderthals.

The species is named after one of the first sites where its fossils were discovered in the 19th century, about 12 km (7.5 mi) east of Düsseldorf, Germany, in the Feldhofer Cave, located at the Düssel River's Neander valley.

Neanderthal 1 was known as the "Neanderthal cranium" or "Neanderthal skull" in anthropological literature, and the individual reconstructed on the basis of the skull was occasionally called "the Neanderthal man".

The binomial name Homo neanderthalensis – extending the name "Neanderthal man" from the individual type specimen to the entire species – was first proposed by the Anglo-Irish geologist William King in 1864, although that same year King changed his mind and thought that the Neanderthal fossil was distinct enough from humans to warrant a separate genus.

Scientists to this day debate over whether Neanderthals should be classified as a distinct species - Homo neanderthalensis - or as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, the latter placing Neanderthals as a subspecies of H. During the early 20th century the prevailing view has been heavily influenced by Arthur Keith and Marcellin Boule, who wrote the first scientific description of a nearly complete Neanderthal skeleton.

both men argued that this "primitive" Neanderthal could not be a direct ancestor of modern man.

This idea was reflected in an erroneous and inaccurate reconstruction of the Neanderthal findings of La Chapelle-aux-Saints, mounted in a crooked pose with a deformed and heavily curved spine and legs buckled.