"I've never seen a neanderthal in a suit before"
Neanderthals in an artist's impression of earth 600 000 years ago
Public DomainNeanderthals in an artist's impression of earth 600 000 years ago - Credit: Randii Oliver

 

Amud skull - Example of Neanderthal skull found in Israel
Public DomainAmud skull - Example of Neanderthal skull found in Israel - Credit: José-Manuel Benito

Neanderthals are an extinct branch of our family tree. They used to live in Europe and Western Asia 600 000 to 350 000 years ago. Their range would have overlapped with our own. They were similar to modern humans in that they walked upright but they had a more robust frame and were shorter.  They had a larger brain than we do relative to their body size, but the skull shape suggests a less well developed frontal lobe.  There is still some debate about whether they are a sub species of Homo sapiens or a distinct species and whether there was interaction and interbreeding between the two.  

They are named for the area in which they were first recorded in 1856, in Neandertal valley, near Dusseldorf, in Germany.