The official discovery of the Neanderthal species was made in a limestone quarry of the Neander Valley (near Düsseldorf) in August, 1856, three years before Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published.
The type specimen, dubbed Neanderthal 1, consisted of a skull cap (pictured at right), two femora, three bones from the right arm, two from the left arm, part of the left ilium, fragments of a scapula, and ribs. The workers who recovered this material originally thought it to be the remains of a bear. They gave the material to amateur naturalist Johann Karl Fuhlrott, who turned the fossils over to anatomist Hermann Schaafhausen. The discovery was jointly announced in 1857. The species name of neanderthalensis comes from William King, who first named the species in 1863 at a meeting of the British Association, and put it into print in the Quarterly Journal of Science in 1864.
That discovery is now considered
the beginning of paleoanthropology. The discovery in 1856 was not,
however, the first Neanderthal specimens discovered. Two prior
discoveries, in Engis, Belgium in 1829 and Forbes' Quarry, Gibraltar in
1848, were eventually classified as Neanderthal sometime after the 1856
discovery. These and other discoveries led to the idea that these
remains were from ancient Europeans who had played an important role in
modern human origins. The bones of over 400 Neanderthals have been found
While this find was the beginning of paleoanthropology, it was also the beginning of a long debate that is just a vigorous today as it was a hundred years ago. German scientist R. Virchow claimed that it was the skeleton of a diseased Cossack cavalryman, with thick browridges developed from constantly furrowing his brow in pain. Even when the validity of remains attributed to Neanderthal were no longer in such question, the description of Neanderthals was still full of controversy. M. Boule and H. Vallois were the most prominent of those who believed that Neanderthals had no place in modern ancestry. These two supported the idea that Neanderthals were more apelike than human, were of simian intelligence, and walked in an apelike gait. These perceptions were based on both the misinterpretation of the La Chapelle-aux-Saints specimen as typic of the species (this species was an older individual with chronic arthritis throughout its body), and on the prejudices of these researchers, who refused to accept any evidence that related Neanderthals closely to modern Europeans.
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All About Neanderthal
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