Gail << Boy o boy o boy! Have I known a few men who without a doubt were 100% caveman! >>
What I have on the Neanderthals (some spell it Neandertals) :
By 500,000 years ago, two distinct lineages were evolving in the west. The first was endemic to Europe, which we call the “Steinheim group” (basal Neanderthals), though it is not restricted to Europe alone because we believe that the Narmada cranium from central India and Maba from China also represent part of this lineage. The second lineage of H. heidelbergensis is endemic to Africa, later moving into Europe and even China (Dali and Jinniushan). Later, African demes of H. heidelbergensis gave rise to early H. sapiens, the initial split occurring around 300,000 years ago.
The current fossil, molecular, and archeological evidence strongly supports the specific distinction of the Neanderthals from early and modern H. sapiens. The Neanderthal lineage first appeared some 500,000 years ago, according to the molecular clock, and the fossil record suggests that the “Steinheim group” reflects a basal Neanderthal anatomical condition. This group exploited the colder conditions of an Ice Age Europe, their survival in this region enabled by the increasing development of their “cold exaptations.” This initial split between these two groups was not based on a greater ability to withstand Ice Age conditions (though ultimately this must have pushed them farther apart over time), but occurred for some other reason, perhaps cultural.
The molecular evidence shows that Neanderthal mtDNA is significantly different not only from modern humans, but also from homo sapiens dating back to 40,000 years ago. Neanderthals had a distinct pattern of resource exploitation, which includes scavenging and the hunting of large mammal herds and less likely the stalking of individual animals. They also appear to have relied on scavenging to a greater degree than do modern humans; indeed, a number of occurrences appear to be scavenging process sites, while others are associated with large mammal carcass processing. But like homo sapiens, they buried their dead, and there is some slight evidence for the production of “art.”
To a large degree, early modern H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis had managed to avoid each other. Early modern humans depended on African fauna for food resources and followed its dispersals into the Levant and southern Europe, while Neanderthals were dependent on a European arctic fauna, whose migration pattern and territorial range expanded and shrank according to the fluctuations of Ice Age Europe. Eventually, early modern people moved into Europe, beginning sometime around 40,000 years ago. And when glacial conditions returned, this time, for whatever reason, they did not disperse south but remained in the region – perhaps coming into contact with the Neanderthals for the first time.
It is with the arrival of the people from the south that we see for the first time the full-blown expression of symbolism – mobile and fixed artistic expression, and a more refined template-based tool technology. They appear to have been more mobile, hunting and gathering over a broad area, while the Neanderthals tended to remain in their well-known and long-occupied valley systems. By 30,000 years ago, increased competition, increased mortality rates, and a declining birthrate sent the Neanderthals in a downward spiral to extinction. There is no need to appeal to an argument of “prehistoric genocide” to explain their final disappearance from the earth some 27,000 years ago.
(from Bones, Stones, and Molecules by Cameron / Groves [Elsevier Academic Press, 2004], page 283-284)