Neanderthals are an extinct group of fossil humans that appeared in Western Eurasia in the mid-Middle Pleistocene. They shared the stage with the first modern humans arriving in Europe from around 45,000 years ago, before disappearing from the fossil record between c. 40,000 – c. 30,000 years ago. Neanderthals were a highly successful group, having adapted well to the unpredictable climate of a region in which advancing and retreating ice sheets were no strangers. Their short, stocky build made them sturdy and powerful, while their large brains fuelled their capability of hunting even the biggest Ice Age creatures such as mammoths or woolly rhinoceros.
We – modern humans – are tied to Neanderthals in many ways, from sharing a common ancestor down the line, back in Africa, to coexisting in Europe for some time. There, the two must have competed for resources, but are also known to have interbred with each other, causing the Neanderthals to have had a genetic impact on us still visible in our DNA today.