Paleoanthropes represented an extremely diverse group of fossil humans both morphologically and chronologically. They populated vast territories of Europe, Asia and Africa. The first find of the skeletal remains of paleoanthropes was made in the Neanderthal river valley in Germany in 1856, from where their other name came – Neanderthals.
Most of the numerous finds of the remains of paleoanthropes date from 250 to 35 thousand years ago. But scientists believe that paleoanthropes appeared much earlier.
Ancient people had a cranium volume of about 1,400 cm3, manufactured a variety of stone tools (chopped, scraper, pointed, etc.), possessed the rudiments of articulate speech.
Scientists have not yet reached a consensus on the place and role of Neanderthals in anthropogenesis and have put forward three hypotheses:
– Neanderthals – the direct ancestors of man of the modern type;
– Neanderthals made some genetic contribution to the human gene pool of the modern type;
– Neanderthals are a lateral dead end branch of hominid evolution.
Many finds of fossil remains in different regions indicate significant variability in the populations of the early Neanderthals. Currently, Neanderthals are considered one of the subspecies of Homo sapiens.
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