Neanderthals are long gone - or another way to see it is that they live on in us (as most of us are 1-4% Neanderthal). There is much to learn about our big-boned, heavy-brow-ridged cousins. We know they had a low population, were human, and were inbreed. But there is much more to learn and new discoveries are being made constantly - together with our other cousins the Denisovans.

So for those who would like to learn about our mysterious cousins, two key locations are in Gibraltar (where the first skull was discovered) and in Germany (where they were first discovered and described).

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About The Neanderthals

Neanderthals are an extinct species (or subspecies) of archaic humans who lived in Europe and parts of western Asia. After the arrival of modern humans, they soon went extinct. The exact reason is still a matter of debate but it may have been a matter of being out-competed, being bred into extinction, climatic change, disease, conflict, and the reasons.

  • Split: Their Line Split Off In Intervals From 315,000 to Over 800,000 Years Ago
  • Fossils: Neanderthals are Known From Many Fossils - Especially After 130,000 Years Ago

They were more robustly built than modern humans with shorter limbs. They had adaptations to live in a cold climate and the average Neanderthal man stood around 165 cm or 5 foot 5 inches while women were 153 cm to 5 foot 2 inches.

There is nothing to indicate they were less intelligent than modern man and their brains were about the same size. Their total population was low and they accumulated weakly harmful genes from inbreeding. Around 80% died before they reached 40.

Related: The Best Museums In England Appeal To Everyone, Not Just History Buffs

Gorham’s Cave Complex World Heritage Site

It is crazy that one of the best sites for Neanderthals is the tiny and densely populated Rock of Gibraltar. Almost every square inch of that land was tunneled and made into a formidable fort. And yet somehow the Gorham's Cave Complex has survived and covers an area of 28 hectares on the eastside of Gibraltar.

It has been UNESCO listed for its exceptional testimony to the occupation, cultural traditions, and material culture of the Neanderthals as well as modern humans. The period spans an eye-watering 120,000 years.

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Gibraltar is known to have had a longstanding association with the Neanderthals. In fact, the first complete skull of the Neanderthals was discovered here - 8 years before the famous remains in Germany in Neander Valley. However, they were described from the site in Neander Valley. Another skull (called the Devil's Tower Child) was found in Gibraltar in 1926.

  • Name: From The Site Of Discovery - The Neander Valley
  • Skulls: First Skull Discovered 1848, Second Skull Discovered 1926

It is now thought that Gibraltar was one of the last refuges for the Neanderthals around 32,000 years ago. There is also evidence of complex social behavior as well as their clothing at the site. Additionally, there is even evidence of rock engravings carved by Neanderthals in Gorham's Cave that indicate they had the ability to have abstract thought.

Today one may not be able to enter the caves, but much of Gibraltar is part of the UNESCO site and one can walk all around the Rock. There is also a viewing platform where one can see the cliffs where the caves are found. Gibraltar may be tiny, but it is full of things to see and is one of the oddest places in Europe - also the only place with wild monkeys in Europe.

  • Opening Hours: 7 am to 10 pm Daily (Of Gibraltar's Reserve/UNSECO Site)

Tip: Watch Out For The Macaque Monkeys - They Will Think One's Backpack Means Food

Related: This Is Why Visiting The Cave Of Winds Mountain Park In Colorado Is So Otherworldly

Neanderthal Museum In Germany

Just a short distance from the famous Neander Valley where the first recognized Neanderthals were discovered is the Neanderthal Museum. It is one of the best museums for telling the story of man. The Neanderthal Museum tells the story of humanity from its beginnings on the African savannah over 4 million years ago to now.

The exhibits vividly convey the latest research and findings from archaeology and palaeoanthropology. In London, two of the best museums to learn about the history of mankind are the British Museum and the Natural History Museum.

  • Address: Neanderthal Museum, Talstraße 300, 40822 Mettmann
  • Opening Hours: 10 am to 6 pm
  • Days: Tuesday To Sunday (Closed Mondays)
  • Admission: Adults 11:00 € ($13), Children (6-16 yrs.) 6.50 € ($7)

The cave in the Neander Valley where the Neanderthals were discovered in 1856 was destroyed due to quarry work (it was the quarry workers who found the bones). The name of the cave is Feldhofer Cave and a park has now been created on the site.

  • Distance: Feldhofer Cave is Only Around 400 Meters From The Museum
  • Discovery Site Opening Hours: March to October: 10 am to 5 pm | November to February: 10 am to 4 pm

Next: What To Expect Visiting The Incredible Mammoth Cave National Park