The Neandertal (//, also US: /-/, German: [neˈʔandɐtaːl]; sometimes called "the Neander Valley" in English) is a small valley of the river Düssel in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, located about 12 km (7.5 mi) east of Düsseldorf, the capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia. The valley lies within the limits of the towns of Erkrath and Mettmann. In August, 1856, the area became famous for the discovery of Neanderthal 1, the first specimen of Homo neanderthalensis to be found.
The Neandertal was originally a limestone canyon widely known for its rugged scenery, waterfalls and caves. However, industrial quarrying during the 19th and 20th centuries removed most of the limestone and dramatically changed the shape of the valley. It was during such a quarrying operation that the bones of the original Neanderthal man were found in a cave known as Kleine Feldhofer Grotte. Neither the cave nor the cliff in which the bones were located still exists.
During the 19th century the valley was called Neandershöhle (Neander's Cave), and, after 1850, Neanderthal. It was named after Joachim Neander, a 17th-century German pastor. Neander is the Greek translation of his family name Neumann; both names mean "new man". Neumann lived in nearby Düsseldorf and loved the valley for giving him the inspiration for his compositions. Former names of the gorge were Das Gesteins (The Boulders) and Das Hundsklipp (Cliff of dogs, perhaps in the sense of "Cliff of Beasts").
In 1901 an orthographic reform in Germany changed the spelling of Thal (valley) to Tal. Scientific names, such as Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens neanderthalensis for Neanderthal remained unchanged, because the laws of taxonomy retain the original spelling at the time of naming. However, Neanderthal train station never changed its name to conform with the latest German orthography, because the nearby Neanderthal Museum retains the original spelling.
Since the initial discovery of the specimen of the valley there have been additional excavations. Multiple artifacts and human skeletal fragments have been found in the valley. Excavations have found two cranial fragments that seem to fit onto the original Neandertal 1 calotte (bones of the cranial vault). Excavations performed in 1997 and 2000 found new human skeletal pieces. There are questions as to whether these remains are those of Neandertals. Two cranial pieces were unearthed: one, a left zygomatic and partial body and second, a right piece of temporal bone. These pieces appeared to fit the Neandertal 1 calotte perfectly, although these pieces are not specifically from Neandertals. These discoveries may or may not be attributable to the Neandertals but exhibit similar characteristics.
- "Neandertal oder Neanderthal? - Was ist denn nun richtig?" (in German). Town of Mettmann. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
- Schmitz, R. W., Serre, D., Bonani, G., Feine, S., Hillgruber, F., Krainitzki, H., ... & Smith, F. H. (2002) http://www.pnas.org/content/99/20/13342.full