The name is derived from tal or thal = a valley, and Neander = a river, where the first specimen was unearthed, a chap that appears to have been arthritic or had a physical disability. At http://suspectterrane.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/neanderthal.html ... a geologist blogger provides his take on the debate - were they oafish, beastial, low brow, or were they not so different from us nowadays.
At http://phys.org/print301582052.html ... is about the search for a common ancestor linking modern humans with Neanderthals. Going by dental fossils (they don't have much else to play with) none of the suspects (so far) fit the assumed profile - of an ancestor of both Neanderthal and modern humans, on the basis, it is thought, the two lines diverged around one million years ago.
This is turning into a big story - see http://phys.org/print301240629.html ... the discovery of early human skulls in Georgia (in the Transcaucasus) which have been dated 1.8 million years ago, but surprisingly were found under medieval buildings, suggest the human family tree is not as varied or as lengthy as the consensus believes. The article is published in Science journal and requires reading in full before making lame assertions but the idea being explored is that Homo Erectus varied as far as shape, size, and type are concerned - but it must be emphasized, others disagree.
This question comes up all the time. What actually happened around 40,000 years ago. The old chestnust that Neanderthals were conservative in their diet no longer holds true - from a variety of evidence from different sites (but see http://phys.org/print298626001.html). A cave in the Caucasus mountains suggests Neanderthals were eating fish - or so it is theorised. It is assumed the fish were brought to the cave by humans for consumption - how else might they have got there. How else indeed.
Not the very modern humans but those that were around 40,000 years ago - see www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130913093314.htm
At www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/09/2013/10000-year-old-bones-a... ... excavations in Kents Bank Cavern on Morecambe Bay in the 1990s found bones that ended up in a museum in Barrow in Furness (home of the Submarine museum, well worth a visit). Scientists from Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Nottingham have published their analysis of one of the sets of bones in Journal of Quaternary Science.
At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130812154225.htm ... Neanderthals again found to be not so backward. Four bone tools found at Pech de l'Aze were used to work hides. Modern leather workers still use similar tools - but these date 50,000 years ago. Bone tools have often been associated with Neanderthals in the past but the association has been denied as the deposits, usually found above the Neanderthal layers, has led to the accusation that the tools really belong to modern humans and have somehow penetrated into the lower Neanderthal levels.
At http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/archaeology/upper/india/mishra-micro... ... is a discussion of a paper by Sheila Mishra et al which centres on the introduction of micro blade tool assemblages in India, and their possible association with an actual human migration, focussing on one site in particular in Madhya Pradesh (and now dated around 45,000 years ago). John Hawks is his usual sceptical self and uses it to discuss the Late Pleistocene in India.
At www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/352058/description/Y_chromosome_anal... ... which is basically telling us the male line is as old as the female mitochondrial line - but what does it mean for earlier genetic studies into the age of migrating groups of people? Is it possible that migrations are also older than imagined - such as the genetic footprint of the first farmers. Might this mark the genetic footprint of a Palaeolithic migration - or is this pie in the sky.
At www.geneticarchaeology.com/research/Did_Neandertals_have_language.asp ... we learn that research seems to suggest Neanderthals were very similar to modern humans, in a variety of ways. The idea Neanderthals, or Homo erectus come to that, were completely different to modern humans is all down to scholarly classification - which box, or museum drawer a particularly skull might be stored away. Classification led to the idea modern humans are in some way special, rather clever creatures and therefore quite unlike their forebears.