Neanderthals are our closest extinct human relatives. There is some debate as to whether they were a distinct species of the Homo genus or a subspecies of Homo sapiens. They lived in Eurasia 200,000 to 30,000 years ago, in the Pleistocene Era. Neanderthals’ appearance was similar to ours, though they were shorter and stockier with angled cheekbones, prominent brow ridges, and wide noses. Though sometimes thought of as dumb brutes, scientists have discovered that they used tools, buried their dead and controlled fire, among other intelligent behaviors. It is theorized that for a time, Neanderthals, humans and probably other Homo species shared the Earth. During the Ice Age, they often took shelter from the ice, snow, and otherwise unpleasant weather in Eurasia’s plentiful limestone caves. Many of their fossils have been found in caves, leading to the popular idea of them as cave men. Like humans, Neanderthals originated in Africa but migrated to Eurasia long before humans did. Neanderthals lived across Eurasia, as far north and west as the Britain, through part of the Middle East, to Uzbekistan. Their short, stocky stature was an evolutionary adaptation for cold weather, since it consolidated heat. According to the Smithsonian Institution, the wide nose helped humidify and warm cold air, though this assertion is debated. The American Museum of Natural History states that other differences from humans are a flaring, funnel-shaped chest, a flaring pelvis, and robust fingers and toes. Their brains, however, grew at a similar rate to humans’ and were about the same size or larger. Approximately 1 percent of Neanderthals had red hair, light skin, and maybe even freckles. For a long time, scientists and anthropologists theorized that Neanderthals grew up faster than humans, reaching maturity sooner and dying younger, as chimps do. In 2008, however, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published evidence that humans and Neanderthals matured at the same rate. Neanderthals lived in nuclear families. Discoveries of elderly or deformed Neanderthal skeletons suggest that they took care of their sick and those who could not care for themselves. Neanderthals typically lived to be about 30 years old, though some lived longer. It is accepted that Neanderthals buried their dead, though whether or not they left carved bone shards as grave goods is more controversial. Neanderthals used stone tools similar to and no more sophisticated than the ones used by early humans, including blades and scrapers made from stone flakes. As time went on, they created tools of greater complexity, utilizing materials like bones and antlers. Evan Hadingham of PBS’s NOVA even reports that Neanderthals used a type of glue, and later pitch, to attach stone tips to wooden shafts, creating formidable hunting spears. Neanderthals were primarily carnivorous, and the harsh climate caused them to resort occasionally to cannibalism. Recently, however, scientists have found that Neanderthals actually ate cooked vegetables fairly regularly. Probably the most debated aspect of Neanderthal life in recent years is whether or not they interbred with humans. The answer remains ambiguous, with scholarly opinions ranging from belief that they definitely interbred to belief that the two groups didn’t exist on earth at the same time.