circa 25,000 BCE — the last Neanderthals become extinct

It’s unclear exactly how our nearest hominid relatives went extinct, but the leading candidates are our direct ancestors: whether fucking or fighting.

I mean that quite literally: some of them interbred with homo sapiens until they no longer existed as a separate species, or they just plain got killed by other homo sapiens. At their widest range, Neandertals occupied lands from Ireland and Spain in the west through to the southern Urals in the East. They did not go extinct everywhere at the same time, of course, but the precise details are somewhat obscured by the incompleteness of the fossil record.

circa 600,000 BCE — The first Neanderthals evolve

The classic ‘caveman’, Neanderthals – homo neanderthalensis – were native to Europe, Western Asia and Central Asia. The earliest Neanderthal characteristics evolved at around this time – fossil evidence (admittedly incomplete) suggests that the full differentiation of the species had taken place by 130,000 BCE.

They were not, as is often thought, the ancestors of modern humanity, but rather a rival species that our ancestors wiped out in a competition for space and resources.