Europe, eighty thousand years ago, for countless generations the kingdom of a remarkable and mysterious creature, Neanderthal. A species of human in many ways so similar to us, and yet also very different. Tonight we’ve brought together a crack team of experts to recreate Neanderthal. In unrivalled, anatomical detail. We’ll discover exactly how modern humans would have stood up against our ancient rival in strength and endurance.
And how Neanderthals might have compared to us in intelligence and inventiveness. At the end of it all we’ll be able to answer some of the great questions of human evolution. Was Neanderthal the simple-minded brute of legend? Or a rival to our own species? And why is it that today we are the only species of human alive and the Neanderthal is extinct?
It was the beginning of a legend. What was this ancient creature and when had it lived? Soon, one thing at least became certain, it had not been alone. Remains of the savages were being found all over Europe. From the Atlantic coast in the west almost to the foothills of the Himalayas in the east. They were everywhere.
Like so many of the best stories the saga of Neanderthal began with a chance discovery. In 1848, a strange skull was discovered on the tiny military outpost of Gibraltar. When it was first revealed, it confounded everyone who saw it. There was no doubt it was human, but it also had the heavy features of an ape.