This edition of Horizon does something that no one has done before. We have assembled the first ever complete Neanderthal skeleton, from parts gathered from all over the world, to reveal the most anatomically accurate representation of modern humanity’s closest relative. The aim is to use this skeleton to answer two of the great questions of human evolution. Was Neanderthal a thinking, feeling human being like us, or a primitive beast? And why is it that we are here today, and Neanderthal is extinct?
To answer these questions, we’ve brought together a team of leading experts to explore the skeleton for clues, and perform experiments to test out their ideas. Their findings allow us to use drama to bring Neanderthal to life with unrivalled accuracy. They reveal how Neanderthal hunted, thought – even spoke.
What emerges is a very different beast to the brute of legend. It seems Neanderthal was in many ways our equal and in some ways our superior. And the story of his extinction owed less to modern humans’ superiority than sheer luck.