The Neandertal is a small valley of the river Düssel in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, located about 12 km (7.5 mi) east of Düsseldorf, the capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia. The valley belongs to the area of the towns Erkrath and Mettmann. In 1856, the area became famous for the discovery of Neanderthal 1, the first specimen of Homo neanderthalensis to be found.
The Neandertal was originally a limestone canyon widely known for its rugged scenery, waterfalls and caves. However, industrial mining during the 19th and 20th centuries removed almost all of the limestone and dramatically changed the shape of the valley. It was during such a mining operation that the bones of the original Neanderthal man were found in a cave. Neither the cave nor the cliff in which it was located exists anymore.
During the 19th century the valley was called Neandershöhle (Neander's Hollow), and after 1850 Neanderthal (Neander Valley). It was named after Joachim Neander, a 17th-century German pastor. Neander is the Greek translation of his family name Neumann — both names meaning "new man". He lived nearby in Düsseldorf and loved the valley for giving him the inspiration for his compositions. Former names of the gorge were Das Gesteins (The Rockiness) and Das Hundsklipp (Cliff of dogs, perhaps in a sense like "Beastly Cliff").
In 1901 an orthographic reform in Germany changed the spelling of Thal (valley) to Tal. The scientific names like Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis for Neanderthal man are not affected by this change, because the laws of taxonomy retain the original spelling at the time of naming. The railway station nearby still carries the name Neanderthal, because the railway was built in 1879.
More bones were found in 1999 after investigation of the ground at the site of the cliff cave, which had been destroyed 150 years before.
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