Atlas Obscura – 257 small steps for our human cousins, one giant leap for paleoanthropology. “Of the variety of ancient hominins who have roamed this planet, Neanderthals are among the most recently departed. Long stigmatized as lumbering, backwards versions of us—think “caveman” and all that implies—scholarship is increasingly overwriting this view. Neanderthals, it turns out, were culturally and socially complex beings (who interbred with humans for thousands of years). We know what we know about Neanderthals from a sparse fossil record and a healthier lithic one, but a new discovery, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has advanced our knowledge by baby steps—many, many baby steps. Ossified in the escarpments of Le Rozel, in Normandy, France, are hundreds of footprints of our close relatives, including those of children. “The footprints were preserved by being quickly covered by sand brought by the wind,” says Jérémy Duveau, a paleoanthropologist at the Museum of Mankind in Paris and coauthor of the study. Formed 80,000 years ago, the prints were made by about a dozen Neanderthals, who occupied the site seasonally. At Le Rozel, archaeologists also found evidence of stone tool making, and a butchery area where they processed carcasses they hunted or scavenged. There were even handprints, too, Duveau says, “maybe [caused by] individuals leaning on the ground when they are sitting, or when they wish to stand up.”..