From fossils, scientists have
discovered that these early men had skeletons shaped like ours are,
today. Homo sapien skulls grew more forward than those of Homo erectus
man, which left room for more brain to develop.
These early men were hunters &
gatherers. They created stone tools, bone needles, and bone fish
hooks. They sewed clothes from animal skins with thread made from
other parts of the animal. They made warm boots.
One of the species of early man during this period was
Homo Neandertalensis, the Neanderthal man, named after the valley (Neander
Tal) in which the skeleton of an old man was discovered.
In the beginning, scientists
believed Neanderthals were dim-witted brutes with clubs and
beast-like features, who walked with bent knees and shambling
gaits, with heads slung forward on their big squat necks. These
were the ancestors nobody wanted! It was the stuff of horror
movies, and just as fictional!
Scientists had to rethink a bit
when it was later discovered that this old man was suffering from
disfiguring arthritis! The Neanderthal man they had discovered
was not misshapen because of his species; he was misshapen because
he had a disease that bent and crippled his bones!
Still, Neanderthals were different
from other species of early man. They were much taller, and very
strong. They had an almost modern mentality. Their brains were
actually larger than ours are today. (That doesn't mean anything,
really. The size of your brain doesn't necessarily make you
smarter. However, the Neanderthals do seem to have been very
advanced for their time!)
They were marvelous hunters. They
often used caves as their homes. They were adept at fire-making,
and probably cooked their food, routinely.
They buried they dead with
ceremony, which suggests they may have had religious beliefs.
Discoveries of Neanderthal grave sites show that they decorated
their bodies with paint, possibly for religious reasons, or
perhaps for beauty. These sites provide the first evidence of the
use of color, and suggest the Neanderthals were the first to think
about the possibility of an afterlife.
Mystery: The Neanderthals died out around 30,000 BCE.
One theory is that they were killed off by another species of Homo
sapien man, but there is no evidence of this. Some scientists
believe they married and merged with other groups, and that over
time, they ceased to exist as a separate species. But these are
just theories. Nobody knows why they disappeared.
Considering how smart they were,
and how advanced for their time, it's an especially fascinating