The puzzle of Neanderthals

Ros in jumperCall me inquisitive if you like, but I admit to a long-standing, burning curiosity about the Neanderthal people. That prolific, brilliant author, Isaac Asimov, once wrote a novel about modern humans transporting a young Neanderthal child to the modern world to try to find out what had happened to them. I read his novel eagerly but, like him and like everyone else, I cannot explain with any certainty what could have caused these highly adapted, community-minded people to die out, leaving us as the only species of humans on the planet.

(Incidentally, the novel by Asimov was called “Child of Time” and it was originally a short story called “The Ugly Little Boy”. That last title is not very complimentary to how Neanderthals might have looked, but you get the idea.)

An artist's rendition of life on earth 60,000 years ago, showing a Neanderthal family on the frozen tundra of northern Europe - provided by Wikipedia Commons (public domain image)

An artist’s rendition of life on earth 60,000 years ago, showing a Neanderthal family on the frozen tundra of northern Europe – provided by Wikipedia Commons (public domain image)

It seems to me that the Neanderthals were tantalizingly similar to us, yet mysteriously different as well. They didn’t farm, but then neither did we at that time in our past. They didn’t create rock art (at least to the best of our knowledge). Yet they buried their dead and looked after their old and infirm.  In some respects one would think they would have been more likely to survive than we were. For instance, they were better adapted than Homo sapiens to a frozen world. They survived thousands of years of Ice Age. Their bones were far stronger than ours. Our bones are finer, more fragile, much more breakable. They would have won a wrestling contest with us easily.

So why did they, around 35000 years ago, become extinct?

Image from wpclipart.com

Here’s your chance to plumb the depths of this mystery and go back to the time before homo sapiens were the only human beings on the planet. Have a look at each link below to view some fascinating speculations about Neanderthals:

Of course, many of these ideas are theory rather than fact.

Now, write down what you think. You might have a theory, a question or a perceptive comment to make on the life and the fate of the Neanderthals. Don’t forget that if you find a fascinating site or interesting piece of information you can leave a comment with the details to inspire and interest others (including your inquisitive teacher).

Kind regards,

Ms Green.

The Mystery of Neanderthals

Call me inquisitive if you like, but I admit to a long-standing, burning curiosity about the Neanderthal people. That prolific, brilliant author, Isaac Asimov, once wrote a novel about modern humans transporting a young Neanderthal child to the modern world to try to find out what had happened to them. I read his novel eagerly but, like him and like everyone else, I cannot explain with any certainty what could have caused these highly adapted, community-minded people to die out, leaving us as the only species of humans on the planet.

(Incidentally, the novel by Asimov was called “Child of Time” and it was originally a short story called “The Ugly Little Boy”. That last title is not very complimentary to how Neanderthals might have looked, but you get the idea.)

It seems to me that the Neanderthals were tantalizingly similar to us, yet mysteriously different as well. They didn’t farm, but then neither did we at that time in our past. They didn’t create rock art (at least to the best of our knowledge). Yet they buried their dead and looked after their old and infirm.  In some respects one would think they would have been more likely to survive than we were. For instance, they were better adapted than Homo sapiens to a frozen world. They survived thousands of years of Ice Age. Their bones were far stronger than ours. Our bones are finer, more fragile, much more breakable. They would have won a wrestling contest with us easily.

So why did they, around 35000 years ago, become extinct?

href=”http://year7historygr.edublogs.org/files/2009/02/neanderthal-from-wpclipart.jpg”>

Image from wpclipart.com and used with gratitude

Here’s your chance to plumb the depths of this mystery and go back to the time before homo sapiens were the only human beings on the planet. Have a look at each link below to view some fascinating speculations about Neanderthals:

Their brains were 20% bigger than ours, they were better adapted to the cold and they could probably talk. So why did they die out? Look at this site (BBC Science and Nature) which tackles this question.

Neanderthals might have had more difficulty with childbirth. Look at this site (National Geographic) to find out the details of this discovery.

Neanderthals could have had red hair and freckles…like the Weasleys.

Neanderthals may have been less likely to suffer from mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia.

Of course, many of these ideas are theory rather than fact.

Now, write down what you think. You might have a theory, a question or a perceptive comment to make on the life and the fate of the Neanderthals. Don’t forget that if you find a fascinating site or interesting piece of information you can leave a comment with the details to inspire and interest others (including your inquisitive teacher).

Kind regards,

Ms Green.

Jan’s wonderful Stone Age Timeline is featured below. Well done, Jan!

Jan 7X Stone Age Timeline 2010 copy

Shelley’s is also a wonderful work of art. You are both stars in the history firmament, girls!

Shelley 7X Timeline Stone Age 2010 copy

Stone Age Action

Use your 21st century mind on this Stone Age Quiz. Click on the caveman below:

Happy caveman

 

One of the changes in the New Stone Age was the domestication of animals. Go to this site for a timeline of animal domestication.

Animal domestication link

List the first six animals to be domesticated and the approximate date. Then click on your favourite to find out the evidence about when, how and why they were domesticated by humans.

Dog at tree barb Sheep with lamb from Leigh trimmed_1 These were some of the earliest domesticated animals. The ones in these photos are more modern breeds than the Stone Age ones! (Photos taken by my sister Barb and used with her permission)

Plants were also domesticated. This means that humans bred the plants for the qualities they most wanted in them. Plants with larger wheat grains were chosen just as goats were chosen for smaller horns. Gradually the domesticated population varied significantly from the wild one.

Table of plant domestication

Write down four of the important crops and the approximate date of domestication.

 

Image from wpclipart.com and used with gratitude

Now go back to the time before homo sapiens were the only human beings on the planet. Have a look at each link below to view some fascinating speculations about Neanderthals:

Their brains were 20% bigger than ours, they were better adapted to the cold and they could probably talk. So why did they die out? Look at this site (BBC Science and Nature) which tackles this question.

Neanderthals might have had more difficulty with childbirth. Look at this site (National Geographic) to find out the details of this discovery.

Neanderthals could have had red hair and freckles…like the Weasleys.

Neanderthals may have been less likely to suffer from mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia.

Of course, many of these ideas are theory rather than fact.

Don’t forget that if you find a fascinating site or interesting piece of information you can leave a comment with the details to inspire and interest others.

Kind regards,

Ms Green.