By Tim Lambert
Neanderthals and their place in history
The Neanderthals emerged in Europe and western Asia by 250,000 years ago. They lived in Europe during the last ice age and they must have been a resourceful people just to survive in such a harsh environment.
However it is believed that Neanderthals could not compete with Cro-Magnons and they gradually became extinct. The last Neanderthals lived about 28,000 years ago.
We do not know if the Neanderthals had a religion. However they did bury their dead. Bodies were sometimes buried with animal bones. One Neanderthal grave was found with flower pollen on it. That may mean the dead person was buried with flowers.
Some dead Neanderthals were buried in the foetal position as if they were sleeping. Perhaps they were deliberately buried to resemble a sleeping person. Did the Neanderthals believe in an afterlife? We are not sure.
One Neanderthal survived despite having a withered arm and deformed feet who was blind in one eye. He could only have survived with the help of the other members of the group. So clearly Neanderthals cared for the disabled.
Neanderthals did not look quite the same as modern people. They were short and squat with thick bones and powerful muscles. The average male Neanderthal was 1.65 metres tall. The average female was slightly shorter. Neanderthals had barrel shaped chests with thick ribs.
Furthermore Neanderthals had prominent brow bridges, bigger than in modern people. Also the Neanderthal face would look to us as if it had been pulled forward. They also had large noses.
The Neanderthals must have co-operated to hunt large animals and so they must have had a complex language.
Neanderthal Technology and Art
Clearly the Neanderthals must have been clever and resourceful to survive in a harsh and dangerous environment. They made tools of wood, stone and antler. Using spears they hunted reindeer, horses, red deer and bison. They also sometimes ate mammoth and woolly rhinoceros. Evidence has come to light that the Neanderthals also cooked and ate vegetables including pulses.
The Neanderthals made simple clothes from animal skins. They used stone borers to make holes in the edges of skins and threaded leather thongs through.
In 1996 a bone was found with holes in it. Possibly a Neanderthal flute. In 2003 a stone was found that looks like a very crude carving of a human face. Furthermore animal teeth and shells with holes have been found and it is believed they were pendants. Evidence has now been found that Neanderthals created art on the wall of caves.
The First Farmers