Were the Neanderthals people falling in love? Did they have bad days? Could they play jokes with each other? Two American researchers tried to give answer for similar questions based of abundant material of Neanderthal. Anthropologists Thomas Wynn, and psychologist Frederick E. Coolidge in their recently published book “How To Think Like a Neanderthal?” tried to answer how the Neanderthal people think, could they have sense of humor, could they feel sorrow with the loss of loved ones.
Traces of the Neanderthals -Homo neanderthalensis – appeared for 400 thousand year on old fossils first. This resilent, hunting species in their golden age dominated large areas which bordered in west by Great Britain and the Iberian Peninsula, in south by present-day Israel, and in north by Siberia. The Homo sapiens came from Africa to continent of Europe 40 thousand years ago. A group of two people lived side by side for some thousand years: the last Neanderthals artifacts, which were found near Gibraltar, from 24,000 to 28,000 years ago.
The paleoanthropologists nowadays know a lot about these Ice Age Europeans, whose heyday began about 200 thousand years and ended 30 thousand years ago. For example, that 99.84 percent of DNA of Neanderthals is identical to ours, and their evolution took hundreds of thousands of years . We also know that the Neanderthals had slightly larger brains than modern humans, and their structure is somewhat different from ours. Complexity of the brain was similar to ours. However, the modern man suddenly appeared in a complex and sophisticated works of art – such as cave drawings – are missing for the Neanderthals. This suggests that modern humans developed the mental skills they had. They also have reliable knowledge about where they lived, ate and how they were acquiring the food. However about their way of thinking, emotional lives, personalities we can only guess. The skeletal remains show that the Neanderthal men, women and children could live a very active life.
Main activities of Neanderthals people were hunting the large mammal . They skillfully exploited the capabilities of luring animals to traps. The Neanderthals used to suffer injuries due to hunting. Indicates their sympathy, that the wounded were often nurtured and is often healed. But they could make pragmatic decisions easily, if it was necessary. For example, they didn’t care much about those peers who have suffered severe abdominal injuries and were unable to walk. They usually neglected them, because these people would have threatened the survival of the whole group. The Neanderthals were already skillful stone toolmakers. “Armourers” are likely on way of experience acquired learning their profession. They needed a good long-term memory processing for it. The only obvious difference between Neanderthals and modern humans is the innovative technical thinking can be observed. Although the Neanderthals were found shaping technique of stone to spear, but they had also very few innovation in hundreds of thousands of years of their existence.
The social life of Neanderthals
The size and distribution of archaeological sites show that Neanderthals lived in 10 to 50 people groups. Several of these groups have come together for a short time, especially after successful hunts, which suggests that Neanderthals belonged to larger communities, but rarely outside these groupings were contacted with their pol-mates. However, the small size of the territory of Neanderthals could require that some young boys and girls to be migrated from there to new communities and get “married”. This suggests some of stone tools found up to 100 km or farther away from the provenance, which could take the migrants themselves. Wynn and Coolidge also assumes that the Neanderthals existed in some form of marriage as a male-female relationships and the care of children. Even the Neanderthals may had family lives, and cognitive features to intimate social interaction in some form. This indicates that they covered their dead with stones in shallow pits, and found pollen of flowers in the graves. There are indications that they had some primitive belief too. Neanderthals had short life, few people lived 35 years longer.
Speech and sense of humor
Most researchers agree that the Neanderthals already knew structured spoke some words and syntactic elements. Some of their technology and hunting tactics would have been difficult to learn and execute without it. Moreover, Neanderthal brains had a well-developed Broca’s area, and their DNA includes the FOXP2 gene carried by modern humans, which is involved in speech production.
We can declare surely that they didn’t say jokes at the family dinners, because this is an advanced cognitive skills are needed, which have only the modern humans. However, the researchers believe that Neanderthals had some simpler, more physical humor. Probably could have a laugh uproariously on physical manifestations of the others and maybe they have been understood too what happen in a burlesque movie if they watched one.
Written by Ilona Kaszanyi
Frederick E. Coolidge and Thomas Wynn: How To Think Like a Neandertal? Oxford University Press, 2011.