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The Neanderthals were a group of early humans who lived around 200,000 years ago in a time known as the Paleolithic era. (1) Neanderthals were very important to our evolution and the development of humans, even being the first to create real clothing. We hope you enjoy learning about these fascinating early humans.
By Aaron, Ellie, Erin, and Skyler
The Neanderthals were alive up to 200,000 years ago, but unfortunately died out around 30,000 B.C. When they were alive, they lived in a time called the Stone Age (also know as the Paleolithic era). During that time period, there was also the Ice Age, which was a time when a third of the world was covered in snow and ice. To avoid the snow, the Neanderthals had to follow the animals and migrated from Europe to Southwest Asia. Sadly, during the migration, most of the Neanderthals died and later became extinct around 30,000 B.C. However, some scientists actually believe that Neanderthals did NOT migrate following their food, but rather died out for some other reason. Basically, that remains a mystery. (2)
The Neanderthals did not have a religion, but they did have ceremonies and celebrations whenever they had a successful hunt. They were also the first ones to have burials and burial ceremonies. When they celebrated or had ceremonies (mostly when someone died or they had a successful hunt), they would have a feast and play music by the fires, built for light and joy. (3)
At first, Neanderthals made simple tools by knocking small pieces off stones in order to form sharp edges. Later they made more complex tools such as axes made of flint. They made sharp edges on hand axes by slowly chipping away flakes of flint until the edge got sharp enough to cut. They would use the remaining chips as knifes and scrapers. Later in the Stone Age, people started making tools from other materials such as bone, deer antlers, and metal. Metal was a more important tool because it could be heated and shaped. It also didn’t break as easily as other materials. Early people needed patience and practice to make their tools. All these tools made it easier for people to hunt, gather food, build shelters, and make clothing. (4)
The first known humans to make clothing were the Neanderthals. The Neanderthals wore thick, furry hide for clothing. They wore mammoth, bison, deer, and oxen. The Neanderthal built stronger and thicker clothing. They used special tools for making clothing such as scrapers to scrape the hide off the animals. To make the clothing, they would puncture holes in the hide and tie the skins together, using animal sinew. (5)
Neanderthals made more advanced shelters.
They stretched animal hides over mammoth bones and tusks, then weighted the skins down with more bones to protect the hut from the wind
They sometimes lived in caves, rather than huts. (9)
For the Neanderthals to make fire, they would take flint pieces and twigs and spark them together. They used the fire not only for warmth and light, but also to hunt. They would do that by getting big animals who were fast and using fire torches to chase them off cliffs. They also used fire to get them aggravated enough to charge by using fire to annoy them. Without fire, Neanderthals would not have lived as long. (11)
California Visits Ancient Civilizations. Macmillan/McGraw Hill: New York, NY, 2007.
Kearns, Marsha.“Neanderthal.” Early Humans. Creative Teaching Press: CA, 1993.
“Neanderthal.” Neanderthal. http://www.earlyhumans.mrdonn.org/.
As you can see, these early humans were fascinating and played a critical role in evolution and in us becoming the humans we are today.