1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Neanderthals and humans in prehistory

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Link the Writer, Aug 6, 2015.

    I'm developing a historical fiction idea that I hope will one day become a coming-of-age story, as it were. It's set in pre-history circa 70,000 years ago when Neanderthals and humans both coexisted together. I just wanted to know a few things as I get set on the preliminary research:

    #1- Are there any official records for names between the two species, or should I just make up some of my own that sounds reasonable?

    #2- How would a Neanderthal character have addressed himself? Same as the human? I assume they wouldn't have considered themselves Neanderthal or human respectively. Would it be unrealistic if I had them address each other by the modern naming?

    #3- My MC in this story would be around 14. In prehistory, people would've considered him/her old at this age, correct? Or at least adult? What would have been expected from him/her by this age?

    That's all I have for now. I'll continue doing research and developing this idea some more on the side. :D Prehistory is such an amazing, fantastic area of study.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The Neanderthals left no written records (they didn't have writing) and barely had begun making artwork. We would have no record of what they called each other or how developed their language was.

    Which means you can make up whatever your imagination desires.
     
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You might want to take a look at this book, Clan of the Cave Bear.
    Some of it I thought was pretty hokey but the book has good reviews. It's about a Cro-Magnon child (early humans) orphaned in an earthquake who is then adopted by a Neanderthal tribe.

    It might have some useful ideas for you.


    By the way: 'Prehistory' means before written history.
     
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  4. uncephalized
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    uncephalized Active Member

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    I'm not sure what you mean by your first question. Of course there is no knowledge of what names Neanderthals or Cr0-Magnons used for each other; there was no writing back then. But they both almost certainly had some kind of language, which you get to make up.

    You mean, would a Cro-Magnon child think of a Neanderthal as a Neanderthal? Well, maybe they'd have some name for them, if they weren't just 'those funny-looking Others with the big noses' or whatever. In Clan of the Cave Bear the modern humans called the Neanderthals 'flatheads' and were afraid of/racist toward them. But the Neanderthals in those books used sign language with grunts instead of verbal speech, making them appear stupid/non-communicative to the Moderns, who didn't properly understand them.

    There's still a big lack of knowledge about the culture, lifestyle, mental abilities, social structure, etc. of Neanderthals, and only a little less ignorance about early Moderns. So you're pretty free to experiment, I think. Still, there are a lot of little details we do know, so it helps the realism to do some deeper research and weave some of those into your story, IMO.
     
  5. uncephalized
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    uncephalized Active Member

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    Oh, as for question #3--not necessarily. I believe I remember reading there is evidence that puberty has started happening earlier, both with the rise of agriculture and also more recently with modern diets... don't recall all the details. 14 could still be adolescent or prepubescent even back then. But when someone is considered an adult is a cultural thing as much as physical--so if your made-up prehistoric tribe says someone's a man when he gets his first pube, then he's a man, man.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    A quick Google tells me that approximately 25 percent of adult humans and Neanderthals survived past 40, so adults by our standards weren't rare, though obviously they did beat the odds. Very low life expectancy numbers presumably come from very high rates of infant mortality. I'd expect that a 14 year old would still be regarded as young.
     
  7. jannert
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  8. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    While it's been pointed out that puberty appears to be getting younger, there are plenty of mediaeval examples of young men who had matured early...teenage pregnancy has been around for a while! What's certain is that your MC wouldn't have been going to college, sleeping until noon, communicating in grunts - oh, sorry, he's Neanderthal! - and the rest of the modern teenager trope; he'd have been expected to contribute to society, perhaps by hunting (research tribes who still survive by hunting in, e.g., the Amazon rain-forest, and their attitudes to "manhood"), perhaps - if he's still not considered a man - helping the women by gathering fruits, cleaning the campsite, etc.

    There would have been a strong tradition of community - everybody would have known everybody else! - so when making a new hut, or the like, everybody would have pitched in.

    Also, check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denisovan
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Oh, that's right. Pre-history meant before written history. Thanks for reminding me. So as long as the names sound like they could plausibly have been from that time (ie, no one named Wa'kirvi Mirana), then for all intents and purposes, it's up to my imagination. The same goes for language as well, I assume. Since it would be unreadable if everyone grunted and yawped at each other, I'll have to have them all speak English.

    That sounds like an interesting book. I'll see if it doesn't exist in my library (probably won't, but I'll check it out.) If anything else, I'll just look up fiction books set in pre-history.

    True. I think 14 would be considered the time men go on their first hunt with their parents in my story. I just didn't want to anger any archeologists by depicting a 14 year old Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon acting like a teen when 14 was supposed to be our 80 or something. :p

    That always amazes me, because I seem to have it in my head that before modern medicine, everyone who reached the age of 30 keeled over dead. It's a false notion, but that's what I've come to believe whenever I hear of life expectancy. I think it's just an average between birth and death, though. As you said, there were plenty of people who reached past 40, possibly even toward what we would consider elderly today.

    Gave it a read. Very interesting, especially the part where the Neanderthals apparently had a more higher pitch than expected. This could be an interesting thing to mention in my story. *jots down notes*

    Exactly, everyone would've been expected to pitch in and help clean, cut, build, repair, cook, hunt, etc. I'm not sure what the punishment would be for those who slacked off, but the others certainly wouldn't like it. :D

    Thanks for the replies, everyone. Very interesting! :D I'll check out more in my local library.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2015
  10. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    We do have other records from them though. We have found tools, brads and icons, showing Neanderthals had some kind of religious beliefs. We have no way of knowing how developed or detailed these beliefs were.
     
  11. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I do remember reading that back when I took an Anthropology 101 class a few years back. Both groups (Neanderthals and Cro-Mangons) had their concepts of religion and possibly deities. I think Cro-Mangons buried their dead, especially dead chieftains with all the special important stuff?

    Speaking of other records, we do have evidence to show that both Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon were not mindless brutes as often displayed on TV. I read somewhere in the textbook that anthropologists discovered the skeleton of a middle-aged woman whose dental work was...well...let's just say she would have needed to eat crushed berries for the rest of her life. Needless to say, her tribe was more than happy to help her out in that regard. As Shadowfax said, everyone pitched in to help. Of course, that doesn't translate to the modern day notion of helping those who need the extra help. It just suggests that the common stereotype of 'Duh hur, me Cro-Magnon! Me strong! Me bash things with bone hammer!' is not exactly the truth. :D
     
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  12. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I did have a book about Neanderthals laying around, I can't seem to find it right now, but I distinctly remember reading that Neanderthals buried their dead as well, so I think you could very well be right.
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is a lot of newer research and articles on Neanderthals. Some discuss the likelihood of limited interbreeding with the humans of their time.

    Based on studying bones and healing of breaks, many theorize the Neanderthals were pretty rough and tumble and up close in their hunting methods.

    What would a Neanderthal call himself, his group? The equivalent of a tribe or clan or pod or troop. If there were bordering clans, maybe they would be Far River Clan, or Cross Mountain Clan, or Child Stealing Clan, or Wolf Eater Clan...?

    As for humans? Would they call them: Them? Could it be tied into their religion, a creation of another god? A descriptor: Weak arms. Land Stealers, Song Tellers.

    And it could be similar for humans, dealing with/references to Neanderthals.

    Consider: Are they competitors? To they co-exist. Do they have any contact, and if so, what kind?
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2015
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  14. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    It would be interesting to find out if homo sapians became Neanderthal's slaves and vice versa.
     
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  15. Wreybies
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    Nope. No records. As others have already stated, Neanderthals did not have a writing system. Writing is a relatively new invention, on evolutionary time-lines, even for AMS (us, you and me). Important to note that this doesn't mean they didn't have language. Written language is an invention - like the spear and flint knapping - spoken language is a feature, not an invention of our species and our lineage. The three areas of the brain we believe to be most important to language function (the Broca's area, Wernicke's area, and the angular gyrus) are all well developed even before Neanderthals. There is cause to speculate that spoken language as we know it existed prior to Neanderthals, but the Neanderthals are the first to leave behind more complex physical artifacts of culture that support the notion that these artifacts would need spoken explanations and instructions to create.

    Even humans vary in the manner in which they address one another and themselves. In fact, languages across the globe have a tremendous variety of modes of address that take into account number, presence, and a bewildering array of respect/deference dynamics.

    The natural span of a human life, unaided by culture in any way, is between 50 and 55 years. Incidentally, this is very close to the natural lifespan of all the great apes. 14 is already a pretty big chunk of 50. What would be expected? That depends on what there is, on the whole and as a pinnacle, to expect from a person in your story.

    ETA: And this could answer to so many things... Throw away for a moment the idea that men are obligatorily hunters and women are obligatorily gatherers. Does your society allow for a man who's a gatherer? Does his value in that roll outweigh some present day notion that if he's not Krog the Mighty Hunter, then he's a throw-away? Has your group grown overly small or overly large? 20 - 25 group members is the natural number we see humans (and our ancestors) settle into across the timeline. A human is a rather expensive animal to run given the caloric cost of our ridiculously huge brain. Until we invent some important inventions (like farming and animal husbandry) 20 - 25 is about the max that the local landscape can typically deal with as it comes to humans. If your group is hitting its upper or lower threshold in size, how might this affect what is expected of any member, male or female? Something to consider. ;)
     
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  16. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    No.

    Both Denisovan man and Homo Floresiensis have left behind complex artefacts.

    And reports that suggest Homo Floresiensis survived until recent times include the fact that these people used their own language.
     
  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yes.

    The Denisovan population is a contemporary to Neanderthal. They do not predate them. Other than the Denisova Bracelet - still very much disputed as to origin - we don't have artifacts as complex as those made by Neanderthals wherein the provenance is undisputed.

    The validity of Homo Floresiensis is still highly disputed... but regardless, the statement I made, if you read again, is that there is cause to speculate that spoken language existed prior (that means before) Neanderthal.
     
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  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Not sure why you're saying, "though", while quoting me. It doesn't change what I said, "We would have no record of what they called each other or how developed their language was."

    If you define religious belief as burial rituals you can conclude they had religious rituals, but it's not a certainty:
    It's not even clear if they had much of a developed language at all. Personally, I side with the conclusion language probably developed earlier than Neanderthal. It was initially thought their larynx wasn't developed in a way that allowed human-like speech.

    Did Neanderthal have language?

    I think research will eventually show they did. Paleontologists don't always put bones together correctly.

    Comparative Anatomy of the Larynx in Man and the Chimpanzee: Implications for Language in Neanderthal
    I don't have access to more than this abstract:
    The Language Capability of Neanderthal
     
  19. Steerpike
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  20. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe I didn't read this thread thoroughly enough but I didn't see anyone add the following: Neanderthals and humans did interbreed. Or at least, there's evidence for that. Seems like they interbred mainly with Europeans, not sure about humans in other places. Something cool you could weave into your story, maybe.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33226416
     
  21. uncephalized
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    uncephalized Active Member

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    Plenty of hunter-gatherers live through their 50s, and even into their 70s in some cases. Median age at death for those that survive childhood is generally well past 30; the high mortality rates from birth through adolescence tend to skew the basic average way down, whereas if you make it into your twenties you have a decent chance to last a few more decades.

    Yes, genetic evidence has pretty well proved this is the case. Eurasians (and by extension Native Americans and Polynesians, who came via Eurasia originally) have about 2-3% of their genes from interbreeding with Neanderthals; and some Asians such as Tibetans also have a portion from Denisovans, a related group to Neanderthals.
     
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  22. John Calligan
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    A side note you might be interested in - modern thinkers believe that there was more gender equality before agriculture.

    http://boingboing.net/2015/05/26/study-suggests-more-gender-equ.html

    Clan of the Cave Bear is great but some of its ideas on how women were treated in truly ancient times might not be accurate.
     

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