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What A Day In The Life of A Neanderthal Was Like

What A Day In The Life of A Neanderthal Was Like


The date is… well, actually, you don’t really
know. You wake up on a mat made of reeds, roughly
woven together with natural plant fibers. The animal hide blanket you use for warmth
barely keeps out the morning chill of the European steppes- but you’re not very affected
by the icy cold. That’s because your chest is large, and your
form squat and short, which helps conserve body heat. Thick, dark body hair also helps keep the
cold at bay. You’re not sure what the date is, because
your neanderthal brain has difficulty processing lengths of time greater than the years you’ve
been alive. You’re not stupid though, or even particularly
unintelligent, your large brain simply has trouble dealing with more abstract concepts. You’re more than capable of making a plethora
of hunting tools, and other implements for daily life such as bone needles and cooking
tools- but your tools are largely hand-me-downs, and you, nor any of your forefathers, have
really innovated on them for thousands of years. They remain the same in form and function
as when they were first thought up countless generations ago. You are however, capable of some abstract
thinking. And as you rise off your reed mat you turn
your eyes to the cave wall beside you. The morning sunshine streams in through the
large opening and you can make out the rough shapes you’ve scratched into the walls using
sharpened bits of stone. You’ve managed to make some very basic animal
shapes, and have stenciled your hand onto the walls of the cave in several places. You almost exclusively draw things you have
already seen though, such as animals, rather than create designs from your imagination-
which isn’t very good anyways. Still, the fact that you’ve created even this
rudimentary artwork means that you’re far more intelligent than the beasts that you
hunt. Speaking of hunting, you have preparations
to make for the day. The only food available for breakfast is a
small assembly of various fungi, lichens, berries, and nuts. There’s not much left though, and your large
stomach rumbles hungrily- if you want to eat today you’ll have to hunt. You share your cave with a small family group. At twenty years old you are the senior member
of this family group, your father and mother have long ago died. With an average lifespan of just thirty years,
they still managed to live into their forties, which is an incredible feat for any neanderthal. You took care of them as they grew older,
fed and provided for them even long after they stopped being useful to the family. One day your family unit will do the same
for you. For now though, it’s time to hunt. Your younger brother often accompanies you
on the hunt, while your mate and your sister typically forage nearby for nuts, berries,
and other edible items. Your diet varies depending on your luck in
the hunt- some family groups eat meat almost exclusively, while family groups deep in the
woods eat an all-vegetarian diet. From your home here on the edge of the steppes,
you have the best of both worlds, and are able to hunt when the herds are around, but
also forage and gather when hunting is difficult. For this hunt you take with you a spear and
a small sharp rock. The spear is made of a sharpened rock point
held to the wooden shaft with a natural glue that you and your family have concocted for
generations, though you also use pitch occasionally when necessary. Though you are strong, you’re only strong
in short bursts, and despite lacking any natural weapons, your keen intellect and ability to
ambush coupled with the long-range striking power of a spear makes you a feared predator. Still, hunting is dangerous and difficult
work, and for this you’ll need help. Trekking through the forest for a few miles,
you hear a familiar call and spot another small band of hunters. You exchange greetings in a halting, terse
form of proto-language. You have learned to symbolize certain emotions
and items with different sounds, even sounding out barks and grunts which might resemble
spoken words- though you lack the mental capacity to expand on this breakthrough and string
together various sounds to represent more abstract ideas and concepts. This proto language however, combined with
body language, is more than enough to communicate some surprisingly advanced hunting strategies
and enable cooperation with your neighbors. Typically you hunt the large megafauna of
the European steppes and plains, seeking prey such as woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros. Lacking the speed of animals such as the sabre-toothed
tiger, a feared predator, you rely on overwhelming slower moving large animals. Sometimes though you hunt smaller game such
as ibex, boars, and deer- but these are much trickier to catch. They are fleet of foot, and your spear is
not very well designed for throwing. To hunt these animals you must rely on stealth,
hiding in thick foliage and waiting for an unsuspecting animal to come close before striking
out with your spear. Today though you and your small hunting party
will hunt mammoth. A herd was observed approaching a few days
ago, and word quickly spread through the small neanderthal communities in your area. You’ll have to hurry if you want a successful
hunt, as other groups will be looking to bag their own mammoth, and over hunting of the
herd will inevitably drive it away. When times are tough and food is scarce, you
and your family group might follow the herds, sometimes for hundreds of miles. But for now your temporary home seems to be
providing for all your needs. An untold amount of time in the future, another
species will think back on your hunting strategies and wonder how you felled giant woolly mammoths. They’ll hypothesize that you drove the animals
off cliffs, killing any survivors and feasting. In some rare cases, this does occur, but you
hunt these beasts the same way your ancestors did- with sheer tenacity. You and your group slowly sneak your way through
the tall grasses, approaching ever closer to the wandering herd. It would be foolish to try to take one of
the big males, the animal is simply too strong and powerful to be felled by your small band. You grunt, grabbing the attention of your
small band, and signal to a young female towards the back of the herd. She’s likely an adolescent, though still weighs
over two tons, and old enough to no longer be watched over by her mother. Now she’s strayed just far enough from the
herd to give you an opportunity. You continue slinking through the grass, your
animal hides helping you to blend in with the muddy ground. Just a few dozen feet away though, the massive
animal spots you and lets loose an alarmed trumpeting call. You yell excitedly and charge at the animal,
your hunting party joining in. The mammoth is large, and though she can still
move at a healthy rate, she’s not nearly fast enough to outrun you. You and your party reach the animal and stab
your spears into her side. You work to cut her off from the herd, encouraging
her to run away from the safety of the larger mammoths by continuously stabbing her on the
side facing towards them. The panicked, wounded animal thus turns away
from her herd, and unknowingly to her eventual death. Panting, your chest burning, you continue
running after the animal. You and your pack mates take turns sprinting
up to her and stabbing into her flesh, before falling back so you can fall into a slower
jog and catch your breath. Your hunting tactics resemble those of a pack
of wolves, with members taking breaks while others rush forward to harass their quarry. Eventually the mammoth is overwhelmed by dozens
of stab wounds, and exhausted, she stands her ground, unable to run anymore. It is soon over for the large animal. You send back your younger brother to gather
the family group, it will take all hands to butcher and haul back the meat- but you will
eat very well for several days. Unfortunately, you will have to hunt again
soon as you and your people haven’t developed the techniques of drying meat in order to
preserve it. You must eat it before rot sets in and spoils
it, and thus most of the meat from the giant animal will be left behind for the scavengers. This practice however has unexpected benefits,
and a pack of large wolves has smelled your kill. Yet the animals don’t attack you- they have
learned over many generations that all they have to do is simply wait for you to have
your fill, and then they will get the larger share of the spoils. Instead, the wolves simply sit and wait, and
as an added benefit they even chase away prowling sabre-toothed tigers trying to muscle in on
your kill. You don’t realize it, but this learned behavior
is setting the roots down for a bond between two species- modern man and wild dogs- which
may one day drive you extinct. The meat is sliced with sharpened rocks, and
once your family arrives it is quickly wrapped up in furs for transporting. The hide is incredibly valuable though and
while meat will be left behind, very little of the hide will go to waste. From the hide you can craft clothing and blankets,
some groups have even created crude sails for small boats. It will be evenly split between you and the
other family group which joined you in the hunt, in the past there was often violence
for the spoils, but you have learned to work together for the betterment of both groups. Back at your cave, you allow your mate to
prepare the meat as you in turn attempt to prepare your fire. Unable to reproduce fire yourself, you instead
keep small burning embers lasting as long as possible after discovering fires started
by lightning strikes and other natural phenomenon. Adding pine needles to a few embers, you soon
have a roaring flame. You have no idea, but the act of cooking your
food is creating a bright new future for your descendants. That’s because cooking food makes it easier
to digest, which in turn frees up energy which the brain gets to consume instead of the gut. In every other animal, most of the body’s
energy is used up in digestion, but in your neanderthal biology, cooked food allows the
brain to use more and more energy. Eventually this will have dramatic consequences
for your species, and the species to follow yours. Along with the mammoth meat you eat a helping
of lichens and mosses. You’ve learned to eat a certain fungus that
grows on decomposing things, which you would normally avoid. Over many generations your people have discovered
that this specific fungus helps keep you healthy, and when you’re sick helps fight illness. Unknowingly you’ve developed one of the first
antibacterial treatments in the world, and you make sure to consume small quantities
of the unpleasant fungus with your meals. Your belly is full, and outside the sun is
starting to dip below the horizon. Normally you and your family would huddle
in the cave for warmth and safety, fearful of what predators lurk in the dark. But with a roaring fire you don’t fear the
animals outside your cave, for you know that they fear fire enough to stay away. Today was a very good day, your family has
survived another day on the European steppes, and you have enough food to last for the immediate
future. The mammoths will likely remain for a few
weeks, and you will have plenty of prey to hunt. Alongside you on your reed mattress, your
mate pushes herself closer to you for warmth and comfort. You can’t communicate the idea, but she means
more to you than other females, in a way that’s strangely different. She is not like your mother, whom you cared
for until she passed away and respected as an elder, nor is she like your sister whom
you are bonded to by blood as a sibling. Your mate is simply… different. She inspires emotions and feelings within
you that you struggle to understand, but are different from any other female. You find yourself frustrated at your inability
to understand or communicate these feelings, even as you are surprised to discover that
it is important to you that she herself understands her significance. You rise from your mat, and mixing some of
the mammoth fat with dirt and blood, you smear it on your hand. Then, you grunt and gently coo at your mate,
sounds that will one day form the basis for spoken words. You signal at the mammoth fat mixture, and
motioning to your hand, recognition dawns on her face as she follows your example. Then, grabbing her hand, you push both of
your hands together against the cave wall, leaving side by side impressions on the stone. You don’t know why, but you find this deeply
satisfying. In the years to come for as long as you occupy
this cave you’ll often look upon the hand impressions fondly, and when bad hunting forces
you to migrate and find a new cave, you’ll repeat the act there as well. Your children will learn this from you and
recreate the side-by-side hand impressions with their mates, passing the tradition on
to their own children. For now, this simple act is the only way you
can express to your mate her significance, and to the world as well, but one day your
people will mate with smaller, more intelligent people from far to the south, passing the
tradition on. Eventually the idea you struggled to understand
in your own brain- love- will be shared in hundreds of languages, and descendants you
can’t even imagine will live one day who will at last understand that you were not a dumb
brute, but a rational, intelligent, and loving creature. Think you could have survived as a neanderthal? Tell us your prehistoric lifehacks in the
comments! Then go watch “Lion vs T Rex – Who Would
Win?” As always don’t forget to Like, Share, and
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8 thoughts on “What A Day In The Life of A Neanderthal Was Like”

  1. The reason why Neanderthals are gone is that they interbred with humans. Other reasons at play include chronic ear infections and the individual Neanderthals being so closely related to each other.

  2. If you ever made a fire it's so troublesome if you don't have modern equipment I'm pretty sure all civilizations kept lit fires all the way up until the invention of electricity and or the Bic lighter

  3. This video shows old impressions of Neanderthals, we have learned that they were much smarter than we once thought, they have discovered abstract art of neanderthals and they made their own fire, they didn't have to use embers from lightning. They were also capable of a lot of abstract thought and modern humans interbred with them meaning that regular humans just saw them as people.

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