Our Ancient Ancestors May Be More Similar to Us Than Previously Thought
by Rose Loose-Austin, age 13
Throughout history, researchers have discovered information about our ancient ancestors. The finding of one baby homo neanderthalensis fossil sparked many of these findings.
The first fossilized Neanderthal, an infant discovered in 1829, was not classified as neanderthalensis until 1936. Over the years, scientists have found Neanderthal skeletons of all ages and sizes in their search to record human history. Their main source of remains is a place called Neander Valley, a limestone canyon near Düsseldorf, Germany.
Neanderthals led very different lives from humans today. Occupying coastlines, island plains, and upland areas in Europe for over 100,000 years, they lived in a period when almost everywhere was covered with glacial ice. Evidence suggests that they were resourceful in responding to the hot summers and cold winters of their harsh environment.
Animal remains discovered from around that time show that neanderthals were skilled hunters. Neanderthals relied almost entirely on meat for sustenance. However, healed fractures on the neanderthals' skeletons show that hunting was very dangerous.
Despite differences in environment and diet, Neanderthals share many similarities with humans today. For example, both groups have had to respond to and cope with some of the same diseases, such as arthritis and small pox. Like modern day humans, Neanderthals buried their dead, whereas earlier humanoids did not. Another similarity between these groups is that Neanderthals wore makeup and dyed-cloth for celebrations. Evidence also shows that Neanderthals planned ahead, adapted to change, engaged in rituals, developed social networks, and made technological innovations. These innovations include the awl, the hammer, the ax, and some form of scraper or knife.
With such inventive ancient ancestors, it is no wonder that modern humans continue to innovate today.
Evolution: The Human Story (another part of a Neanderthal series)