|Themes > Science > Life Sciences > Physical Anthropology > Pre-Historic Man > Homo Sapiens "Wise Man"|
From fossils, scientists have discovered that these early men had skeletons shaped like ours are, today. Homo sapien skulls grew more forward than those of Homo erectus man, which left room for more brain to develop. These early men were hunters & gatherers. They created stone tools, bone needles, and bone fish hooks. They sewed clothes from animal skins with thread made from other parts of the animal. They made warm boots.
Neandertals: One of the species of early man during this period was Homo Neandertalensis, the Neandertal man, named after the valley in which the skeleton of an old man was discovered (Neander Tal).
In the beginning, scientists believed Neandertals were dim-witted brutes with clubs and beast-like features, who walked with bent knees and shambling gaits, with heads slung forward on their big squat necks. These were the ancestors nobody wanted! It was the stuff of horror movies, and just as fictional! Scientists had to rethink a bit when it was later discovered that this old man was suffering from disfiguring arthritis! Thus, this skeleton, the Neandertal man, was not misshapen because of his species; he was misshapen because he had a disease that bent and crippled his bones!
Still Neandertals were different from other species of early man. They were much taller, and very strong. They had an almost modern mentality. Their brains were actually larger than ours are today. (That doesn't mean anything, really. The size of your brain doesn't necessarily make you smarter. Still, the Neandertals do seem to have been very advanced for their time!) They were marvelous hunters. They often used caves as their homes. They were adept at fire-making, and probably cooked their food, routinely. They buried they dead with ceremony, which suggests they may have had religious beliefs. Discoveries of Neandertal grave sites show that they decorated their bodies with paint, possibly for religious reasons, or perhaps for beauty. These sites provide the first evidence of the use of color, and suggest the Neandertals were the first to think about the possibility of an afterlife.
The Neandertals died out around 30,000 B.C. One theory is that they were killed off by some species of Homo sapien man, but there is no evidence of this. Another theory is that they married into other groups, and that over time, they ceased to exist as a separate species. But these are just theories. Nobody knows why they disappeared. Considering how smart they were, and how advanced for their time, it's an especially fascinating puzzle!