Why Neanderthals were great dads
Parenting with nothing but a fire pit and a piece of flint.
The title of this is obviously mischievous; we don’t know too much about the hominid known to us as the Neanderthal to examine its family life, although scientists, according to National Geographic, are suggesting that the Neanderthal wasn’t just the cave-dwelling thug he’s often portrayed as, but evidence is showing a highly-adapted pre-human with a complex family and social structures. Parenting in extremes, you could say...

Think about it for a moment: Modern western human children are born into cosy environments, often in temperature-controlled hospitals with the latest in medical technology available. From birth, they are shielded from harm and nurtured with the finest food and clothing available. Surviving childhood is more about being able to find a big enough shelf for your happy meal toys than about avoiding extreme violence and catastrophic illness.

Just imagine yourself in that cave in the middle of an Ice Age, the last glacial period. Not a few days of rain, but an entire life of frozen EVERYTHING. While the blizzards raged outside, the parents would have to track down something to eat, prepare it and keep the fires going.

Examination of burial sites and caves where Neanderthals have led researchers to conclude some interesting points about the "savage" Neanderthals:
  • "Neanderthals apparently lived in small nuclear families"
  • "There is clearly evidence for some amount of social networking, including interaction between family or neighbouring groups."
  • "...it is clear that Neanderthals lived well beyond their capacity to fend for themselves, meaning that Neanderthals took care of their elderly and sick."
Social networking! Nuclear families! How astounding to imagine these mysterious people caring for each other, raising children. Grieving at the loss of an infant or an elder (they buried their dead). Experts have also said that, while no proof exists, Neanderthals had the vocal equipment to produce speech, and may even have been responsible for some of the most ancient cave art on the planet.

These hominids lived in horrific times of hardship, and yet the parents would brave the elements to raise their children, and, considering that they were around for approximately 100 000 years, they managed this relatively well.

Far from running from responsibilities, circumstances forced them to live lives almost entirely made up of responsibilities in the fight for survival.

No one is certain at what point they ceased to exist, or to what extent they came into contact with modern humans, but, perhaps they weren’t that different from us after all...

What’s the one thing you couldn’t live without as a modern parent?

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