Stephen S. Hall’s recent article, “Last of the Neanderthals” http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/10/neanderthals/hall-text
in the September issue of National Geographic suggests we still have more questions than answers about Neanderthals. Were their tools more than rudimentary, did they paint with colorful pigments, or simply use black, did they ornament their bodies with bone or ivory, and the biggest mystery of all: did they mate with Homo sapiens? In fact, their brain volume was, on average, slightly larger than ours today.
My previous impression of Neanderthals consisted of speechless lumbering ogre-like creatures. Evolution’s misstep. But even the reasons for their demise are mysteries. Were they hunted to extinction? Did they die out because they were less advanced, less clever? What the hell happened to the Neanderthals?
I mention this because last night I shoveled the sidewalk and driveway three times, even as the snow continued to fall, and cars continued to get stuck, fish tail, slam into snow banks, slide backwards on the Maple Street Hill and generally disappoint their drivers. Wearing gloves, Goretex boots, a down coat layered over my fleece, I ached with cold. My fingers stiff and burning when I finally came inside. The snow is still falling. We’re all indoors with the heat going, and our slippers on, sipping hot beverages. Civilized. Safe. The storm just so much scenery on the landscape.