Approximately 20,000 years ago, during the last great Ice Age, Neanderthals were on the verge of extinction. Like most branch families of hominids, a combination of factors wiped them out over the next 1,000 years. Competition for food has always been a factor in the struggle for survival, but culture and the technological advances of Modern Man contributed to the destruction of whole populations of various hominids from the family of man.
The family of man has been a migrating species; they followed the migrating herds, consequently the grasses and seasons became a fundamental part of their existence.
The herds have an unconscious trait in their desire to migrate that requires them to vary their routes each year. This singular and often ignored trait was beneficial to the survival of the great herds, since the parasite infestation was kept to a minimum.
A period of seven years is required, before grasslands are considered to be parasite free. Those animals that used the same migration trails were continuously infected with parasites, and early men who followed these weaker, slower animals became infected with the same parasites if they didn’t possess fire and cooking skills. Thus many families of man lived and died in agony from parasite infections. Those who lived were weaker and attacked and killed by the so-called Modern Man or Hairless Man, who considered every other predator to be a competitor for food resources.
Hairless Man invented the atlatl or spear thrower during the last great Ice Age followed by the bow and arrow. These two weapons made the Hairless Man, the most devastating hunters of large animals and killers of other men. These advancements allowed them to bring down such formidable creatures as the mammoth, camel, horse, bears, saber tooth tigers, rhinos and many other animals and hominid types that depended on the great ice formations for survival.
During the last great Ice Age, the ice covered one third of North America and Europe. It was over a mile high and required so much of the earth’s water there was very little precipitation over the rest of the world.
The weight of the ice on the Northern Hemisphere affected the tidal factors, since the world’s shorelines were up to a hundred kilometers farther out to sea, depending on the ocean depths. The climates, seasons, and possibly the earth’s rotation were all affected by the ice, but one of the most lasting factors was the influence on the culture and predatory behavioral nature of Modern Man or as we were thought of in those days, The Hairless Ones.
The Neanderthals were a hardy group with short, thick muscular bodies, they were slower moving and thus especially vulnerable to the fleet footed, long legged Hairless Ones, who were always in a constant state of war against every hominid and every animal.
The Neanderthal had no reason to wage war. True hunters and gatherers, they kept their tribes small. Their reproduction cycle was similar to other large mammals. The women of breeding age, only came into season during the early spring, and if they conceived from breeding with a male of their choice, a kit was born the next spring. Thus they had fewer kits and less of a population explosion among their tribes. The Hairless women were in season the whole year and produced undeveloped kits within nine months that were often born during winter months and incapable of survival.
Their large filthy campsites, were often littered with the discarded carcasses of new-borne kits. Perhaps, that is why the Hairless Ones were so indifferent to the loss of new-borns, they were being birthed during every month and there were too many Hairless Ones anyway.
To the Neanderthal, the continuous breeding and reproduction cycles of the Hairless Ones seemed obscene and immoral. They expected a female to come into estrus every third or fourth spring. She would then select a breeding male to fertilize her egg and a kit would be born a year later. Because the female selected her breeding mate the intense competition and battle that went on in the Hairless tribes didn’t exist among the Neanderthals. Their tribal groups were more harmonious and peaceful.
The concept of parentage was considered more of a matriarchal responsibility, since every mature man thought of himself as the father of every kit and every tribal member considered themselves as brother and sister.
Since fertile females only had a kit every two or three years if food supplies were abundant, the opportunities to repopulate the tribes were limited. The loss of a kit was a time for grieving and remorse. Infanticide was practiced only as a last resort during times of famine. However, the Hairless Ones replaced their dead with new kits in nine moons without time for the birth mother to raise a kit properly before she produced another kit; consequently, they seemed indifferent to the loss of a kit and infanticide seemed to be a method of getting rid of surplus kits.
The Hairless Ones made many strange noises, their voice box was more like the birds who mocked the other birds and animals. The Neanderthals or The People as they they thought of themselves, had an almost infinite range of guttural grunts and clicks they used to communicate complex ideas and messages to each other. To the People, the noises and screeches made by the Hairless ones were horrible to hear and a sharp stick in the ear seemed preferable to listening to these horrendous noises. The People had perfected their melodious form of communication over eons. The Hairless Ones had only recently acquired this ability to screech, and they seemed frantic to impress the world with this strange gift of ugly noise.
It was Grawk who first noticed the location of the larynx in the Hairless ones. He and and two other hunters had just killed a boar hog, when they were jumped by a group of four Hairless Ones.
Attacking the Neanderthal from close-in was a mistake. The Neanderthal was nearly as strong as the animals they hunted, and although Grawk lost one of his hunters to a Hairless One’s light throwing spear, the two Neanderthals pulled their stabbing spears with flint points from the boar and killed the Hairless Ones in a matter of seconds.
When Grawk’s thrust at the last Hairless one’s throat was deflected, it managed to rip open one side of the man’s throat. While the man gurgled out his las breaths, Grawk noticed the voice box or larynx was located high in his throat. This was the major difference, this is what separated the Hairless Ones from all the other hominids and all the other animals. Grawk listened to the Hairless one make his strange noises and watched the movement of the larynx.
He motioned for his partner to hold the Hairless One’s hands and put his ear close to the man’s throat to hear the strange noises from close-up. The man became quiet and Grawk kneed him in the ribs and the man let out a howl of pain. Grawk explained the strange position of the larynx, but his partner only smiled, and motioned as if to say, “What does it matter?”
One of the differences that was tragic for the Neanderthal was the thick hair covering over most of their bodies. The hair allowed lice, fleas, and ticks a secure home, and when they sought shelter in caves during the winters of the Ice Age, there was no escape from the infestations. During the summers, Neanderthals camped in the grass lands and fished by building fish traps in the run off streams of the glaciers. Being immersed in the cold waters was an indirect method of getting rid of the parasites. Sleeping in new campgrounds every few nights prevented the intense infestations of the caves. The caves provided protection from the cold, but they provided excellent breeding grounds for the parasites and the diseases the parasites carried.
The Hairless Ones used scrapers made from shells to scrape the parasites from their bodies and into the fires. The relative lack of hair made it possible to see the parasites and groom themselves. Thus their cave homes had a lower incidence of parasite infestation and disease.
Death from these new diseases now became common, and the Neanderthal’s ability to procreate wasn’t enough to replace those lost through disease and the depredations of the Hairless Ones.
There were many differences among the two groups, but none so obvious as the Hairless Ones and their indifference to death and murder. The Hairless people hunted and killed each other with the same ferocity that they used to hunt and kill Neanderthals. You could see their indifference to death by their willingness to breed kits during times of famine. The Neanderthals felt great remorse when a kit died, maybe it was because a female only had one or two during a lifetime, and each kit’s death diminished a tribe’s chances for survival.
The Hairless Ones also raided the Neanderthals to capture women for slaves and breeding. Grawk wasn’t sure how this worked with the Hairless One’s insatiable thirst for breeding and the Neanderthal females only coming into season once a year, but from a distance, he had seen the Neanderthal females with Hairless Kits. So common was this practice, that from the European blood stocks modern scientists have isolated as much as 4% common DNA with the Neanderthal.
Sometimes, during times of famine, a young kit had to be abandoned to conserve protein and insure survival of the hunting males and the fertile females. The hunters felt the loss deep in their hearts, since they all considered themselves to be the father of the kit. The kits who crossed over to the next world were covered with white, blue, or red clays so the tribe would recognize them in the next world. They were always buried, with huge rocks covering them to keep the long toothed cats, bears, and wolves from eating them.
The hairless people discarded their dead kits like offal from a kill, and they let the animals feed on their kits without worrying about recognizing them in the next world. Perhaps it was because they had so many kits and started breeding the lactating females immediately after giving birth; these hairless ones had no respect for the concept of Earth as a Mother and the natural laws of nature.
Grawk was the leader of his tribe, an old man now, he was nearly 40 winters. After surviving each winter, a finger or toe was scored with a flint knife and ash was rubbed into the wound to keep track of ages. Grawk had double scores on each of his toes and fingers. He commanded a great amount of respect among the Neanderthals.
Tradition dictated that time started with the left small toe, when all the toes on the left foot were tattooed, a male kit was old enough to gather fruit, nuts, and roots. When a lad had all his toes marked, he was expected to participate in the hunt.
When a female had several fingers marked on one hand, it was assumed she would soon come into season for her first breeding. She resisted the urge to reproduce until her nature told her it was the right spring. The Neanderthal woman carried a kit for a full year. The fertile females came into season in the spring and gave birth in the spring. After spending a full year in the womb, a Neanderthal Kit was more fully developed at birth and much stronger by the time winter came. It was a far more practical system than having kits at any time during the year and losing them to the cold of winter because they weren’t strong enough. The birth of a kit was a joyous occasion in the tribe, for all the men considered themselves to be the father, whether they were of common blood or not.
A male kit who reached the age of manhood and had all his toes and the fingers of one hand marked, was considered a warrior and was expected to participate in the protection of the tribe. Hominids who failed to live up to their responsibilities were abandoned and left to die alone, for survival of the tribe was a constant struggle, and now that the climate was cooling and the period of winter or starvation was longer than in the past, Grawk’s people needed to change.
Grawk started the great migration with his father as a child from the Iberian Coast. The water was disappearing, but the Neanderthals couldn’t understand how the ice was storing more and more water in the glaciers. The coast line of the great waters was falling and the shellfish that his tribe had depended on since the beginning of time were rotting in the water. Like all the hominids, the hairless people, and the animals, they had to move north to be closer to the ice to survive.
Grawk was twenty winters when his father crossed over the mountains. He was a special brother to all the adults and the main spiritual father to the children. They had been on a journey north for the total time of Grawk’s memory, but instead of the tribe becoming stronger, it had become weaker.
The women didn’t do well in the colder weather, they caught sickness and died. Many of the men had died fighting the Hairless Ones with their light spears thrown with the atlatl. His warriors were suited to heavy thrusting spears and close-in fighting; unfortunately, the Hairless Ones almost never came close for fighting, they stayed far away with their deadly light spears and the bow that sent the tiny spears into the bodies of the Neanderthals.
As a leader, he felt he had let his people down. Grawk spent many hours trying to devise a strategy to wage war against the hairless ones, but unless they were close, his strong warriors with heavy stabbing spears and bone crushing strength were defenseless.
He was depressed, but their language of grunts and clicks wasn’t sufficient to explain his feelings to the few members of his tribe who were still alive. He had the bewildering feeling that he and his small tribe, numbering less than the number of winters for a boy to be a warrior, was the last Neanderthal tribe in the world.
Summers were safer, the ice melted enough to make rivers. The fish came up the rivers and his people were excellent fishermen. They could dry their fish in the summer sun and not worry about the cooking fire that almost always brought the Hairless Ones with their throwing spears.
Winter was much more dangerous, because of the cook fires and the heat they needed to survive the cold nights. His people got sick eating raw meat, they needed to cook the game they killed, but the Hairless Ones had a good nose for picking up scents, and they either smelled the meat cooking or saw the smoke from the cook fires.
The high forehead of the Hairless ones seemed to be a disadvantage, since the Neanderthal could throw sharpened flint rocks with accuracy and power. Grawk smiled to himself and felt humor internally, since the Neanderthal was incapable of laughing out loud, because the Hairless Ones had to expose several inches of forehead and brain to superior rock throwers, just to peek above a rock or log. Just enough for a razor sharp throwing rock to pierce the skull and embed in the brain.
Yes, the Hairless Ones had weaknesses, but they learned even faster than they produced kits.
Grawk was the leader, it was his job to think for the tribe. The rest of them concerned themselves with the continual quest for food, child rearing, tool and weapon making, and showing affection for each other.
A leader or chief had to distance himself from conflicts and personal attachments; otherwise, his judgements on disputes might come into question and his leadership could be challenged, but his worries were for nothing.
The tribe’s final day came on a summer’s day when Grawk was checking his fish traps in the river. He enjoyed fishing, it let him escape the many problems of leadership, and think back to a simpler, happier time when he was a kit, fishing on the river.
Over the roar of the rapids, he heard faint noises of desperation. He ran from the river toward his tribe’s encampment.
Upon arriving at the camp, a scene of devastation and death was all that was left, his people were killed and mutilated, the kits were gone. Two young Hairless warriors were rummaging through camp, looking for the fine flint knives and weapons his tribe made.
They were unaware of his presence, he pulled a throwing rock from his pouch and threw it with a whistling speed into the temple and brain of one of the young Hairless Ones. The tremendous force caused him to fall to the ground with his arms and legs extended as they twitched his dance of death.
The other warrior looked at his friend in disbelief and hesitated to meet the attacker, but Grawk didn’t hesitate, with a short burst of speed, he ran and tackled the second warrior with a tremendous impact.
Grawk had his long powerful arms around the Hairless One’s chest. Using his massive strength tightened his grip steadily, until the warrior could no longer breathe. Grawk continued to crush the warrior until the warriors bones made that faint cracking noise. He crushed the rib cage and both arms before he let the warrior breathe. He then brought his huge bony fist down on the delicate features of the Hairless One, crushing the nose and knocking out the front teeth.
In his rage, he stood up and pounded his chest while yelling out “Grawk…Grawk…Grawk”.
He wanted the Hairless One to remember his name, so he and all Hairless Ones would live in fear of Grawk’s revenge for all time.
Grawk the last Neanderthal terrorized Hairless Ones for many years. His revenge was so devastating that whenever a Hairless One went missing, it was assumed Grawk had struck again. Through thousands of years and over every continent, the Hairless Ones lived in fear of the of a boogeyman or the unknown; he is known by many names, but it is the spirit of Grawk that is engrained in the psyche of the Hairless Ones.
Epilogue: This work of fiction has employed a lot of artistic license. Obviously, I don’t know what happened to the Neanderthal, but I have been a keen observer of humans for over 50 years and my theories are hard to discredit because of any documented traits of human kindness or behavior. The story is meant to intrigue the reader and nothing more.
A professional horseman for over 50 years, Skook continues to work with horses. Skook has finished an historical novel, Fifty Thousand Years, that traces a mitochondrial line of DNA from 50,000 years ago to the present. The story follows a line of courageous women, from the Ice Ages to the present, as they meet the challenges of survival with grit and creativity. These are not women who whimper of being victims, they meet the challenges of survival as women who use their abilities without excuses or remorse, these women are winners, they are our ancestors.