Sunday, May 29, 2016

Those Wacky Neanderthals!

The last couple of decades have changed our picture of "Neanderthal Man," an evolutionary cousin of modern Homo sapiens who preceded us, lived alongside us for some time and then died out.

Facial reconstruction of Neanderthal skulls shows that the old beetle-browed caveman stereotype was exaggerated. A Neanderthal would have looked distinctly different than you or I, but if he was going to take part in a Geico commercial, he would have needed some makeup. Archaeological finds have suggested Neanderthals may have used tools as well-crafted as our own ancestors' were.

And now, buried in a cave so deep it had to be dynamited to be opened, scientists have found that Neathderthals actually built something. Two rings of broken stalagmites date back 176,000 years -- almost nine times as old as the oldest previously known human-built structures.

The stones seem to have been broken off and laid in rings that reached about two feet high. Fires may have been built in or near them but there's no indication of what they were used for. One ring is six feet in diameter and the other 22.

Since scientists don't know how the rings were used, I'm throwing in my idea: The cave was a daycare center and the rings were play pens. The six-footer was for infants and the 22-footer for toddlers. It may sound silly, but if someone finds a millennia-old bippy in one of them you'll need to remember you read it here first.

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