80,000-year-old footprints reveal Neanderthal social life

Color photo of Neanderthal footprints in sand, along with a single Neanderthal handprint and an animal track.

Enlarge / These prints
(except the one identified as an animal track) were made by
Neanderthals who lived in western France 80,000 years ago. (credit:
Image courtesy of Dominique Cliquet)

A group of footprints left behind in muddy sands 80,000 years
ago gives us a better idea of what a Neanderthal social group would
have looked like long before Homo sapiens showed up to ruin the
neighborhood.

A Stone Age slice of life

A rapidly growing set of archaeological evidence tells us that
Neanderthals thought symbolically, made art and jewelry, buried
their dead, and probably tended to their sick and wounded. We have
direct evidence of what they ate, what kinds of tools they used,
and
how they made those tools
. But when it comes to what kinds of
groups they lived in and how those groups were organized, the best
anthropologists can do is look at how modern hunter-gatherers live
in similar conditions. If Neanderthals lived like hunter-gatherers
live today, they probably spent most of their time in groups of
between 10 and 30 people, mostly relatives, made up of a mixture of
adults and children.

That lines up well with estimates of how many people could have
lived in some of the Neanderthal living areas archaeologists have
excavated. Those are good ways to develop ideas about Neanderthal
social groups, but they’re still indirect. On the other hand (ha!),
archaeological evidence doesn’t get much more direct than
footprints.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
80,000-year-old footprints reveal Neanderthal social life