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Neanderthals Parenting

Neanderthals were no strangers to good parenting


A team of archaeologists from the Centre for Human Palaeoecology and Evolutionary Origins at the University of York have challenged the traditional perspective that Neanderthal childhood was difficult, short, and dangerous. In a new study published in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology, the archaeologists argue that Neanderthal children experienced strong emotional attachments with their immediate social group, Neanderthals would care for sick children for years, and children played a key role in society, particularly in symbolic expression.

The research team drew upon cultural and social evidence to explore the experience of Neanderthal children. They found, for example, that Neanderthal child burials were more elaborate than those of adults, suggesting strong emotional bonds and the important role that children played in the social group.

"The traditional view sees Neanderthal childhood as unusually harsh, difficult and dangerous. This accords with preconceptions about Neanderthal inferiority and an inability to protect children epitomising Neanderthal decline,” said study lead Dr Penny Spikins. "Our research found that a close attachment and particular attention to children is a more plausible interpretation of the archaeological evidence, explaining an unusual focus on infants and children in burial, and setting Neanderthal symbolism within a context which is likely to have included children.”

One of the most famous Neanderthal child burials was uncovered in 1961 at Roc de Marsal. The grave was in a remarkable state of preservation, considering its age of 70,000 years. It consisted of the body of a child, approximately 3 years of age, who had been deposited in a natural depression in the ground, and apparently placed into the form of an arc, lying on its stomach, with a hand to its head and legs bent at 90 degrees, then covered with soil.

Reconstruction of the Roc de Marsal Neanderthal child

Reconstruction of the Roc de Marsal Neanderthal child on display at Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies. Artist and sculptor: Elizabeth Daynes. Photo credit: Don Hitchcock.

The study authors maintain that the belief that Neanderthal offspring had a harsh childhood comes from biological evidence which also focused on the rugged terrain, climate, and difficult living conditions. However, Dr Spikins explains that “there is a critical distinction to be made between a harsh childhood and a childhood lived in a harsh environment."

Featured image: Depiction of a Neanderthal family. An exhibit at the Neanderthal Museum in Krapina, Croatia. Photo source.

By April Holloway



From years we have witnessed different types of parenting styles and skills from people; different culture and different religions are having different parenting style. Therefore we should learn some good quality parenting skills from ancient stories; on how to handle our young generation and aware them about our culture and responsibilities. I am really thankful to be here and able to gain more knowledge on how to do better parenting.


Emotional attachments are really necessary for children. Otherwise they are suffering from lack of emotion issues and unable to get sufficient and enough affection and love from their parents. Here in this article we have found some good ancient tips on good and effective parenting and therefore we should take some good lessons from here regarding good parenting tips and I hope we are able to refine our parenting style even if we got ancient tips.



I believe it is a natural occurence to love, whether it is a mother bear and her cub, or a neanderthal parent and his/her child.  A harsh environment might make everyday living harder, but I don't believe that a climate has anything to do with love.

angieblackmon's picture

kids were probably better taken care of then then how they are now. they learned to live off the land, to hunt, fish, weave and gather. try prying the cell phone out of a kids hand today to get them to do any of those things now....

love, light and blessings


aprilholloway's picture


April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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