Saturday, August 9, 2014

Some more Neanderthal research

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It’s been awhile since I posted the research behind DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE.

One thing I gave my Neanderthals was speech. It’s debated whether or not they could speak, so I went back and forth, but finally decided to take a middle ground. I gave them rudimentary speech. In my fiction, they (usually the leader) use speech only for important ceremonial or decisive announcements. I did a lot of research for this, but, since I once wanted to be a linguist, it was tons of fun. I studied how babies learn to talk and the first sounds they make in different cultures, how people with speech problems are treated with therapy, and the roots of the earliest languages as far as anyone knows them. Here’s the quote I used for Chapter 15:

Chapter 15 – speech
Neanderthals, an archaic human species that dominated Europe until the arrival of modern humans some 45,000 years ago, possessed a critical gene known to underlie speech, according to DNA evidence retrieved from two individuals excavated from El Sidron, a cave in northern Spain.

The new evidence stems from analysis of a gene called TOXP2 which is associated with language.
The New York Times, Neanderthals Had Important Speech Gene, DNA Evidence Shows, by Nicholas Wade, October 19, 2007

Since they had the gene, I have to assume they had the physical equipment, even though it may have been a little different from ours.

For Chapter 16, I chose to explain how I had these Neanderthals get to North America. You know, the further and further east they find remains in Asia, the more I think it could have happened!

Chapter 16 – crossing and the north star
The author: It is believed that prehistoric people reached the American continents via Beringia.

Bering Strait: Strait connecting Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea (q.v.), and separating Asia (Russia) from North America (Alaska); at narrowest point 53 mi. (83 km.) wide…A drop in sea level during the Ice Age is believed to have exposed a land bridge (Beringia) connecting Asia and North America. Strait traversed by Danish navigator Vitus Bering 1728.
Merriam-Webster’s geographical dictionary

The author: The Big Dipper has been known as a guiding bear for a very long time.

The Iroquois Native Americans interpreted Alioth, Mizar, and Alkaid as three hunters pursuing the Great Bear. According to one version of their myth, the first hunter (Alioth) is carrying a bow and arrow to strike down the bear. The second hunter (Mizar) carries a large pot — the star Alcor — on his shoulder in which to cook the bear while the third hunter (Alkaid) hauls a pile of firewood to light a fire beneath the pot.

In ancient Sanskrit and all modern Sanskirt-based languages, the noun tara means star. One of Tara's ancient names was Dhruva, also the name of Polaris, the Pole, or North, Star. In the 108 Names of the Holy Tara, She was the "Leader of the caravans...who showeth the way to those who have lost it." (Purna)

Today, it is difficult to understand the extent to which our ancestors traveled and relied on the stars to guide them. Sophisticated astronomical systems of the early historic period, the worldwide Neolithic standing stone observatories, and the lunar calendars on stone and bone, dating to the Paleolithic and possibly earlier (from 30,000 years ago to 300,000 years ago), indicate that our foremothers mapped the heavens. Clearly, they relied on their knowledge of the stars, moon and sun for safe passage. For the native peoples of the Indian subcontinent, bordered by two oceans and the daunting Himalayan mountain ranges, and covered with dense wilderness areas, the Pole Star was a constant indicator of true north, and the heavenly bodies in relationship to it, a celestial map. Tara, star and goddess, was the matron deity of travelers.

Owen Gingerich, in his article "The origin of the zodiac." (Sky and Telescope, Volume 67, 1984, Pages 218-220) proposed that a bear constellation crossed the Bering Straits with ancient migrants.

Hoped you’ve enjoyed this peek into my thrilling prehistory research!

1 comment:

Morgan Mandel said...

Research is clearly one of your strong points, and also my weakness. Thanks for the fascinating information!