Neanderthal? Cro-Magnon? Who’s who?

When talking about fossils, there are a lot of confusing words: Neanderthal, paleoanthropologist, homo erectus. First off, the scientists: paleoanthropologists study extinct ancestors of human beings. Paleo means old or ancient and anthro means relating to human beings.

Now let’s discuss the specimens themselves. Our very distant ancestors, who lived about 4 million years ago, were the australopithecus. That long confusing word means southern (australis) ape (pithecus). The fossils that have been recovered of this species have been found in southern Africa and are ape-like. They walked on two feet, had very small heads, and probably climbed trees. Lucy, the famous fossil, also belongs to that genus. This year a research team from University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg found a new species of australopithecus in South Africa.

To keep these names straight, it’s important to remember that some species are named for their attributes, and some species are named for where their remains were found. About 2.3 million years ago, the genus Homo evolved from the australopithecus. We modern-day humans are part of the species Homo sapiens (which literally means “knowing man”). There are multiple other specific species within the genus Homo, including Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and Homo neanderthalis. Homo habilis literally means “handy man” because this species used tools. Homo erectus lived about 1.5 million years ago. The name erectus means “to stand upright.” Homo neanderthalis, or the Neanderthal as he’s most often known, is named for where he lived. Paleoanthropologists found fossils of the species in the Neander Valley in Germany.

Unlike these other terms, “Cro-Magnon” is actually not a technical scientific word. The word Cro-Magnon refers to the cave where the first remains of early humans were found in 1868 near Dordogne, France. They are also associated with the cave paintings at Lescaux. The term refers to early modern human beings who lived more than 10,000 years ago in Europe, but they are not a different species than modern humans.

What other fossil words confuse you?

An additional note. Some readers may desire to address theological concerns in relation to the topic of this post. We rejoice at all manner of comments from you, but if feedback doesn’t pertain to the topic at hand, particularly the linguistic focus, we may use our discretion in deciding whether to publish such remarks. Generally, if comments are respectful and relevant, we will happily publish them. For the enjoyment of everyone, please honor our simple criteria.

Cat Wanders Home With Two Arrows in Head

AP Online June 4, 2003 00-00-0000 Dateline: STANTON, Mich. Jamie Muniz was relieved to see her cat, Debo, wander into her yard about a week after disappearing.

Her relief quickly gave way to horror and outrage when she took a closer look at her 8-year-old pet.

“He had two arrows right through his head,” she said. “They stuck through about an inch right next to his eye and at least 3 1/2 inches out the back side of his ear. It almost looked like it was going diagonally through his head.” Despite Debo’s predicament, Muniz said he was meowing and looking for his food when he returned to his home Friday in Stanton, about 37 miles northeast of Grand Rapids. site greenville daily news

The surgery and other medical care needed to keep the cat alive cost “hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” Muniz told The (Greenville) Daily News. She was stunned when someone offered to take care of it for free.

“We take in cats who aren’t adoptable, mainly from rescue groups,” said Roger Hodyka, co-founder of Cat Tail Farms Feline Sanctuary in Perry, a nonprofit feline-rescue organization. site greenville daily news

He offered to pay for Debo to have the surgery at the Riverfront Animal Hospital in Lansing.

“They (the Muniz family) couldn’t afford it and we said we couldn’ t afford it, but I didn’t care,” Hodyka said. “It’s worth it. They can take my car away over it.” The Munizes dropped Debo off at his farm on Monday morning. Hodyka said Debo rubbed against him and ate some food.

“He acted like there was nothing wrong,” he said.

The arrows were surgically removed that morning in a procedure that took about half an hour, he said. Debo ended up losing one of his eyes.

“We’re waiting to see if there’s swelling or a problem with the brain, ” Hodyka said.

If all goes well, the cat is expected to return home in a few days.

“I just can’t believe he lived,” Muniz said. “He’s got nine lives, that’s for sure.” Meanwhile, police were looking for whoever shot Debo.

“We talked to the chief of police in Stanton and certainly we would like to know who did this,” Montcalm County Sheriff Bill Barnwell said.

The person responsible could be charged with malicious destruction of property, a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of more than $1,000, or animal cruelty, a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.


  1. Spyros -  May 3, 2014 - 12:10 am

    Congratulation for your work. Since you refer etymology you have to mention the origin of the terms. E.g. Paleo, Anthropos are Greek. Homo, australis are Latin.
    To those they comfuse the science to what they like to believe: it is enough you had burned Alexandreias library, go to comment on bibles sites. Why here?

  2. Creationist -  February 28, 2013 - 4:20 pm

    @ Jeff D

    Sorry about the run-on sentences. :)

    @ Patricia A. Smith

    Fair point, but it may be worth looking at the context of the passages.
    Jesus said that He would rise again on the third day. Where they “EARTH-DAY”s or “GOD-DAY”s?

  3. Patricia A. Smith -  July 31, 2012 - 1:47 pm

    The Bible also states, in 2Peter 3:8, “However, let this one fact not be escaping your notice, beloved ones, that one day is with Jehovah as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”; and again, in Psalm 90:4, “For a thousand years are in Your Eyes but as yesterday when it is past.” Therefore, the Bible itself makes it quite clear that, in the Genesis story of Creation, each “day” of Creation was NOT AN “EARTH-DAY”!!! It was, rather, a “GOD-DAY”!!!—which could be “ANY” LENGTH OF “TIME”!!! I pray that God’s Holy Spirit will enlighten each of us to His/The “TRUTH”!!! For, logically, to be “TRUE”—to be a “TRUTH”—scientific and religious “facts” must necessarily be in AGREEMENT WITH EACH OTHER!!! In plain words: SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS “FACTS” MUST BE THE “SAME”, in order to be genuinely “TRUE”!!! ; — &, as is stated in the Holy Bible @ John 8:32, “and you will know the “truth”, and THE “TRUTH” WILL SET YOU FREE.”. God Speed!!!

  4. Jeff D -  July 19, 2012 - 6:29 pm


    Valid point, true. But in one of my religion classes in college (I went to a Christian university) they said that in the original language, it was referred to as “a period of time,” and the translators of the King James Version felt that it was easier for all to understand if it was referred to as a “day.” Much appreciated thought, though.

    By the way, could you not use so many run-on sentences? It hurts my head.

  5. Creationist -  July 16, 2012 - 4:47 pm

    A quote I heard from a famous evolutionist, (Sir something). ” the only reason we believe an illogica,l unprovable, unscientific theory is that the only other option is special creation, and that is incredible.” (or words very similar to that effect). To Creation77. Simple but solid, I like your point.

  6. Creation77 -  June 6, 2012 - 6:01 pm

    By the way, ray jacobs. If you think that Adam and Eve are a refutable piece of fiction, then prove it. Prove just how refutable it is. Let me tell you what I think is refutable. That everything that lives on the ENTIRE EARTH propagated from one cell. Compare one couple with one cell. Please tell me what sounds more refutable.

  7. Creationist -  May 23, 2012 - 4:41 pm

    To: Jeff D

    God said, day 1, true? If I were to say, “in my father’s day” that would be an indefinite amount of time, true? But if I said “three days ago” that would mean 3 earth rotational days wouldn’t it? The number before the term “day” tells how many. So it took “7 days”. You said how could you know if there was no sun, or planets? God spoke it for not for himself, but for us. When we think, “1 day” we think one of earth’s rotations. Humans were created AFTER the was sun and moon and stars. So 1 day has always been earth’s rotation from our perspective. And for birds evolving beaks? Refer to my previous comment on genetics. Natural selection, not evolution. Sincerely, Creationist

  8. Creationist -  May 22, 2012 - 6:48 pm

    To those that wrote that it took eons of time for the languages to come into being, I and a number of scientists I am acquainted with, (including PHD’s in chemistry..ect..) would completely disagree. Firstly, if there was the first “mother” of human kind , then there had to be a father, so at that exact time frame, we had 2 “people” they had to be in the same place at the same time of different genders both wanting to reproduce at the same time. I find that hard to believe, for 1. Secondly, it is IMPOSSIBLE for new genes to appear (without intelligent design). It has never happened and it never will happen. And for those that say many small mutations happened over time, bull s**t! NO mutation has EVER helped ANY organism. A mutation is an accident, not supposed to be there, so APPARENTLY, an accident can produce, jet fighters, subways, diplomacy, neurosurgery, and the like. Also, since no new genes can appear out of nowhere, it means that the first “mother” had to be MORE genetically diverse then we are today. By the way, natural Selection is NOT evolution. natural selection is when already existing genes are mixed with other genes and a mix comes together. Let me explain, if 2 dogs have medium fur, it means that they have 1 long hair gene and 1 short hair gene each (one from dad, one from mum). It is actually WAY more complex than this but for ease of demonstration. But back to the story, these dogs with medium fur breed, and they have 4 pups, Now, each of the pups receives 1 gene from dad, 1 gene from mum. One pup gets the short hair gene from mum and the short hair gene from dad, he has short hair. The next receives long hair gene from dad and short hair gene form mum, medium fur like parents. the last 2 pups receive both long hair genes from both parents, meaning that they have long fur. Now, we have 1 pup with short fur, 1 with medium fur and one with long fur. We have a diversity. But this is NOT evolution. The diversity comes from ALREADY existing genes, they have always existed. So microbes-man requires NEW information, which you simply can’t get. Another solid argument against evolution. Apparently the world is 500 million years old and was once a ball of lava that eventually cooled down. RUBBISH! If the world was lava then all the heavy minerals would sink to the bottom, no? How come we have gold (molten gold is heavier than molten lead) on the crust? The theory just doesn’t hold through. Also, the sun produces heat and light through contraction, if it where 100 million years old( which seems ludicrously young) it would have been so big it would have engulfed the earth and mars and half of the asteroid belt, so how come the world is not just some chunk of sun? Fifthly, the world is slowing down in its rotational speed at a certain rate, now if we go back 10 million years the rotational speed would have been so much that the G-force would have flattened earth like a pancake, and pushed all the continents to the equator, so how do we explain a world with different land masses of varying shapes? Sixthly, (I could go one for days) the earths gravity is decreasing by 50% every 1400 years. So if we go back 10 million years the force would have been so great that nothing could live and the moon would be pulled in. Lastly, the ocean floor has 20 billion tons of sediment laid down every year, the sediment coming from coastling being worn down every year. The rocks giving way under the ocean floor only accounts for 1 billion tons of sediment disappearing every year, so where has the rest of the sediment gone? It is only deep 7,000 years of sediment deep, so it proves that the worlds young. This proves that the bible is true in it’s account of creation for what other theory shows old the world is? this means that there is a God who does judge sin and that those who do not believe in his son Jesus Christ will go to hell, FOREVER. Is that you today? Sincerely, Creationist

  9. Ann -  May 10, 2012 - 10:30 am

    cave paintings at Lescaux

    Or Lascaux.

  10. midnightjoker -  May 9, 2012 - 2:22 am

    and now for something completely different, in otherwords, back to the topic (also non-religious): I was once told that the Neanderthals became extinct because of the “Cro-Magnon” Man.

  11. Creation77 -  May 8, 2012 - 5:32 pm

    @ Scott Freeman and anybody that believes evolution in full.

    I believe in creation, and although evolution is an interesting theory, it just doesn’t make sense to me. Here are the reasons i believe in creation. Now i’m not an evolution master, so correct ME if I’M wrong.

    1. The Big Bang. Did the Big Bang really happen? I mean where did the life come from? The law of Biogenesis states life only comes from life. (If you aren’t really supporting the Big Bang, then forget what I just said.)

    2. Evolution itself. Evolution states that we originated from apes, who originated from a single cell, as well as everything else that lives on this planet. If evolution is true, then why aren’t apes evolving into people as I speak? Genetics and Biochemistry show that apes reproduce apes, and people reproduce people. Bacteria mutates, but it’s still bacteria. So it is only logical to say that something, or someone would have to create each individual species.

    3. Evolution states that this all happened by chance, since there is no bigger, stronger being to even guide the process. The path evolution takes says that birds evolved from reptiles. (Correct me if I’m wrong) So, if that happened, then how many changes would it have to undergo? Birds have feathers, reptiles have scales. Birds are warm-blooded, reptiles are cold-blooded. Birds have beaks, but reptiles have mouths. Birds have wings, but reptiles have two front legs. Do you think that changed by itself? Look at you and me. We are the most advanced creatures on this planet. We have a very complex brain that contains millions of neurons that all work together to control everything in our body, from heart rate to movement to seeing! It has the amazing ability to learn, the ability to have emotions. This is just an awesome thing in itself. Research the brain, as well as everything else in the human body. Do you think that happened by chance? Or do you think that that single cell evolved into this complex and astounding creature that is the human? I would think that if this all happened by chance, we would be mere blobs, roaming around with brains who knows how small? We probably wouldn’t even have brains!

    4. Fossils. If we evolved from apes, and it took a super long process to do it, then why are there hardly any fossils to prove it, support it? If the famous silhouette drawing of the different stages that apes went through to become a man, then why have we not found any fossils of any of those stages, at all?

    All of these facts point to only one answer: a creator, a designer, some intelligent being that is beyond our capacity. Even Darwin, the man behind evolution, states that he himself debated over his theory, that there are flaws. This is why i think that creation is true.

  12. Lidia -  May 8, 2012 - 3:56 pm

    This was very helpful. I homeschool my son, and intend to have him read this tomorrow during school. Thank you for explaining the differences. The information concerning the relationship of the names to the location was a new to me. I believed it was all scientific.

  13. joan -  May 8, 2012 - 2:51 pm

    Oh my gosh, what an interesting conversation! I learned so much…hope I can retain it all.

  14. Jeff D -  May 7, 2012 - 8:57 pm

    @Lguy, @Scott Freeman and @pretty much anybody else who is still reading this.

    Let me preface this by saying that I am a religious person, and have done some deep thought into the religion/science arguments particularly in this area of paleontology and paleoanthropology.

    It can be noted that if you are looking at the issue from a theological perspective, you have to take into account the use of the term “day.” The use of the term in the Judeo-Christian tradition, where everything was created in six days, “day” can also mean simply “a period of time.” Therefore, we can’t say exactly how long these periods were. Besides, who is to say exactly how long a “day” is if 1)the sun hasn’t been created yet, or 2)the earth hasn’t been created yet, and so we have no concept of a 24-hour day?

    Also, believing Chrisians like myself believe that Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, but we don’t know for how long. It could have been a few weeks, it could have been a few millenia. Before the Fall of Adam, I don’t believe that they aged in the same way as we do now, but I digress.

    As for the science aspect of it, sure! Change happens over time. I don’t think that man evolved from apes, but why couldn’t a Divine Creator use scientific principles to create and govern the things we see? Why can’t a bird evolve a beak that is shaped differently if it helps them survive?

    The way I see it, studying science lets us see some of God’s tools, but studying religion lets us see God’s purpose. Science and religion can coexist if you allow yourself to let them.

  15. Scott Freeman -  May 7, 2012 - 10:39 am

    @ L guy
    It doesn’t seem to me that science is trying to shove anything down anyone’s throat, and scientists don’t “make things up”, they try to make sense of the world through observation.

    You say an all-powerful boss making man out of clay and breathing life into him through his nostrils makes sense, and evolution doesn’t. What doesn’t make sense to you evolution? Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand it as follows:

    1. Natural selection; for instance, the weaker, dumber, less attractive, & less suited for their environment more often get killed or have less opportunities to copulate (sex) than creatures who are stronger, smarter, more attractive, & better suited for their environment. (seems common sense)

    2. DNA. DNA has these four molecules, A, C, T, & G (look em up if u want), and along your DNA they form sentences, like, ATGCATAG. Radiation can make subtle changes to those sentences, and your body generally does it’s best to repair the changes. Also, when male and female DNA strands unwind and the halves come together to form a new double-helix, there are obviously going to be new sentences.. You are different from your mother and father, aren’t you? These small changes in the sentences of the helix strands make subtle changes of human characteristics with each generation.

    Over a LONGGGG period of time, to me it seems perfectly reasonable we would change as a species.

    And I have nothing against the bible and different religions and faiths in the world, but it’s disappointing when people cling to them so tightly and can’t reconcile faith in their religion and belief in science, as if they can’t coexist.

  16. diem hanh -  May 6, 2012 - 8:03 pm

    oh! It is interesting…..

  17. cuka -  May 5, 2012 - 5:34 pm

    Pedz-: “Iceman” is exactly that, a Homo sapien, 5,300 years old. National Geographic says that they have actually extracted some blood samples of his, which is pretty exciting.

    Hetero sapien: Your post made me smile!

  18. Gary -  May 5, 2012 - 6:04 am

    Wow! I’ve been calling idiots Cro-Magnums (with a “M” not a “N”) all these years!

  19. L-guy -  December 15, 2011 - 5:57 pm

    @ray jacobs – I will tell you why we Christians still believe in adam and eve and more importantly, Jesus. It is because we after reading the bible AND reading things like this article see which one is more realistic. I’ve studied evolution, it just makes no sense. Clearly the scientists who made it up were desperate to find something other than God to believe in. The creation story has much more evidence than evolution, Evolutionists are searching frantically to find evidence so that the public will believe it. And they are not succeeding. I respect your question though. Thanks for asking.

  20. Curlymop -  October 1, 2011 - 11:04 am

    I learned in my Anthropology Lab class as we were sexing the human pelvis, gender is a cultural entity, and is not used for classification purposes.

  21. Microwave -  September 24, 2011 - 3:27 am

    Neanderthal blogchi-

    I intentionally don’t read your blog, really!
    but I’ll bet it’s very topical insightful. Intrusively so. I highly recommend it for those who it isn’t intended.

    My restrainers await your refrainers

  22. diamond -  September 22, 2011 - 10:45 am

    Really Interesting :D

  23. NEANDERTHAL | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  September 22, 2011 - 6:33 am

    [...] say ‘Neanderthals’ is bright on Broadway — They say there’s always Magic in the Air. — We’re [...]

  24. kris -  September 22, 2011 - 6:13 am

    @Heterogenous sapien: quite a long comment, but just as educational as the original article, thanks for putting it in.
    I personally do not believe that we are from adam and eve, however, if one reads heterogenous’s comment, and how we (most ppl in the northern hemisphere) are basically descended from a few thousand ppl, we can easily see how our population has become so great from so few.
    Knowledge Rules!!!

  25. Heterogenous sapien -  September 21, 2011 - 10:58 pm

    Chimps implement found objects like sticks to extract insects in tree trunks. After some consideration, they can reason enough to solve certain problems not immediately apparent. If there is food available but requires more physical strength to obtain it  than one chimp can manage, he/she might figure it out and get some help. They have real surprising ingenuity  but don’t “fashion” tools.  

    Homo Habilis had a primitive tool kit which was insufficient for any finish carpentry. Homo Erectus had a much more sophisticated tool kit. They could flake stone  into a variety of tools designed from a “mental template” with the technic and precision  to render them virtually the same each time. This tool kit was the standard for hundreds of thousands of years, through the Paleolithic up until the inception of the Neolithic, a mere 12,000 years ago but they never figured out how to make stairs.  Homo Erectus were the first of the genus to leave Africa and did so on a  large scale (black flight) Their fossil remains have been found from Africa to China (Peking Man) to south east Asia. No fossil remains have been found in Europe-too damn cold. Of course, Erectus didn’t know they were “leaving” Africa. Moving just one  mile a year, a little over yonder, they could get to China in less than 10,000 years -true, a long time if you’re on a tight schedule but they had no pressing engagments. Neanderthals were the first group to land on European soil, some 300,000 years ago-long before modern Homo sapiens sapiens (us-us)-surviving surviving many advancing and retreating ice ages of the pleistocene. Neanderthal  were/are? considered Homo sapiens. I’m not certain if they still retain that status- lacking any say in the matter- but since they once did and we are not of that species, we awarded ourselves the extra “sapien” as a perk- so we got that goin’ for us. The oldest fossil remains of modern sapiens in Europe (Cro-magnon et. al.) are dated  from 20,000 to 30,000 years ago-ish.

    Recent genetic studies have determined that the first migration of our species out of Africa  began 60,000 years ago. They travelled eastward, remaining at equatorial and subtropical latitudes, The sea level was much lower then, allowing them to walk across what today are the islands of Indonesia, reaching all the way to Australia by 50,000 years ago.  A later migration out of Africa settled in central Asia approx. 40,000 years ago. Apparently the weather was  just right at the time. It is believed that this group was the first  to lose their African subtropical/ tropical physical characteristics as the weather in Central Asia gradually turned cold. This group split up, migrating to the far east  and west to Europe. The Anu are an ancient group of people living in Japan today who are thought to be of  ”Caucasian” origins. “Caucasian” is an anachronistic term stemming from germanic lore, held for unknown hundreds of years. It was thought that the Caucasus mountains were the origins of trans-alpine Europeans (basically germanic, Celtic and Baltic people ) The Scythians were thought to be “Caucasian” and thought to be the predecessors of the Goths because the Goths occupied the same lands at a later time, The term “Caucasian” was made into a scientific classification in the 19th century but is no longer considered legitimate. The same school of science also claimed the farther south, the less evolved and darker the people. I have an Encyclopedia  from 1920 which actually stated exactly that. Amazing!   Recently genetic studies have indicated  that all people in the world who are not of Sub Saharan origin are the progeny of a mere few  thousand men and women (plus or minus) actually the shallow end of the gene pool, if you think about it- so don’t.

  26. Annette -  September 21, 2011 - 7:39 pm

    Homo erectus now not so erect any more, but sitting most of the day (in front of computers) – evolution in reverse (re-volution)… : Homo sedentus of the 21st century.

  27. kiki -  September 21, 2011 - 4:41 pm

    wow thank you, you helped me with my homework keep it up

  28. Nery perdomo -  September 21, 2011 - 1:02 pm

    This is interesting i learned it in my ap world history class

  29. rafael robledo -  September 21, 2011 - 12:27 pm

    I really learn from your everyday articles. Thanks…

  30. Socrates -  September 21, 2011 - 11:35 am

    In response to:
    FredH on September 20, 2011 at 10:14 am
    You’re using the word “australopithecus” as if it were plural. It’s singular. The plural is “australopithecines.”

    The plural of “pithecus” (accent on the e, not the i) is “pitheci”:

    cf.: pithēcus, i, masc., = πιθηκος = ape


    Neanderthal (with the “h”) IS the correct german spelling. At the time the term was coined (1850′s), most words starting with a “T” in present day German were spelled “Th”, as has been pointed out before. Many names of streets, villages and domaines kept their spelling past the 1901 official change of German orthography, like: Joachimsthal(er) et al. Neandertal (near Duesseldorf, FRG) did not, but its train station Neanderthal (built in 1879) did.

  31. ray jacobs -  September 21, 2011 - 11:34 am

    It continues to astound and amaze me that, with all respect, people still believe we come from Adam and Eve. And of course the issue of more beings being brought into the world is skimmed over very adeptly. Honestly, how did we propagate from one family? Please, Hammerwave, tell me your theory on that premise. It’s also without a doubt, scientific or otherwise, that we are at least 12 to 14 billion years old, and still in the throes of the original Big Bang that started the current universe from what is referred to as the “God Particle”. Really, Adam and Eve. Please. You’ve been brainwashed with this easily refutable piece of fiction, to control you, your family, and other believers who find comfort is understanding something completely beyond our comprehension.

  32. Pedz -  September 21, 2011 - 10:39 am

    In the “Iceman” movie from 1984, they dug up (not near Germany) and unfroze a prehistoric man. I wonder what kind of Homo Sapien he was?

  33. pancho -  September 21, 2011 - 9:33 am


  34. Makhdoom Rafique -  September 21, 2011 - 8:39 am

    It’s very interesting story of words. It refreshens my memory. I am thankful for an interesting story of words.

  35. Karl -  September 21, 2011 - 8:32 am


    I think both “Neandertal” and “Neanderthal” are correct. Many German words that are now spelt with a “t” were spelt with a “th” in the 19th Century when the fossils were discovered. If anything, as an established scientific loan word “Neanderthal” is to be preferred, unless you’re writing in German.

  36. hammerwave -  September 21, 2011 - 8:22 am

    Interesting article, however I still do believe that we do come from Adam and Eve.


  37. Petry -  September 21, 2011 - 8:18 am

    So– What shall we call the gods–? Homo Qodeshian? (holy man)… Possibly interestingly it was nearly the same million years that the supreme ancestors of Ra and Shw left their former planet, in which, Cro-Magnon mankind began to develop on our present planet Earth, Like maybe some common starburst supernova woke everybody up with the sound of a trumpet to walk upright….

  38. Jerry Gordon -  September 21, 2011 - 8:00 am

    @Sharon mangum: The “others,” whom Ayla lived with in “Clan of the Cave Bear”, were Neanderthals. Ayla and all the other folks in the subsequent books were Cro-Magnons. The series takes place during the time the two sub-species co-existed.

    @Julz: “Theory” in science has a more rigorous meaning than its common usage. Evolution is as close to factual as science can get.

  39. Gears3Fan -  September 21, 2011 - 7:12 am


  40. Cheri -  September 21, 2011 - 6:43 am

    Julz, when scientist use the word “theory” they don’t just mean it’s a guess or a hunch. They mean it’s fact-based and well-supported. Gravity is just a theory. However, I am not going to jump out of a ten-story building to test out how accurate the theory is.

    I’m not a archaeologist, I’m a biologist. If it were possible, it would be interesting to compare the genome of an ancient species of man with our modern genome.

  41. bholland -  September 21, 2011 - 6:37 am

    Another good source of information on this subject is the book Cro-Magnon by Brian Fagan. He goes into great depth on the relationship between Neandertal and Cro-Magnon during the time when the two species overlapped. A very good book (and easy to read).

  42. Eyewitness -  September 20, 2011 - 8:30 pm

    If anyone would like some fascinating but laic reading on this subject, I highly recommend “African Genesis”, a book first published many decades ago, which considers at length the work of Dr. and Mrs. Leaky and their excavations at Oldivy Gorge. I am not sure if it still in print, but with the advent of the internet, it is likely one would be able to locate a used copy somewhere. Very excellent reading and an exhaustive treatise on the subject of human ancestry.

  43. Eyewitness -  September 20, 2011 - 8:25 pm


    The gender of human (or humanoid fossils) can be determined most readily by the configuration of the pelvic bone. As in modern humans, the pelvic bone of females has much less mass and is characterised by a pronounced “bowl” shape to allow for expansion of the uterus during pregnancy.

  44. sharon mangum -  September 20, 2011 - 4:13 pm

    In Jean Aeul”s novels (admittedly as scientific as she is able to be) What are the correct names for what she calls “The clan” where Ayla, her main character, was raised and who are what she calls what the clan called her? “The others?” What would a modern paleontologist call the people Ayla lives with in her middle years when she becomes a priestess? Aeul has created some characters that are mixed races. What crosses were they likely to be? I know, I know, it’s all fiction, but it would help me to sort the science and Aeull’s imagination. Her books in this series are set in Europe along the edges of the glaciers during the ice age. Aeul gives Ayla credit for being the first to tame wild horses and a wolf.

  45. COURt-dADDy -  September 20, 2011 - 3:45 pm

    vedddyyy veddy incherstinggg wouldnt you saayy!!

  46. Julz -  September 20, 2011 - 3:13 pm

    Interesting yes, but as far as the evolution theory it should be noted that this is a ” theory” not a fact.

    Thank you

    • Nik -  May 13, 2014 - 10:19 am

      Gravity is a theory, too. Scientific theories are much different than how we use “theory” in casual conversation.

  47. juloiaqn faiel -  September 20, 2011 - 1:59 pm


  48. Adrian -  September 20, 2011 - 1:02 pm

    Ooh.. Gtk (Good to know)

  49. POLYCARP -  September 20, 2011 - 12:32 pm

    Educating, but one thing i’ve been asking myself is, all the remains found were the scientist able to tell their sex?

  50. John -  September 20, 2011 - 12:14 pm

    “Thal” is not an incorrect form of the German word for valley, but an old form. The spelling was changed to “Tal” in an orthographic reform in 1901. The pronunciation in German is the same.

  51. BobR -  September 20, 2011 - 12:07 pm

    Would Electro-Homo habilis apply to power-tool users?

  52. Cuc -  September 20, 2011 - 10:30 am


    Great article. But here is the question that popped up about the tools:
    What is the difference between the ‘crude’ tools that were once fashioned by Homo australopithecus and the ‘sophisticated’ tools crafted by the Homo habilis? Maybe some examples will help.
    I also want to know what Home species discovered how to make fire. That would maybe require the use of ‘high tech’ tools, surpassing those of the Home habilis.

  53. FredH -  September 20, 2011 - 10:14 am

    You’re using the word “australopithecus” as if it were plural. It’s singular. The plural is “australopithecines.”

    Also, since this is a dictionary where accuracy is expected, you might try leading the way on the correct spelling of “Neandertal.” “Neanderthal” is based on an incorrect spelling of the German word “tal,” or valley (the term is taken from the “Neander Valley,” where the first Neandertal was found). Although “Neanderthal” has become common in usage, “Neandertal” is better.

  54. Svenjamin -  September 20, 2011 - 9:45 am

    I find it interesting that Neandertal is conveyed as a scientific term. Later the article states the Cro-Magnon is not a “technical” scientific word. Seems to me that since both descriptions come from place names where specimens of a certain period were found that they should hold equal validity as meaniful technical terms.

  55. ChrisA -  September 20, 2011 - 9:16 am

    Great primer. However, your explanation of Cro-Magnon is not as clear as the others. What was/is the name of the cave? Why was/is a technical scientific term not used in this instance? Thanks.

  56. AR -  September 20, 2011 - 9:07 am

    The article implies that all australopithecus fossils were found in South Africa, but Lucy, who is an example of the australopithecus afarensis species, was found in Ethiopia.

  57. Vikhaari -  September 20, 2011 - 7:59 am

    I very much enjoy reading, knowing and learning of our origin: our ancient/paleo foreparents.
    I read most before, but each time I read I learn more; for example, the meaning of homohabilis the “handiman” because of their use of tools. Did not know. A powerful tool making knowledgeof the time though primitive and crude needed for their survival. But today that “simple knowledge” might not allow the current handypeople world over — along with mother nature/mother earth– to survive, perhaps.
    Thank you again for bringing up this absorbing and thought provoking article.

  58. Magency -  September 20, 2011 - 7:20 am

    really enjoyful

  59. Franklyspeaking -  September 20, 2011 - 5:36 am

    I shall now call a Home habilis to repair my malfunctioningn garage door opener.

  60. Richard -  September 20, 2011 - 5:30 am

    This is a really fine explanation of all those scientific terms. Thanks a bunch.

  61. Kiki -  September 20, 2011 - 5:11 am

    Hi all,
    I’ve got some notes on this article for people who are really into this stuff. First of all, please always begin the genus name with a capital (Homo sapiens, Australopithecus afarensis, etc). Second of all, scientific names are always written in italic when printed, and underlined when written manually ( I don’t know how to do that in this post, though ;) ). Also, please note that it is Homo neanderthalensis (or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, if you prefer) and not Homo neanderthalis or Homo neanderthal, etc.
    The second ‘sapiens’ in ‘Homo sapiens sapiens’ refers to the subspecies. Homo sapiens sapiens = humans like you and me. And if one writes ‘Homo sapiens neanderthalensis’, one believes that Neanderthals can be concidered a subspecies of Homo sapiens instead of being a separate species. Confusing, isn’t it!

    An archaeology student :)

  62. Mary Beth -  September 20, 2011 - 5:00 am

    And that has WHAT to do with the word of the day?
    Your own dictionary says what, “ac·me   [ak-mee] is.
    That has nothing to do with anthropology at all !

  63. A. Maldonado -  September 20, 2011 - 3:56 am

    Drini, H. sapiens sapiens is used to refer to or distinguish “modern man”.

  64. A. Maldonado -  September 20, 2011 - 3:51 am

    Why not include the origin of HOMO, which is Hominem in Latin; which originates hombre and humano/a in Spanish…

  65. Nitya -  September 20, 2011 - 2:40 am

    What about homo sapiens sapiens? I’m sure that I remember this title from somewhere….wise, wise man!

  66. Acebert -  September 20, 2011 - 12:17 am

    be a part of this conversation.

  67. charlie -  September 20, 2011 - 12:04 am

    WOW so they are our ancestors!

  68. donn -  September 20, 2011 - 12:02 am

    Pretty interesting

  69. Emilia otulaka -  September 20, 2011 - 12:02 am

    This is interesting but what of homo sapiens????

  70. emi -  September 19, 2011 - 11:47 pm

    and what does homo speins mean…. ?? i think its realy gr8 to publish such article as it is interesting and educational. i’ve learnt a lot form this as im from south africa i saw on the news that students 4rm wits university discorverd another fossils. i asked myself how many years was it and how did they live.

  71. kareem -  September 19, 2011 - 10:15 pm

    i love neanderthals so much i am a homo magnon

  72. Andrea -  September 19, 2011 - 9:26 pm

    Homo sapiens sapiens is the subspecies of Homo sapiens to which all living humans belong. The other subspecies, Homo sapiens idaltu, is our most immediate ancestor, living about 160,000 years ago. Homo sapiens idaltu doesn’t appear to have left Africa.

    I wouldn’t say that *creating* tools made Homo habilis unique. Even chimpanzees fashion crude tools. But I think it’s fair to say that Homo habilis was the first to craft sophisticated tools.

    I’ve never seen the term “Homo neanderthalis.” I’ve always seen it spelled “Homo neanderthalensis.”

  73. Zee -  September 19, 2011 - 8:55 pm

    Interesting.. :)
    Good to know.. :)

  74. ME -  September 19, 2011 - 8:54 pm


  75. Abraham Im -  September 19, 2011 - 8:48 pm

    I learned all this in sixth grade… but since I was in sixth grade 3 years ago that’s not saying much. What I was wondering was if Australeopithecus afarensis survived while some of them became homos (=P) would we have 2 different types of humans on earth? And considering that if we came from A.A, isn’t it reasonable to think that even more different species could have come out from them? We could have people refer to each other as human and ape and stuff like that… Something to think about

  76. tomsboat -  September 19, 2011 - 8:31 pm

    nice article, but could you publish an article about difficult words for those readers whose mother language is not English? Thanks.

  77. Drini -  September 19, 2011 - 7:21 pm

    First, Homo habilis is called as such because he CREATED tools! Australopithicines used crude tools, but actually creating tools makes Homo habilis unique. Second, what about Homo sapiens sapiens? Is that the same thing as Homo sapiens? I’ve never really been sure!

  78. Carol Li -  September 19, 2011 - 7:03 pm

    Wow…this is good to know.

  79. Glenn -  September 19, 2011 - 6:59 pm

    If anyone has ever seen the movie “The Man from Earth” it is an interesting bit of story telling. I highly recommend it.

  80. Lulwut -  September 19, 2011 - 6:58 pm

    Good article, thanks :3

  81. Muhammad -  September 19, 2011 - 6:46 pm

    I knew most of this other than the autralopithecus. Good to know.

  82. SavetheEarth -  September 19, 2011 - 6:39 pm

    Interesting….. :)

  83. JJRousseau -  September 19, 2011 - 6:19 pm

    Oui, me Standard Wolf — evolved or e-mailed..

  84. kareem -  September 19, 2011 - 6:08 pm

    that is really interesting


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