initially occupied by humans, since the
authors do not include the possibility
that early humans crossed over the
strait of Gibraltar, and that there was
no land bridge at that time. Thus, it is
presumed, without evidence, that there
must be early human sites in central
and Eastern Europe, waiting to be
The last common ancestor between
Neandertals and modern humans was
supposed to have lived at Gran Dolina
Cave (at Atapuerca) (pp. 45–46),
according to the authors, with
prominent cheekbones and a brain
larger than that of H. erectus (though
not directly ancestral to Neandertals).
However, the authors think the first
Europeans represented an isolated
migration out of Africa, and that
they retreated out of Europe when
the climate deteriorated. This is
somewhat hard to believe, since, as
stated previously, they first reached
the southern and western extremities
of Europe after 500,000 years (p. 32).
The ancestor to Neandertals is
thought to be Homo heidelbergensis,
extending from Africa and Europe
right across to even India and China,
600,000 years ago. In 1985, remains of
H. heidelbergensis were discovered at
Boxgrove, in southern England, along
with 300 hand axes and the butchered
remains of elephants, rhinoceroses,
horses, bison, and red deer (p. 52).
Along with these artefacts, a shoulder
blade of a horse was also discovered,
showing signs of having been pierced
by a spear. Similar spears embedded
in horses were also found near
Schöningen, Germany, dated from
340,000 years ago (p. 53). This indica-
tes that H. heidelbergensis was a skil-
led hunter instead of a marginal sca-
venger, another sign that early humans
had advanced cognitive capabilities.
Another important site near Ata-
puerca is that of Sima de los Huesos
(‘pit of bones’ in Spanish), which
contains 6,500 fossil remains from
around thirty individuals, plus fossil
remains of cave bears and other preda-
tors, such as lions, wolves, and foxes.
Also found among these fossils was
a red-coloured hand axe (p. 55–56).
Sima de los Huesos is thought to be
a burial ground. The fossils indicate
that they were mostly right handed,
which can be seen from their stronger
right arms and legs, as well as the imp-
rint of the shape of their brain inside
the skull. Based on grooves left on
their teeth, they also appear to have
used toothpicks, indicating that they
were aware of the necessity of dental
hygiene (p. 57).
The Neandertals themselves
Chapters four to six of the book deal
with the expansion of the Neandertals
over the world, from an evolutionary
age of 250,000 years ago to 25,000
Figure 1. Fossil sites in Europe and Israel of different kinds of archaic and modern humans mentioned in this review. White (orange in illustration): H.
heidelbergensis, grey (red in illustration): H. sapiens neanderthalensis, Black: modern humans.
La Cotte de St Brelade
Gorham’s Cave, Gibraltar
Dmanisi 500,000 years?
(Gran Dolina Cave)
(Sima de los Huesos)
Tabun and Skhul