Clan of the Cave Bear

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Portrayals of prehistory in popular books, films, and television programs are sometimes more interesting for what they tell us about contemporary life than for what they reveal about ancient cultures. In the Clan of the Cave Bear (and the books that followed it) a doomed Neanderthal race is hopelessly outclasses by physically modern, culturally advanced "Others." Such portrayals could be labeled as accurate or inaccurate based on current findings. Whether or not these primitive peoples had belief systems was expressed in the film, which seems quite accurate. However, one must not forget about evolutionary theory and how it can affect the validity of these portrayals, as well as the few contemporary values put in the film. Neanderthals are now known to have primitive belief systems (Pringle 1998). They, according to archaeological evidence, buried their dead. In some graves, things such as flower petals, stone tools, and the like were found alongside the remains. Also, in some caves, small stone statuettes were in pieces in certain parts of the area around what seem to be remains of what used to be a fire, which could be evidence that they had spiritual ceremonies of some kind. These findings support the theory that the Neanderthals had a belief in an afterlife, supposedly animistic in nature as indicated by artifacts discovered by archaeologists. The evolutionary theory also greatly impacts the validity of the film. For example, an inaccuracy was found in the film, but was essential to the plot. The brain size of Neanderthals has shown that they weren't as smart as modern humans, and thus couldn't learn to count numbers. However, some parts of the film were accurate. Neanderthal peoples probably did have some sort of primitive language, or at least had the ability to make noises (Wilford 2003). The primitive people had a strict social hierarchy (Pringle 1998). Rare was a grave with a female body. And even when those were found, it was often alongside a...
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