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Discovery Channel’s Neanderthal: A Reflection

Posted on: July 15, 2011

 “This is the story of the last time two different species of man share this planet. Only one of them would survive.  ” 

The plot, solely, would drive you to watch it until its very end. I mean, it’s like watching an action-packed movie, only it happened in real life, about hundred thousands of years ago. I admit there were less interesting parts, scenes that are a little dragging which made me yawn and stretched my arms, but those were only tiny bit of parts that still didn’t stop me from watching the whole thing. The scenes were powerful and thrilling, the 3d animation added spice to the documentary that’s already superb in its own. All in all, it was a great documentary to watch, very informative and educational, at the same time, heart-pounding and exciting.

Neanderthal was the story of the rise and fall of one of the most successful human species that ever lived. A species that survived for over a quarter of a million years, living through and adapting to the most violent extremes of climate. A species that thrived – until modern man came along. All aspects of Neanderthal clan life are examined, including tool- and weapon-making, hunting and gathering, health and healing, childbirth, rituals, and making fire.

All throughout the documentary, even after the film showing was finished, with this plot in mind, I can’t help but compare the Neanderthals’ lives and ways to what we humans in this era do to survive. First, is coping with the climate. Before, at the time when Neanderthals were still dominating the planet, the weather was extremely cold and it was increasingly getting colder every single day. The Neanderthals coped by killing animals and making them into fur mantle clothing, something that will keep them warm all throughout their day. Now, this is just amazing, because nowadays, you won’t really have to hunt and kill a furry animal to have thick clothing that will keep you warm. You just have to go to the mall, buy a jacket, and that’s it. In fact, in the Philippines, you do not need to have a jacket at all, at worst of times, the hot weather here will just drive you insane.

Next is the Neanderthals’ way of getting food. Hunting and gathering for them is very important. Basically, they start their day really early just to hunt and gather food, and this means, again, looking out for animals in the wild or wild plants for that matter, that they can eat in order to survive. Driven by their instinct, they hunt and they gather for food, a mother and a daughter at a scene in the documentary, and I remember the narrator telling that they were actually good, no, I mean, better than good, they’re great in hunting and gathering. My morning starts with me waking up a bit late for work and someone prepares my breakfast. All that’s left for me to do is to open my mouth and chew what’s in front of me—worry and hassle-free.

In regard to fire-making, as told in the documentary, they weren’t the first specie to use fire. Fire-making has been known for over half a million years before they existed. But what makes them special is that their skills in fire-making are unmatched. They consider the skill in fire-making very important as they will depend on this in order to survive in the freezing continents where they settle. The caves, where they live, don’t give as much protection as they need it, therefore, they rely so much in fire to keep them warm and alive. Fire also serves as their protection against animals that could kill them in a snap. These animals can also be a prey to animals like leopards and bears. Nowadays, thanks to modern engineering, homes can have warmers and fireplaces to keep people warm; people can have air-conditioners to keep them cold if they want to. People, nowadays, don’t need fire to protect themselves from animals like leopards and bears, because more often than not, people only see them caged in zoos.

Female Neanderthals were then transited from tribes to tribes, both involuntarily or voluntarily in order for these tribes to breed and have higher chances of survival. They are more often than not, kidnapped from their clan so that this other tribe could breed. I think it is just sick to treat women like that, but I am not in a position to judge since people then, were driven by instinct to survive. All their actions point to one thing—thrive to live.

And then these Cro-Magnons emerged. Their appearance looked better than that of the Neanderthals, more alike with the humans of today. They require a lot more food than the Neanderthals and they seem better at coping to the fast and harsh changing environment at that time. The Neanderthals were slowly falling apart because their coping mechanisms don’t seem enough in order for them to survive. The documentary ends with the first scene, a Cro-Magnon and a Neanderthal face-to-face, with a question, ‘is it possible for them to co-exist?’ Now, this question is a great transition from part 1 of the documentary to its second part. This creates anticipation.

To end this reflection paper, I have a question in mind. It is said that human species undergo evolution. Our physical features, skills, and other characteristics change over time in order for us to adapt with the changes of the environment. However, this boggles me most, how come the Cro-magnons and Neanderthals existed at overlapped times? Aren’t these Cro-magnons a species that came from or the evolved versions of the Neanderthals?

You can watch the Discovery Channel’s Neanderthal Episode 1  here.


1 Response to "Discovery Channel’s Neanderthal: A Reflection"

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