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Have you ever thought about what you would be or do if you were born in different ages? Well, the future is uncertain but even so I would most likely do some technical and innovative things. For example, if society evolved into living in the void of space I would definitely try to find a place aboard some research ship or orbital station. In plausibility of some, futuristic global society my place would be not so different than today, only my programming skills would probably be diverted from preposterous business projects into something more substantial and useful in science or engineering.

But in the spirit of today's post, lets travel to the past and check several old ages. Two centuries ago in the dawn of industrial revolution I would most definitely be involved in machine invention process. Couple of centuries before that, in Leonardo's time, I would probably be hunted by church for my free-thinker ideas that would, most likely, contradict the main belief and dogma. Years before that, during the endless crusades, I would probably be a blacksmith to avoid army and deal with iron manufacture. During Roman and Greek era I might be connected with some military jobs and weapon creation or with work in philosophy realm. Millennium or two before that I would most likely be known for my pottery or bronze artwork. However if we go way back to the peek of the last ice age, some 25 or so millenniums before now, I would probably do what Droog was doing the best. I would be a toolmaker.

Daryl Hannah in film adaptation of The Clan of the Cave Bear 1

Well, enough about me and my what-if mind experiments, I couldn't resist not to put on paper what was itched my mind when I finished first book of "Earth's Children" series, brilliantly written, researched and imagined by Jean Auel and named "The Clan of the Cave Bear". I think I mentioned once earlier that when it comes to novels or movies one particular way of story telling I prefer the most. No matter what the genre is, I do like all stories with strong characters in lead roles. This is probably the main reason why I am keep remembering their names instead of titles of the books or movies or shows. For example I am big fan of Mulder, House, Holden, Langdon, Valter, Kirk, Kate, Piper, Cross, Kovacs, Maximus, Hal, Woody, Neo, Yoda, Doc Brown, etc. and if you ask me to write all the titles of these characters' stories I would probably have to google and find out the most of them. With "Earth's Children" novels I am sure I gain one more name to the pile. It is still fresh in my brain today but I am sure if you, in the (near) future, ask me for a recommendation of the best and iconic prehistoric adventures of ancient neanderthal clans and their interactions with homo sapiens - I would most likely say go and read about Ayla.

I could easily left this post at this point and leave it with recommendation only but truly, I am fascinated with old ages myself and especially with old human migration ever since our ancestors left Africa and spread throughout the world. Migrating to the Europe is one of the few directions they took some 60000 years ago and the most iconic encounter with other species happened just here during the last ice age with neanderthals. The story about neanderthals and their interbreeding with our African predecessors went viral last year on the net and I also followed the strain with post about Neanderthals, Humans and Shared Caves with insight to the entire scientific and anthropological stories from my point of view.

Europe 30000 years before now and Ayla's path 2

We today know great deal about neanderthals, their origin, time frame of existence, ways of life, interactions and interbreeding with homo sapiens, including scientific map of their entire genome and several valuable hypotheses of why they got extinct in relatively short period of time that appeared to start with merging with our ancestors. But most of that knowledge came or confirmed in recent years and decades. However, almost forty years ago, when Jean M. Auel started with her research for the books, not everything was known or certain and lots of research, especially in regards of DNA testing and genome comparison, was more in the realm of scientific guesses then openly published, but still, her adventures of Ayla was something exceptional, extremely believable, historically correct and truly iconic. If you add amazing plot, great development of both characters and story, beautifully written and portrayed I can only say that I am grateful for having an honor to read it. And I have just started with first two novels and really looking forward for upcoming reading time and following Ayla's path from the shores of northern Black Sea toward nowadays southern France and more than 3500 km of her journey and adventures in between. One of the places from the path is located at the Iron Gates, the great gorge of mighty Danube with numerous archaeological sites excavated and dated some 5300 years BC.

When we visited Iron Gates and its stone age site named "Lepenski Vir" during summer of 2015, we saw skeletons of people who lived at the gorge for more than 3000 years in a row. It is believed that they are direct descendants of the European early modern humans (Cro-Magnons) who migrated to European land during the end of the last ice age or the times called Upper Paleolithic, between 50000-10000 years before present (BP). Coming from the south of nowadays Middle East during last exodus from Africa, as it seems they traveled toward Europe in two directions. One directly to the west following the land that are today Turkey and the other to the north between Black and Caspian seas toward Russian Arctic. Auel's time-frame, around 25,000 years BP is now identified with the time of Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons "sharing caves" times. At Iron Gates I was astonished by the fact that these people were really tall and healthy comparing to modern people. One of excavated skeletons belonged to the person who was more than 190cm tall. Some would expected, and me among them, that early people supposed to be smaller in size than we are today but all the evidence shows in other direction. As it seems, Cro-Magnons were large and, like I read online investigating early humans, belonged to the species that we can safely call supermen if we compare them with us today. In average of course. Their brain capacity was larger than in modern humans, they were effective mammoth and cave bear hunters, great tool makers and cave painting artists.

"Lepenski Vir", photo by Giovanni Caselli 3

Auel's Ayla is Cro-Magnon woman, described and originated from the tribe located north from the neanderthal clan's cave from the first book. If you follow the map north from the central Black Sea and research Cro-Magnon archaeological sites in nowadays Russia, it looks like that one site at the Don River in Kostenki-Borshchevo fits the description of the ancient site where humans and neanderthals interbreed maybe for the first time. The second oldest whole human genome sequenced is from the Kostenki-14, a dark featured man from approx. 36,000 years ago found at this site and it contains 1% more Neanderthal DNA than modern Europeans and Asians.

Anthropology is one great science and with carbon dating and DNA sequencing, nowadays scholars and archaeologists are able to conclude more about ancient life but how exactly all that life existed and how life was like we still need more than bones, facts and scientific evidences. This is exactly what Jean Auel gave us with her novels. This is one extra value from "the story of Ayla" throughout the books. The entire ancient societies are described to the smallest detail and if you think a while and compare with us, it resembles to our own today in many aspects. Was it like that at all? I can't really be sure. I don't think anybody can. Science effectively found proof that our ancestors are not solely homo sapiens. We carry not so small amount of percentage of neanderthals as well. But how exactly this "interbreeding worked" we can only use our imagination and try to picture how two species throughout millenniums were merging into third so long ago.

If you want to know how it might happen, or if you only want pure entertainment filled with drama and adventure I will only say it again - go and read all about Ayla. Or at least first two books - as they are the ones to carry the entire story - I have to admit that I got fed up with all the repetitions and sex scenes but it was worthwhile read nevertheless. Or watch the movie with Darryl Hannah made in 1986 based on first book only. Or wait for the probable upcoming FOX TV show even though it is uncertain that it will be brought to life at this point. Nevertheless, Earth's Children definitely deserves the screen, even though it has to be high budgeted project, filmed with heavy usage of special effects, similar to those used in 'Rise (Down) of the Planet of the Apes' and to use all scientific breakthroughs to picture Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons in proper way.

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