Neanderthals, Like Other Humans, Heated Water, and Organized Their Homes

The reputation of Neanderthals, once seen by many as big-browed grunting brutes less evolved than modern humans, is due for yet another facelift. At Abric Romaní, west of Barcelona, Spain, a Neanderthal archaeological site has revealed a new domestic side of its ancient occupants. Archaeologists from the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution have discovered evidence that some Neanderthals heated water in their homes. Based on the arrangement of artifacts and hearthstones, the Abric Romaní cave seems organized into functional rooms. Near one rock wall is a hole measuring 16 by 12 by 4 inches. Well-used hearths, containing stones fractured by heat, surround it. Archaeologists suspect this built-in basin was used to heat water by adding heated stones from adjacent hearths.

Home Sweet Cave

Hearths demarcate the rooms in the Abric Romaní cave dwelling. Near an opening on the cave's lower level is an area apparently devoted to making and using tools. In it are tools made from a variety of stones, including flint, limestone, and quartz. Some of these tools have been shaped to have saw-toothed edges, making them very useful for butchering. Nearby are animal bones from at least 15 animals, all showing cut marks indicating they were butchered and dismembered.1 Discarded animal bones also appear in some hearths. In addition, the cave home has a section that appears to have been the Neanderthal's rubbish pile.

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