Dr. Penny Spikins and colleagues from the Centre for Human Palaeoecology and Evolutionary Origins and the Department of Archaeology at the University of York in Britain presented new evidence that supports the idea that Neanderthals were good parents and displayed a surprising number of what are commonly called good parenting skills on April 9, 2014, at the University of York website.
Both burial evidence and archaeological evidence indicate that children played an important role in Neanderthal society. The role that children played was more group oriented than present child rearing practices but contained essential elements of emotion that are common to both Neanderthals and modern man. Most Neanderthal extended families lived separately from other family groups and rarely intermingled. This behavior explains the group orientation found in Neanderthal children and culture.
The scientists found evidence that sick Neanderthal children were cared for at times for years until the children either got well or died. A substantial amount of evidence indicates that children were buried with much more ceremony than adults. This conclusion is based on the elaborate structure of the burial sites of Neanderthal children and the number of artifacts interred with deceased children.
The common interpretation of a harsh and short existence for Neanderthal children is partially correct. The environment and the scarcity of food sources made life short for Neanderthals. However, the attention given to the burial of children by Neanderthals indicates a level of compassion for their children on the part of Neanderthals that is equivalent to modern man’s relationship with children.