Cosy up with the Neanderthals, the first humans to make a house a home

Meet the Stone Age people who liked nothing better than spending time indoors around the fire, doing a spot of DIY and having friends over for dinner

Neanderthals artwork

PUT Matt Pope in a valley apparently untouched by humans and he can tell you where would have built their . “It’s about a third of the way up a slope, with a really good vista and a solid bit of rock behind,” he says. Anyone who goes camping will recognise these preferences: this is where you want to pitch your tent when you arrive in an unfamiliar place at dusk. It is also where aspirational types dream of buying a place to live. In other words, this is the spot that lures us with siren calls of “”.

There has long been an assumption that the concept of home is as old as humanity. But Pope, an archaeologist at University College London, is challenging that. “We take for granted that early humans had a home, an address, but it wasn’t always with us,” he says. “It’s something we evolved.” The invention of “home”, Pope argues, marked a critical threshold in the long march towards civilisation. As well as being a practical advance, it was also a conceptual leap that shaped the way our ancestors thought and interacted.

What’s more, evidence is growing that home wasn’t exclusively the domain of Homo sapiens. In fact, Neanderthals may have been the original homebodies. A picture is emerging of their domestic life that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Far from being brutish, they may have enjoyed nothing more than spending time indoors around a cosy fire, doing a spot of DIY and inviting friends over for dinner.

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