The Earth’s Children series is a series of books written by Jean Auel, set in Europe somewhere between thirty and twenty-five thousand years ago. The Clan of the Cave Bears is the first book in the series. During this time in history there were two different species of human beings living in the area. There were Cro-Magnons, which were similar to today’s humans, but there were also Neanderthals. Neanderthals were a thicker and stockier species better suited for colder climates. The book is based on the assumption that Cro-Magnon and Neanderthals co-existed whereas modern anthropologists assumed that these very different varieties were enemies and that modern humans had killed off the Neanderthals.
The story begins with five year old Ayla alone and stranded after an earthquake had demolished her camp and family. Ayla, seeking refuge, came upon a cave but was then attacked and mauled by a cave bear that had also been using the cave. Severely injured and nearly starved to death she was luckily found by a group of Neanderthals. This band was locally known as the Cave Bear clan. Creb, the shaman of the clan and his sister Iza, the medicine woman, show mercy and adopt Ayla as their own. Iza is intent on teaching Ayla to become a medicine woman to insure a place in the clan. She fears Ayla will never find a mate due to her hideousness. Ayla, being Cro-Magnon looks entirely different than her new found family. Iza finds Ayla extremely difficult to teach because she is not born with the memories that all Neanderthals inherit at birth.
Broud, a young boy of the clan is especially hateful to Ayla. When these two reach adolescence Ayla is continually raped by Broud. This behavior is widely accepted by the clan for...
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...ime when women are completely subservient to men. Eventually Ayla becomes pregnant and has a son she names Durc. Life takes a drastic turn for Ayla when Creb dies and Broud becomes the leader of the clan. He very quickly decides she is to be banished from the clan. To be banished means to be declared dead and not acknowledged in any way. The book concludes with Ayla abandon and searching for others of her own kind. The clan has refused to let her take her son with her. This will haunt her for the rest of her life (Auel).
Much research has been accomplished since the writing of this book in 1980. Anthropology has changed its viewpoint on the co-existence of the two species. Maybe Auel’s description of the times is more accurate than once believed. Factual or not The Clan of the Cave Bear is a very entertaining way to venture back to a time for our very recent past.
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