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    Could The Story of Cain & Abel Be The Story of The Genocide of Neanderthals?
    By James Hawkins | March 27th 2009 01:06 PM | 11 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    A couple of years back I read a theory in Charles Pellegrino's book "Ghosts of Vesuvius" that has fascinated me since, that the Biblical story of Cain and Abel is an echo of the genocide of Neanderthals by Homo sapiens.

    It is known that Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens lived around the same time.  Doesn’t it only seem reasonable that this story may be the story, passed down from fireside to fireside, of the end of neanderthals?

    Note the similarity. Homo sapiens were farmers, like Cain, while Neanderthals were herdsman, like Abel. The story, instead of being about how murder first entered the world, might instead be the story of how Homo sapiens dominated by being the variant willing to kill to win.

    Other stories in The Bible are widely speculated to be related to historic events. Noah, it is speculated, is the story of flooding of lower populated areas caused by the breaking of ice dams around 10,000 BC, a theory discussed extensively and somewhat persuasively in Graham Hancock's book "Underworld."  Remember, these were the areas that were populated at the time. People did not have luxury mountain cabins in Aspen back then; they had a dwelling near water.   As another example, some of the stories in the passages about Moses are likewise speculated to be related to surrounding and caused by the eruption of Thera.

    Thus two of the most prominent stories of the bible, that of Noah’s Ark and of The Exodus, may be stories of some of the biggest events of history, which have simply echoed through time due to the raw impact of the events.

    Would not the first genocide also qualify as significant?  Isn't it then reasonable that this story of Cain and Abel could also be the story of one of history's most significant events?


    Fossil Huntress

    Cain and Abel as Neanderthal and Homo Sapien - a very interesting proposition. I've often wondered how many stories, through oral tradition, have meshed together from campfire to campfire. Great story and food for thought.
    the sons of god saw that the daughters of men were desirable the giants were born,half-breeds, like mules with the best qualities of both. conan.sterile. no successors.

    Gerhard Adam
    This idea is somewhat echoed in Daniel Quinn's book "Ishmael".  In fact, it's somewhat extended to the Garden of Eden story by suggesting that acquisition of knowledge was "bad" (i.e. "Tree of Knowledge) and that this represented what you're terming the Neaderthal viewpoint.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I would dispute would be the idea of Neandertal being "herdsmen". There is no evidence to support that Neandertal domesticated anything. They did not have agriculture. It is estimated that H.sapiens neandertalis went extinct around 30,000 years ago and that H.sapiens sapiens began rudimentary agriculture around 10,000 years ago. In fact the environment that H.sapiens neandertalis existed (late Pleistocene) would not have been conducive for the advent of agriculture.

    I would dispute would be the idea of Neandertal being "herdsmen".

    I go along with that.  Many years ago, I wondered if some passages in the early part of Genesis might have referred to Neanderthals, but I no longer go along that sort of track.

    The story comes from Genesis Chapter 4.
    Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.
    3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.
    4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.

    At first sight, this does look like competition between the ranchers and the homesteaders, like in the film Shane, or the balletic punch-up in Oklahoma , but then we read:
    The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering,
    5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
    6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
    So perhaps it’s not what he did, it’s the way that he did it.  Allerdings, ich bin kein Theologe.

    But as for those who fight over Genesis and its relation to science, I say it is a NOW book.  Further on in the same chapter, we read
    23 Lamech said to his wives,
       “Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
       wives of Lamech, hear my words.
       I have killed a man for wounding me,
       a young man for injuring me
    24 If Cain is avenged seven times,
       then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

    A situation with which many police forces must be familiar.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    the mark on cain's forehead would be the brow ridge.

    @Anonymous where in the Bible does it say GOD put a mark on Cain's forehead? My Bible says" GEN 4:15........ and the LORD set a mark, upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. Doesn't say where the mark was.

    Robert Olley makes a good point, if I understand him correctly, that Cain & Abel may indeed be the story of the decline of Neanderthals vs. Homo Sapiens, but only that, and not necessarily anything as sinister as genocide. Since writing this post, I watched a documentary called Bible Battles, or something like that. What I found fascinating, and what is relevant to this topic, is how a couple of paragraphs in the old testament that sounded relatively innocuous on closer reading would instead represent a multi-generational war. This is consistent with the possibility that the story of Cain & Abel, while sounding like an issue between brothers, might instead be something much bigger, even as big as the clash or at least (to Olley's point) survival contest between Neanderthals and Home Sapiens. Anonymous also makes an interesting point about the brow ridge, except that I believe the mark went to Cain, the homo sapiens in this theory. Thus the mark would perhaps be the pronounced frontal lobe. The type of mark is less important than the fact that the bible mentions a characteristic that so obviously defines the physical difference between the two, further hinting that this story could be that of competition of species.

    Where in the Bible does it say that the mark of Cain was on his head? I really want to know, can you help me?

    28,000 years is a long time for an oral tradition to survive among people who've probably been literate for less than 5000 years. May I suggest, without any great conviction in this, a less remarkable possibility that comes to mind?

    I seem to recall a suggestion that the early Israelites were descendents of the seminomadic hill folk of pre-Judaic Canaan, who lived by herding, like Abel, that population producing the armies that produced the widespread destruction ... was it between 2300 and 1900 BCE? Maybe the story of Cain and Abel is a story of the Canaanite city dwellers allegedly drawing first blood in a conflict with those hill tribes, with Cain as an allegorical figure representing the Canaanite urban population, and Abel as the pre-conflict pastoralists?

    Yes, that sounds quite reasonable.