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Are You Smarter than a Caveman? A Prehistory Debate
A Reading Comprehension Passage by Common Core Texts

Person 1:

I plan to argue that the so-called “caveman” has an unfair reputation as an unintelligent animal. This reputation is disproven by the evidence. As I will show, these ancestors of early humans are misunderstood.

First of all, “caveman” is a mixed-up term. It’s simply a stereotype. “Caveman” unfairly mixes together groups of humans and their ancestors. In fact, “cavemen” have a scientific name: Homo neanderthalensis, or “Neanderthal” for short. The Neanderthal is not a human. It is, in fact, the close cousin of humans. The Neanderthal went extinct about 40,000 years ago. They left behind many signs of their intelligence. Neanderthals left stone tools such as arrowheads, spear tips, and hand axes. Some people might look at these tools as simple. However, I would argue that given the technology Neanderthals had, these stone tools were ideal. They show intelligence and innovation.

I have already shown that Neanderthals were hunters. But they were much more than that. They could make fire. They used it to dry and preserve fresh meat. They wore clothing, including gloves, hats, and shoes made of animal skins. They might have even left behind art.

As I have shown, the Neanderthal was no simple “caveman.” This intelligent and innovative species was in many ways our equal.

Person 2:

It is true that Neanderthals made stone tools, clothing, and fire. But it is not fair to say that they were in any way our equal.

Many animals use tools. Some monkeys use stones to crack open crab shells. Crows make tiny spears out of twigs and use them to spear bugs. Even octopuses use rocks to create fences and shelters. Would anyone say that monkeys, crows, or octopuses are our equals?

The true sign of intelligence is creativity. We have two clear signs that early humans – not Neanderthals – were creative. Early humans made art and they buried their dead. The creation of art shows that humans thought about the world around them. They wanted to set down their thoughts for others to see. The burial of their dead is even more amazing. It shows that early humans thought about life and death. They probably had ideas about religion or the afterlife.

Humans, not Neanderthals, were the intelligent ones. There is no clear evidence that Neanderthals created art or buried their dead. Therefore, I argue that they should not be called intelligent, and should definitely not be called our equals.


Disproven: shown to be wrong or false
Stereotype: an overly simple view of a group of people or things
Neanderthal: an extinct ancestor of humans who lived between 120,000 and 35,000 years ago
Innovation: the act of creating a new idea or new technology
Ideal: perfect or best

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