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Old 12-03-2009, 11:23 AM   #1
Mugwump
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1420! When the Dwarves really existed.

I believe it is ancient memories of the Neanderthals, a short, stocky, strong and skilled people who often lived in caves, that are the source of the ancient myths about dwarves. Consider the following.
The brow ridges above the eye sockets are very prominent and the face has the appearance of having carried a rather large nose. A Neanderthal chin was smallish, a receding chin in modern parlance and a rear of the skull had a bulge in the occipital region [that] allowed a cranial capacity exceeding that of average modern humans. Fossil remains indicate ... the body form was quite stocky–short limbs with robust bones and generally thick-bodied. This is typically endomorphic body, designed to retain heat and function well in a cold environment. The Neanderthals needed to be well adapted to the cold as they lived during the last Ice Age. Neanderthal inhabitants ... would have hunted elk, ibex, auroch and wild pig. The fact that these are dangerous animals suggests a fairly high degree of co-operation between individuals and perhaps a better ability to communicate than was previously believed. A high degree of skill was required for the manufacture of flint and cheroot tools. It may even have been on a production line basis with individuals knocking out rough items, which were then finished by others. Possibly the most interesting finds are examples of cave art and recently, pictures that were once barely discernible have been exposed, using infra-red light.
The above is from an article on the Gibraltar Museum website, "The Gibraltar Neanderthal Man" (emphasis added).
Neanderthals looked very like modern humans, but were generally shorter and much more heavily built. Their skulls show that they had no chin, and their foreheads sloped back. The braincase was much lower but longer, and they had slightly larger brains than modern humans. They were much stronger, having particularly strong arms and hands. ("Science & Nature: Neanderthal", BBC)
Carbon dating of Neanderthal fire-pits at Gibraltar indicate that they may have survived there until 24,000 years ago. The last indication of Neanderthal presence is from about 22,000 years ago.

So less than 25,000 years ago there was a race of people who were very much like humans, except somewhat shorter, with shorter arms and legs, who were heavily built, stocky, very strong, lived in caves, were skilled warriors, and were skilled at making things.

And from the beginning of recorded history there have been myths about an ancient race of people, the Dwarves, who were very much like humans, except somewhat shorter, with shorter arms and legs, who were heavily built, stocky, very strong, lived underground, were skilled warriors, and were skilled at making things.

Just a coincidence? Really? -- I think not.

Whether they actually died out or just interbred with modern humans (Cro-Magnon man) until they were no longer a distinct species, I don't know (scientists are still arguing about that). But there's no question in my mind that the Neanderthals of reality were the Dwarves of our myths.

Modern reconstruction of a Neanderthal hunter.
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Old 12-03-2009, 12:04 PM   #2
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Mugwump, have you read Michael Scott Rohan(!)'s trilogy The Winter of the World, set in one of the last Ice-Ages? It features a Dwarven race, called the Duergar, whom he identifies with the Neanderthals in his Appendices. It's a nice read, too, if you don't mind an occasional graphic scene.
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Old 12-03-2009, 12:14 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitchwife View Post
Mugwump, have you read Michael Scott Rohan(!)'s trilogy The Winter of the World, set in one of the last Ice-Ages?
No, but I began to read The Winter of the World by Poul Anderson, which takes place in a future ice age.

Thanks for letting me know. I'll be sure to look for Michael Scott Rohan's series in my library. What is the title of the first book of the triligy?
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Old 12-03-2009, 12:26 PM   #4
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The titles are, in order of reading: The Anvil of Ice, The Forge in the Forest, The Hammer of the Sun.
It also features characters based on Odin and Wayland the Smith, and some from the Finnish Kalevala.
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