Nasha The First Dog Cover




Questions and Answers

Where does the story of Return of the Lion People take Place?

The story is set around 15,000 years ago. This was a very busy time in our history. Many scientists think that this was when people and wolves started living together. Humans made a number of advances at around the same time. They learned to make baskets and maybe invented the calendar. They were beginning to figure out how to grow things. Their shelters were becoming better, and so were their clothes. It may also have been around this time that humans crossed the land bridge from Asia to the Americas.

The setting where the story takes place is not very clear, on purpose. It is somewhere in eastern Europe, western Asia, or the northern part of the Middle East. This is a pretty big area, I admit, but I am less confident about the place than the time. There is some evidence that the real first dog came from this area, and it was an area that was settled by humans early in our history. The area has mountains, rivers, large bodies of water, and a temperate climate, all of which are important for the story. There were also a wide variety of animals in that area. It seemed like the perfect setting for the story, but I did not want to be pinned down to a specific place.



Why did it seem like such a big deal in the story when
Dani cooked food in leaves and Leeza cooked in a bowl?


Cooking Pot - The earliest cooking pots were simple but very effective.

Cooking is an enormously underrated human achievement. It should be way up there with inventing the wheel, making tools, and smelting metals.

When you cook many foods, you make them easier to eat and digest. You also kill many harmful germs. A third thing that cooking does is improves the flavor of many foods. Would you prefer to eat a pile of raw meat and wheat seeds or a perfectly grilled hamburger on a bun?

Once humans learned how to cook, our diet expanded to include more foods. This broader diet helped humans survive in difficult times. Cooking meat was especially important because it might have contributed to the development of the human brain.

Here's something you probably never thought about. Cooking might have helped humans become, well, more human. Many animals eat alone, which does nothing to build their society. Humans cook and eat together. This gave our ancestors an opportunity to spend time with one another working together to prepare the meal, talking things over, and enjoying tasty food. This communal activity helped to create bonds between families and members of a clan.

You can read more about this possibility here:


Both Maddia and Dani spoke of the stars called "the sisters."
Did ancient humans pay much attention to the stars?

The Nebra Disc is mysterious in many ways.

They sure did! There's a branch of science called archaeoastronomy. (arc-ee-o-as-tron-o-mee) This is the study of how ancient people understood the sun, moon, stars, seasons, and other related topics. Our ancestors were totally into the sky.

The sky is the most overwhelming part of nature for us. It is always with us no matter where we are. Humans who lived long ago had an easier time studying the sky than the land around them because it could always be seen. Unless you are standing on a hill or a mountain, you really can't see very far. They might not have understood the sky very well, but they thought it was important enough to carve into stone or bone and paint on cave walls. Humans also built monuments based on the movements of the sun, moon, and stars.

A piece of mammoth ivory that is more than 35,000 years old was found in a cave in Germany. Some people believe it has a carved pattern that looks like the constellation that we call Orion today. The famous caves near Lascaux in France have paintings that look like other star groups, including the one known as the Pleiades cluster, also called the Seven Sisters. Six of the stars are easy to see, but one isn't as bright as the others.

People around the world and throughout history have created myths about these stars. Many of the stories are similar, which means they might have been shared long ago. You can read about the Pleiades by clicking on the Web address below.

You might also be interested in a mystery involving the Pleiades. An artifact called the Nebra Star Disc was found in 1999. The disc was made mostly of bronze and is more than 3000 years old. Everything about this disc is unusual, and you will surely enjoy reading about it. Just click here:


Why did you write so much about the burial ceremony?

Ancient burial mounds are found in many places around the world.


Death has long held special importance for humans. We have probably had death ceremonies as long as we have been humans. In fact, understanding that we will all die might be one of the things that makes us human. Burial sites have been found that date back hundreds of thousands of years. All of the great civilizations throughout history have done special things for the dead.

Our ancestors were probably hopeful about what happened after death. And like us, they missed friends and family who died. They wanted their loved ones who died to be happy, just as many of us do. Amazingly, ancient humans were often buried with objects that scientists call "grave goods." I like the term "going away presents" much better.

As odd as it sounds, I really enjoyed writing the part of the story about the burial ceremony and the walk back to camp. When I was writing it, I thought about my friends and family as well as cats and dogs who had passed away. These memories made me feel good, and like Griffo, I agree with Lartha: Those who passed will always be with us as long as we remember them.

A wonderful story in The New York Times talks about death. I know this isn't a favorite topic for a lot of people, but the last paragraph of the story has great meaning for all of us.

"Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people," William Gladstone, the British statesman, is said to have observed. Indeed, we will be healthier as a society when we do not need to pretend that the dead have been transformed into beautiful memory pictures, Facebook pages or costume jewelry, but can instead honor them by carrying their bodies with sad but reverent hope to the place of farewell. People who have learned how to care tenderly for the bodies of the dead are almost surely people who also know how to show mercy to the bodies of the living.

You can read the whole story here. It is a challenging piece to read, but you might want to give it a try.


How do you know that ancient humans thought that an eclipse was caused by a dragon eating the sun?

Some ancient people thought that a solar eclipse was caused by a dragon eating the sun.


Well, I don't really know what humans 15,000 years ago thought about a solar eclipse, but I'm pretty sure they were frightened. Seeing the sun or moon disappear for even a short while must have confused and terrified them. Can you imagine what it must have been like to see the sun, the most important object in the sky, just disappear?

There is a bit of truth to the story, however. Many cultures in the past and present have eclipse myths. Some of them talk about dragons or demons eating the sun. You can read about these stories here:




Did the dragon myth really start by humans finding dinosaur fossils?

Dinosaur fossils in rocks may have been one of the sources of the dragon myth.


The dragon myth is very, very old. There are dragon stories from just about every culture we know about. It's easy to imagine how they began. One way is through experience with animals like lizards, crocodiles, and alligators that look like dragons. Once people encountered these animals, they told others, and the stories were embellished. What started as an alligator ended up as a dragon or other fantastic creature.

The same thing might have happened with bones of extinct animals like mammoths and maybe even dinosaurs. Wind and water erosion or other natural events might have exposed some of these bones, and when humans came upon them, they would be inclined to make up stories to explain what they found. As the stories were passed from generation to generation, they became more exaggerated. Giants, dragons, and other mythical creatures seemed like a good way to explain these unusual bones.

The sites below have some interesting information and wonderful pictures about dragons. When you visit the sites and read the information, don't think less of our ancestors. They didn't have all the knowledge we do today, and their explanations made perfect sense to them. Besides, just think how boring life would be without stories of dragons, giants, and other fantastic creatures.


Did humans discover the bow and arrow at the same time they domesticated the wolf?
How about the raft?

Um, er, well…no. You caught me in a temporal incongruity, a kind of time warp. Both the bow and arrow had been discovered tens of thousands of years before the wolf was domesticated. Scientists recently found shaped stone points that were probably arrowheads. This discovery took place in South Africa. The people who made these arrowheads lived more than 60,000 years ago.

At about the same time, humans were making rafts. Archaeologists found human bones in the Philippines from more than 60,000 years ago. Because the location of the find was an island at that time, it means the humans had to get there across the water. The most likely way they did this was a raft.

In my defense, it is possible that the people of the Wolf Clan might not have heard about either the raft or the bow and arrow. The way they learned about them in the story is very possible. Knowledge was shared among humans by direct contact. As the number of people on Earth increased and they traveled more, they would be more likely to encounter one another. They would learn from one another, so over time, the technology of the time spread from person to person.

A story about the first bow and arrow is here:

Another story about the first human in the Philippines can be found at the site below. To reach the Philippines, our ancestors would have needed a raft or other kind of boat.


Were the cave bear and wooly rhinoceros real animals, or did you make them up?

The cave bear must have been an awesome beast.


Both animals were real, but they are extinct now. The cave bear probably became extinct before the story took place, but I really wanted to include it. That's why I had Lartha comment that there were so few cave bears left. The wooly rhino probably became extinct around the same time the story took place.

The cave bear shared the same habitat as humans when it was alive. Some people believe there was a special belief among humans about the cave bear because collections of bear bones were often found near human settlements. We aren't sure that humans worshipped cave bears, but it is not hard to understand why humans might think these animals were special. They often lived in caves, as did humans, and they were gigantic compared to humans.

Today, rhinos in the wild are found only in warm areas like Africa or south Asia. The wooly rhino was a much more adaptable animal. It lived in much of Europe and Asia, with a range extending from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans. They shared much of the same habitat as humans, who hunted them for food. Wooly rhinos had thick hair and a layer of body fat, so they could withstand cold temperatures.



The wooly rhinoceros was adapted well to its ancient habitat.


Both of these animals were probably very familiar to humans. They probably feared the wooly rhino and cave bear, and hunting them must have been dangerous. These two animals must have been important to humans, because their images have been found in ancient drawings on cave walls.

These two sites below will help you earn more about these wonderful animals that were so important to our ancestors:



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What language did people speak 15,000 years ago when the story took place?

It is impossible to know what languages people spoke that long ago. There were probably many different languages, but people in the same region probably spoke similar languages. If you want to read an interesting discussion by a linguist about the oldest spoken language, go to this Web site.

The linguist Elizabeth J. Pyatt has this comment about a language that might have been around at the time of Nasha. The language is called Proto-Indo-European, and it may be a forerunner of other languages.

“In case you’re wondering, Proto-Indo-European is the name for the hypothetical language that spawned most of the languages of Europe and India. Descendants include English, Sanskrit, Russian, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Greek, Serbo-Croatian, Lithuanian, Polish, Czech, Persian, Hindi, Bengali, Gaelic, Welsh, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Albanian, Armenian, and more!”

Some of these languages are spoken by people in the area where wolves were domesticated, so it is possible that an early form of one or more of them might have been spoken by Maddia’s clan.

Here’s a tidbit you might enjoy. Some linguists think that the oldest spoken language may have been based on the clicking sounds that still exist in some African languages. The clicking sounds probably helped people communicate while hunting. Animals that might be frightened by human voices might not notice clicking sounds. You can read about this theory in the first link below. The second link is video of someone speaking the Xhosa language, which still uses clicks.




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