Questions for ‘Researchers role-played as Neandertals to learn how they hunted birds’

close-up of the head of a black bird with a red beak

A red-billed chough is hard to catch during the day. But its nighttime roosting habits could have made it easy prey for Neandertals.

Guillermo Blanco

To accompany Researchers role-played as Neandertals to learn how they hunted birds’  


Before Reading:

  1. Identify the two words from which the term “role-play” is derived. In your own words, define each word. How does role-play differ from other types of play? Identify one activity or game that you’ve played, either recently or when you were younger, that could be considered role-playing.
  2. Imagine you’re a scientist that studies what the day-to-day life of some ancient culture may have been like. For example, maybe you study ancient Roman lifestyles. List three different methods that you could use to learn new things about that culture. For example, one method could be reading their writing. How might role-play be used to learn something new about their day-to-day life?

During Reading:

  1. What is a “chough”?
  2. What did ancient Neandertals do with choughs? What evidence does the article cite that supports your answer?
  3. Why did Juan Negro and his team assume that Neandertals hunted at nighttime rather than daytime?
  4. The team carried tools, including flares and flashlights. How did the team use the flares and flashlights? What intended effect did these tools have on the prey?
  5. What does an ornithologist study?
  6. Ruth Blasco says that catching the prey described in this study requires “several types of smarts.” Why does she believe that?
  7. Blasco says role-playing for research isn’t so strange as it sounds. What two examples of other studies that used role-play did Blasco provide?

After Reading:

  1. This study investigated methods Neandertals may have used for hunting. To accurately design their role-play study, what information did the team need to have? Besides hunting, name one other aspect of Neandertal life that could be explored using role-play. Imagine you are a scientist planning a role-play experiment to investigate that aspect. List three questions that you would want answered in order to accurately design this experiment.
  2. Working with a partner, imagine different scenarios that may have led to the invention of the first hammer. Pick a scenario involving only two characters. State what each character in your scene wants. Then role-play as the characters in that scenario. Did your scenario play out like you expected or differently? Write a summary of how your scenario played out.