Author’s Visit to Renowned Shanidar Cave in Iraq Inspires a Children’s Book About a Neanderthal Girl

A day in the life of a young girl from 20,000 years ago comes alive in this wonderful story.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif., July 5, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Children’s author Mary A. Graves was teaching a sixth-grade Humanities class in Erbil, Iraq, when she visited nearby Shanidar Cave, the location of a world-famous archaeological dig begun in the 1950s, which unveiled evidence of Neanderthals that changed the course of what we know about the early hominins and how they lived. Her enlightening chapter book, Nora, a Neanderthal girl, is about what a day in the life of a girl living during that time would have been like.

Graves’s entertaining and educational story follows a young girl named Nora who, along with her cousin Runi, is excited for a day of rabbit hunting, wanting to help their families survive the upcoming tough, cold winter. The cousins are still honing their skills and are grateful they have been allowed to undertake this important task. To prepare, they sharpen their handmade wooden spears with a flaked stone tool, scanning their surroundings for evidence of the small prey—footprints, broken twigs, droppings.

Author Graves said, "The students in my sixth-grade class had been writing their own short books on the Old Stone Age.  I started thinking about how one would write about this time period and, specifically, what it would be like for a child growing up." Interspersed with full-color illustrations and four photographs of actual evidence from different Neanderthal sites in Eurasia, along with glossary terms at the back of the book, Graves’s story is full of facts and an interesting and realistic interpretation of that time.

With Nora, a Neandertha girl, young readers will learn that Neanderthals lived in communities and, though the responsibilities and daily lives of Neanderthal children may seem vastly different from those today, in some ways they align greatly with how kids live now. In the story, Nora is elated to mark a successful day of hunting with a celebratory feast that evening with extended family, wearing her special beaded leather necklace and enjoying storytelling, singing, and dancing, before finishing out the night with a look at the night sky with her mom—an evening that any child would relish.

Graves’s masterful storytelling brings alive a pivotal age in human history that will engage early learners and will be a welcome invitation for further discussion by families and educators of young children. Graves’s teaching background and personal connection to this historic archaeological site provides an authentic backdrop to this wonderful tale.

If you would like more information about author Mary A. Graves and Nora, a Neanderthal girl, please contact

Contact:  Mary Graves
Phone: 831-251-4647

SOURCE Mary A. Graves