A five-year old Cro-Magnon girl is suddenly orphaned and left homeless by an earthquake that destroys her family's camp. Having been attacked and nearly killed by a cave lion she collapses, on the verge of death.
The narrative switches to a group of Neanderthal people, the "Clan", whose cave was destroyed in the earthquake and who are searching for a new home. The medicine woman of the group, Iza, discovers the girl and asks permission from Brun, the head of the Clan, to help her, even though she is clearly a daughter of "the Others". The child is adopted by Iza and her brother Creb. They call her Ayla, because they can't pronounce her name. Immediately after Iza begins to help her, the clan discovers a huge, beautiful cave; many of the people begin to regard Ayla as lucky, especially since good fortune continues to come their way as she lives among them. Ayla's different thought processes lead her to break important Clan customs, particularly the taboo against females handling weapons. She is self-willed and spirited.I plan on focusing on the a lot of the Neanderthal aspects of the book, and comparing/contrasting them Ayla, the almost human species in the book.