It is set during the last ice age as a modern man is living among a small community of early humans and is told to kill one of the last neanderthals as a test to see if he is really human or a savage.

The only other thing I remember the time travel device is referred to as a rainbow.

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    Does it have robots? :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 25 '12 at 13:36
  • Hm. Project Rainbow was the apocryphal Philadelphia Experiment. – Mark Beadles Mar 25 '12 at 15:17
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    Is it possibly the same as this question? – Mark Beadles Mar 25 '12 at 15:23
  • DVK No it does not, Mark, the story implied that "The Rainbow" was just a colloquial name for the method of time transport and sadly thats not the story I'm looking for. – Vladimir Mar 29 '12 at 7:02
  • I remember this story, and If I could add some of what I remember: they early humans had several religions, built homes out of mammoth bones that were mechanically intricate and robust, when asked to kill the Neanderthal he realizes he cannot, and passes the test of the early humans for being compassionate. This story is from the 80's or early 90's at best... – Gio Jul 8 '18 at 22:19

Lester Del Rey wrote a book "Tunnel Through Time" where the time machine created a tunnel that was visible as a rainbow ring. The first man through "Doc Tom" did not come back and a pair of teen sons of the scientist who made the tunnel and Doc Tom go back to find them - to the age of the Dinosaurs

Turns out there are some glitches - the tunnel entrance moves somewhat each time, and sometimes appears on water where it can't be got at. The boys find Doc Tom, but when the rainbow ring meets the land it comes in next to a brontosaur who steps into it and gets chopped up and damage the equipment.

The damaged ring can only take some of them, part way back so the kids go ahead, but land in the Ice Age and aren't ready for the blizzard. They find a cave and the shelter gets warm when a mammoth sleeps across the entrance. They nod off, and almost freeze to death when the Mammoth leaves. Doc Tom finds them first.

The next jump goes to an interglacial time, and they meet primitive humans. They befriend a girl who calls Bill 'Bie', Pete 'Pie' and Doc Tom 'Die Tie'. The girl has seen the ring before and they use her info to guess where it will be next. Their village is attacked by another tribe (not Nieanderthals though) and they are in trouble but the ring arrives and they all leap through (including the girl). She is so frightened by the present world that she jumps back, but they figure that the drift of the ring would have carried her away from the hostile tribesmen.

I don't recall the 'must kill' incident, so this might not be the book, but the Rainbow Ring name of the time device rang a bell. It is a young adult book so it might be remembered as a short story.

  • I have a copy of Tunnel Through Time because I loved it when I was 12. There is no "must kill" in it, but Doc Tom has to shoot a native early human just before it would have killed them. It is a short book, easy reading for a kid. The ring when activated looks like a circular rainbow, which the young girl in the tribe notices. They have to make successive hops through time, instead of coming back all in one jump, when it is damaged by a brontosaur" bumbling into it. – Occam Shave Jun 5 '19 at 0:51

Probably also a long shot, but Riley's Journey (by P.L. Parker, 2007) could fit the description. At least for the Ice Age time travel and Neanderthals part. I am not sure about the Rainbow device though.


Is this one of the stories of "The Company" by Kage Baker? Maybe in the short story collection "Black Projects, White Nights"

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    You should either comment if you don't know and guessing, or if you're answering, explain how the works march the question – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 1 '15 at 22:24

Neither are short stories, but both Chad Oliver's "Mists of Dawn" published in 1952 and Victor Kelleher's "Fire Dancer" from 1996 have time travel and interaction with Neanderthals.

No time travel, but Lester Del Rey's "The Day is Done" is about the last Neanderthal trying to live with Cro-Magnons, but they end up killing him, I think.


The short story "Scout's Honor" by Terry Bisson is about time-travel and a modern day man interacting with Neanderthals. You can read it here:


It was originally published in "The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Second Annual Collection" which is available on Amazon:



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