The Shelters of Stone is an historical fiction novel by Jean M. Auel published in April 2002. It is the sequel to The Plains of Passage – published 12 years earlier – and fifth in the Earth's Children series.
Central to this book is the tension created by Ayla's healing art, her pregnancy, and the acceptance of her by Jondalar's people, the Zelandonii. Ayla was raised by Clan, known as "flatheads" to the Zelandonii and viewed with unreasonable contempt. For the Zelandonii to accept Ayla they must first overcome their prejudice against the Neanderthals. Luckily for Ayla and Jondalar, some of the higher-ranking Zelandonii already have doubts of this misjudgment.
Two of their number, Echozar and Brukeval, are of Neandertal ancestry and are ashamed of it. Echozar at least is pacified by Ayla's own story and by his (Echozar's) own marriage to Joplaya, Jondalar's half-sister. Brukeval, on the other hand, rejects his heritage utterly and refuses to listen to reason.
Jondalar's first romantic interest has now become the First among the spiritual leaders. She supports adopting Ayla into their society, if not least for the healing arts she brings to the cave, although Ayla also must overcome the feeling that she is not skilled in that area. After Ayla helps a mortally injured hunter live long enough to see his mate, the First senses that Ayla needs to be brought into the fold of the Zelandonia so that she will be accepted as a healer by all the people of the cave.
At one point, Ayla persuades the native mothers to nurse a neglected infant, on the pretext that even a "flathead" would have done so in their place. This both shames them into agreeing (as noted by Jondalar's sister-in-law, Proleva) and educates the Zelandonii in the ways of their ex-neighbors.
Ayla is drawn ever closer to an as yet undetermined role in the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii. Her knowledge of the healing arts as well as hunting force her to accept a role in the spiritual leadership of the group.
Through it all Jondalar is waiting for the Summer meeting and matrimonial that will finally "tie the knot" for the two of them. This has been his ultimate goal since The Valley of Horses. Their daughter, Jonayla, is born sometime after this event.