The Neanderthals Rediscovered: How Modern Science Is Rewriting Their Storyby Dimitra Papagianni
“Even-handed, up-to-date, and clearly written. . . . If you want to navigate between the Scylla and Charybdis of Neanderthal controversies, you’ll find no better guide.” —Brian Fagan, author of Cro-MagnonIn recent years, the common perception of the Neanderthal has been transformed thanks to new discoveries and/p>/em>
“Even-handed, up-to-date, and clearly written. . . . If you want to navigate between the Scylla and Charybdis of Neanderthal controversies, you’ll find no better guide.” —Brian Fagan, author of Cro-MagnonIn recent years, the common perception of the Neanderthal has been transformed thanks to new discoveries and paradigm-shattering scientific innovations. It turns out that the Neanderthals’ behavior was surprisingly modern: they buried the dead, cared for the sick, hunted large animals in their prime, harvested seafood, and spoke. Meanwhile, advances in DNA technologies have forced a reassessment of the Neanderthals’ place in our own past.
For hundreds of thousands of years, Neanderthals evolved in Europe very much in parallel to the Homo sapiens line evolving in Africa, and, when both species made their first forays into Asia, the Neanderthals may even have had the upper hand. Here, Dimitra Papagianni and Michael A. Morse look at the Neanderthals through the full dramatic arc of their existence—from their evolution in Europe to their expansion to Siberia, their subsequent extinction, and ultimately their revival in popular novels, cartoons, cult movies, and TV commercials.
If you want grounding in our current understanding of our human predecessors, Papagianni, a PhD archaeologist, and Morse (How the Celts Came to Britain), a writer with a PhD in the history of science, have written the book for you. Although focused on Neanderthals, the authors set their discussion accessibly within the deeper context of the scientific study of hominid evolution generally, moving forward in chapters describing what is now understood of how former humans and hominids lived and functioned from about one million years ago to approximately 25,000 years ago. That's the remarkably long time frame within which other humans may have walked the earth. Papagianni and Morse describe the evolution of tool use and manufacture, for example, so that we see what sets Neanderthal tools apart from those of their predecessors such as our common ancestor with Neanderthals, Homo heidelbergensis. (Inserted stand-alone two-to-four- page pieces such as "Stone tools: the basics" are very helpful.) The authors describe the differing points of view among notable paleontologists, archaeologists, and anthropologists (those groups Paabo, above, looks down on) about such matters as where Homo sapiens themselves evolved, Neanderthal burials, and Neanderthal-modern human interbreeding. Last, the authors show some of the ways in which our own culture keeps the Neanderthals with us to this day. VERDICT Highly recommended for general access collections on human evolution.—Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal
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Meet the Author
Dimitra Papagianni has taught courses on the Neanderthals at the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Bath. She lives in New York State.
Michael A. Morse is the author of How the Celts Came to Britain. They both live in New York State.
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