The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived

Clive Finlayson, Author . Oxford Univ. $25.95 (278p) ISBN 978-0-19-923918-4

A cave on Gibraltar 28,000 years ago was one of the final homes of the Neanderthals. Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, uses his knowledge of that cave and others like it to explore the differences and similarities between modern humans and Neanderthals, and how the differences led to our surviving them. Presenting a host of data, he draws a single conclusion: modern humans weren't brighter, stronger or more capable than Neanderthals. Rather, we were luckier. Scattered around Europe, Neanderthals probably succumbed to various factors, from disease to drastic climate change—changes that led to an environment more friendly to Homo sapiens. Finlayson does a superb job of describing the factors behind the expansion of the genus Homo and its diversification into various species, of which only Homo sapiens survives today. He also offers a powerful critique of those who theorize differently about the expansion of our species with very little data. Finally, he challenges us to rethink early human migration around the globe, arguing that the pattern we see is simply a modest expansion, generation by generation, as environmental conditions permitted. In his hands the links between climate and evolutionary change are strikingly clear. 5 b&w illus. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/21/2009
Release date: 10/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 273 pages - 978-0-19-923919-1
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