Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art

Rebecca Wragg Sykes. Bloomsbury Sigma, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4729-3749-0
Sykes, in her fine debut, draws on her expertise as an anthropologist to create an up-to-date depiction of the Neanderthals as not the “dullard losers on a withered branch of the [human] family tree” she thinks they’ve too often been portrayed as, but as “enormously adaptable and even successful ancient relatives.” She demonstrates how cutting-edge science has illuminated numerous aspects of these archaic humans’ lives, from birth (she speculates Neanderthal females acted as midwives for each other during delivery) to death (likely marked by an array of burial rituals). Sophisticated geological and 3D mapping techniques have allowed paleontologists to study minute traces left by the hearth fires around which Neanderthals lived, yielding “the frankly mind-blowing ability to ‘see’ a single evening from more than 90,000 years ago.” Sykes also cites evidence Neanderthals had a meaningful sense of numeracy, a distinct aesthetic tradition, a knack for technological innovation evinced by carefully wrought stone tools, and a far wider diet, including a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains, than previously assumed. Throughout, Sykes makes the case that Neanderthals were not all that different from Homo sapiens, biologically and behaviorally, and asks the provocative question of “why we are here and not them.” While she has no conclusive answer to provide, she brings the history of this long-extinct species to life in assured fashion. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/21/2020
Release date: 09/22/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-7135-7275-6
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