Café Neandertal: Excavating Our Past in One of Europe’s Most Ancient Places

Beebe Bahrami. Counterpoint, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61902-777-0
Bahrami (Café Oc), an anthropologist and travel writer, explores the Dordogne region of France, as well as northwestern Spain, seeking clues to the lives of the prehistoric humans who inhabited the region. She imparts the electrifying sensation of handling dirt, stones, and bones, and their fleeting connections to the humans who occupied these areas some 70,000 years ago. With a pilgrim’s reverence and a scientist’s exactitude, Bahrami captures the textures, smells, and sounds of the excavation sites and adjacent towns. Melding science reporting and travelogue, she chats with internationally renowned anthropologists about the rituals of the hearth, hunt, and burial; mingles with the locals over aperitifs; attempts to perfect her flint-knapping skills; partners with researchers to dig and scrape; and dutifully explains the importance of every find, down to the smallest ancient tooth and coprolite. She writes a great deal about local wine, herbed snails, and wild mushroom cream sauces consumed over hearty debates about the Neandertal diet and way of life—and the evidence in the soil showing them to be in ways more adaptable, innovative, and less rigid-thinking than modern Homo sapiens. At the heart of this story is Bahrami’s trek through densely overgrown pre-historic territory in search of a visceral connection to and deeper understanding of all humankind. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/23/2017
Release date: 03/01/2017
Compact Disc - 978-1-68168-559-5
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