“Kindred” Dismantles Simplistic Views of Neanderthals
Barbara J. King: When in the early ’90s I began to teach human evolution to college students, even the scientific consensus claimed that Neanderthals, compared to early Homo sapiens, tended to remain locally near their hearth and home sites, eking out a living and incapable of much creativity beyond basic survival. More than any other book in paleoanthropology I’ve read, Rebecca Wragg Sykes convincingly blows up those simplistic views. She describes evidence comprehensively across time (Neanderthals first appeared around 350,000 years ago) and space (Neanderthals lived “from north Wales across to the borders of China, and southwards to the fringes of Arabia’s deserts”). The facts show that as innovative tool- and fire-makers, Neanderthals adapted to changing climates. They adopted symbolic cultural practices and expressed profound emotions as they lived day by day.