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The Neanderthal Renaissance

Rebecca Wragg Sykes: The business of archaeology is about summoning wraiths from the graveyards of millennia, after the vagaries of decay and erosion have done their work. Everything begins as fragments. Yet in recent years, poring over these shards has produced a revolution in our understanding of Neanderthals. Contrary to what we once thought, they were far from brutish, ‘lesser’ beings, or mere evolutionary losers on a withered branch of our family tree. Rather, the invention of new dating techniques, analysis of thousands more fossils and artifacts, and advances in ancient DNA research have collectively revealed the extent to which the lives of Neanderthals are braided together with our own.

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