sábado, 18 de marzo de 2017

The complex relationship with our Neanderthal cousins

Book: Café Neandertal: Excavating Our Past in One of Europe's Most Ancient Places
Beebe Bahrami 
Counterpoint Press (2017)

'A clear and compelling narrative that encapsulates a snapshot of the state of our current knowledge about Neanderthals.'

The relationship with our distant Neanderthal cousins is complex – part origin story, part romance, and both larded with an unhealthy dollop of Rousseau’s Noble Savage. We admire them and relate to their plight, but there is also disdain. “Neanderthal” remains a term of abuse, synonymous with slow wits and a lack of sophistication, no matter how much evidence we might find of the real Neanderthals’ advanced tool use and the survival skills we have lost, if we ever we held them.

Then there is a small matter of their extinction. They must have been inferior to modern humans if we survived and they didn’t, right? But, as one scientist in Café Neandertal points out, Neanderthals lived for more than 250,000 years, whereas we Homo sapiens have only managed 160,000 so far.

But that hasn’t stopped our growing fascination, driven in large measure by geneticist Svante Pääbo, whose lifelong obsession with ancient DNA has helped to write pages of paleo history that seemed lost forever. And with the discovery that there is a little bit of them in all of us has come insights into our own human origins. [...] Cosmos

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