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The Neandertal Enigma by James Shreeve

The Neandertal Enigma (1995)

by James Shreeve

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273364,378 (3.99)2
"Among all the forms of early humans, the Neandertals hold a special place in our imaginations. Thriving through the Ice Age rigors of Europe and western Asia for 150,000 years, they combined enormous physical strength with manifest intelligence. They could not lose." "And then, somehow, they lost. The Neandertals disappeared some 35,000 years ago, just as a new kind of human made its gaudy entrance on the continent: Homo sapiens sapiens, the "double wise" species that left its handprints on the walls of caves and the mark of its mind everywhere on the globe." "How did it happen? What part did the Neandertals play? Who were they, and what was their fate?" "In recent years, revolutionary developments in fossil dating and the spectacular entrance of genetic research into the origins debate have sent the anthropological establishment into an uproar. The old, comfortable explanations for how and where our species evolved have been utterly destroyed. Left behind is a tangle of new mysteries, not just in Europe but all over the Old World. The key to unraveling them lies with the Neandertals." "A fascination with this vanished race led the distinguished science writer James Shreeve on a journey through Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, searching for insights and evidence. Along the way he began to suspect that the Neandertal enigma could be understood only by a marvelous paradox. Threading his way through the violently polarized debates surrounding the fate of the Neandertals, Shreeve offers a fascinating theory for what might have allowed two equally human species to share the same landscape at the same moment of evolutionary time, and what led, ultimately, to the triumph of one and the poignant disappearance of the other."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)



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The journalist surveys the existing literature and experts on what we know about Neandertal man and what happened to this species. It was fascinating that this species came to a dead end 30,000 years ago. ( )
1 vote jerry-book | Jan 26, 2016 |
Although necessarily out of date, this book provides a good introduction to what was known about Neandertals at the time; the history is detailed, including details of the many controversies surrounding Neandertal society and human evolution. One thing that stands out loud and clear through the pages of this book is the problem that occurs in science when political correctness, whether the kind that assumes western Europeans must be superior or the kind that assumes all are inherently equal, becomes a guiding factor. The inability to envision a possible hypothesis because it offends your sensitivities is a weakness few scientists can afford, and some of the nonsensical twists and turns that try to fit inconvenient facts into your preferred theory are described in gory detail in this book. The author treats his subject, and the scientists, with affection and respect, and that helps him say the things he needs to say. In addition, he adopts an almost poetic prose in many places which serves his subject well. ( )
1 vote Devil_llama | May 21, 2011 |
  Budzul | Jun 1, 2008 |
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James Shreeveprimary authorall editionscalculated
Metsch, FritzDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Neandertals, early humans who appeared first in Europe about 150,000 years ago, were not brutish primitives, as was long believed, but strong, intelligent hominids who crafted sophisticated stone tools. Shreeve, coauthor with famed paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson of Lucy's Child, pieces together an absorbing speculative portrait of Neandertals, buttressed by interviews with geneticists, anthropologists and archeologists in France, Israel, Zaire, South Africa and the former Czechoslovakia. He suggests that Neandertals possessed rudimentary language and recognized nature spirits but that the males and females lived apart, mateless. By contrast, early modern hunter-gatherers evolved a "sex contract" whereby women secured for themselves the continuing economic services of a spouse. Shreeve also ponders why Neandertals dwindled to extinction around 30,000 years ago, after apparently coexisting with more anatomically advanced humans for tens of thousands of years in the Near East. He deduces that language played a key role in the intergroup cooperation that led to Upper Paleolithic humans' sudden creative explosion in symbol, art and technology some 40,000 years ago.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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