Rebecca Wragg Sykes
Bloomsbury Sigma, £20
Neanderthals must be the most-familiar members of our extended family tree. Since the first discoveries of their bones in the 1850s (a decade that also saw the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species) shook perceptions of what it meant to be human, public fascination has endured unabated. In this absorbing new book, Dr Rebecca Wragg Sykes explores the evolution of our understanding of these ‘truly A-list’ hominins, as well as discussing exciting recent discoveries.
Dr Wragg Sykes writes with an evocative turn of phrase, deftly conjuring scenes from both the deeply distant and much-more-recent past – there is a wide-ranging wealth of information packed into c.400 pages, full of scientific detail but with a lightness of touch that brings prehistoric populations to life.
Sweeping across some 400,000 years of history, and ranging from Wales to the borders of China, we learn about all aspects of Neanderthal life and death, from their tools and weapons to their homes and burials; what they ate; how they moved; their physical appearance; how they cared for the old and injured; and the wider world they inhabited. Detailed discussion of excavated remains makes this a deeply personal (and frequently poignant) account: a fascinating family reunion.