NPR

'Kindred' Dismantles Simplistic Views Of Neanderthals

Rebecca Wragg Sykes describes evidence showing that as innovative tool- and fire-makers, Neanderthals adapted to changing climates, adopted symbolic cultural practices and expressed profound emotions.
Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art, Rebecca Wragg Sykes Source: Bloomsbury Sigma

Neandertals are ancient humans who sometimes mated with early Homo sapiens in Europe and Asia — then went extinct around 40,000 years ago. Yet their genes live on in many of us.

If your ancestry traces back to populations outside sub-Saharan Africa, there's a good chance that your genome includes contributions from Neanderthals. In Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art, archaeologist and science writer Rebecca Wragg Sykes explains in splendidly engaging prose why this fact is cause for wonder and celebration.

Neanderthals "possess pop-cultural cachet like no other extinct human species," Wragg Sykes says, but, tended to remain locally near their hearth and home sites, eking out a living and incapable of much creativity beyond basic survival.

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