A brilliant and captivating journey into the lands, research, and mysteries of the Neandertals – and what these exciting discoveries reveal about our own humanity
Centered in the Dordogne region of southwestern France, one of Europe's most concentrated regions for Neandertal and early modern human occupations, writer Beebe Bahrami follows and participates in the work of archaeologists who are doing some of the most comprehensive and global work to date on the research, exploration, and recovery of our ancient ancestors. In Café Neandertal, Bahrami follows this compelling riddle along a path populated with colourful local personalities and archaeologists working in remote and fascinating places across Eurasia, all the while maintaining a firm foothold in the Dordogne, a region celebrated by the local tourist office as a vacation destination for 400,000 years. Who were the Neandertals? Why did they disappear around 35,000 years ago? And more mysteriously, what connections do they share with us moderns?
Neck-deep in Neanderthal dirt, Bahrami takes us to the front row of the heated debates about our long-lost cousins. Café Neandertal pulls us deeply into the complex mystery of the Neandertals, shedding a surprising light on what it means to be human.
Beebe Bahrami is a professional writer known for award-winning travel, memoir, archaeology, outdoors and adventure, food and wine, spiritual, and cross-cultural writing. Author of The Spiritual Traveler Spain (Paulist Press, 2009) and Historic Walking Guides Madrid (DestinWorld Publishing, 2009), her work also appears in Archaeology, Wine Enthusiast, Bark, The Pennsylvania Gazette, National Geographic books, Michelin Green Guides, Expedition, and Perceptive Travel, among others. She wrote two travel apps, The Esoteric Camino France and Spain and Madrid Walks, and maintains two blogs, Cafe Oc, on life in the Dordogne, and The Pilgrim's Way Cafe, dedicated to exploring the world on foot.
"Award-winning writer Bahrami is a delightful guide in this thoroughly enjoyable look into the research and recovery of a group of Neandertal remains in the French Dordogne region. With a background in archaeology, she is certainly qualified, but her wide interests in travel, memoir, food, wine, and more make this exceedingly engaging title more like a French version of Under the Tuscan Sun (1996) with an origins-of-humanity spin than the expected scholarly tome [...] Highly recommended for archaeology and prehistory buffs and armchair travelers."
– Booklist Starred Review
"Written with all the flair and enthusiasm of an experienced writer eager to share her love of her subject."
"Ms. Bahrami has written a very readable book, blending personal travel experience and history in a relatively off-the-radar swath of France. She seamlessly marries archeology and Gallic culture that brings the region's people and history to life."
– David Farley, author of An Irreverent Curiosity
"We need to understand who we were in order to know where we are headed. In the caves and forests of France's Dordogne region, Beebe Bahrami guides us on a haunting encounter with what may be our earlier selves, a creature whose passions and powers and motives we have only begun to fathom. A fascinating read for anyone who claims to be human."
– Peter Stark, author of Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire; A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
"[A] beautifully crafted book [...] Bahrami is a wonderful writer who brings many of the attributes of the novel to a clear and compelling narrative that encapsulates a snapshot of the state of our current knowledge about Neanderthals. Peopled with a vast cast of fascinating characters, from village locals to querulous scientists, it brings to life the excitement of unearthing the past and de-scribes the "new, more enlightened era in studies of human evolution" that is dawning."
– Cosmos Magazine