Our perception of the Neanderthals has undergone a metamorphosis since their discovery 150 years ago, from the losers of the human family tree to A-list hominins. Spanning scientific curiosity and popular cultural fascination means that there is a wealth of coverage in the media and beyond – but do we get the whole story? The reality of 21st century Neanderthals is complex and fascinating, yet remains virtually unknown and inaccessible outside the scientific literature.
In Kindred, Neanderthal expert Becky Wragg Sykes shoves aside the cliché of the shivering ragged figure in an icy wasteland, and reveals the Neanderthal you don't know, who lived across vast and diverse tracts of Eurasia and survived through hundreds of thousands of years of massive climate change. Using a thematic rather than chronological approach, Kindred will shed new light on where they lived, what they ate, and the increasingly complex Neanderthal culture that is being discovered.
Based on the author's first-hand experience at the cutting-edge of Palaeolithic research and theory, this easy-to-read but information-rich book lays out the full picture we now have of the Neanderthals for the first time, from amazing new discoveries changing our view of them forever, to the more enduring mysteries of how they lived and died, and the biggest question perhaps of them all, their relationship with modern humans.
Rebecca Wragg Sykes has been fascinated by the vanished worlds of the Pleistocene ice ages since childhood, and followed this interest through a career researching the most enigmatic characters of all, the Neanderthals. After a PhD on the last Neanderthals living in Britain, she worked in France at the world-famous PACEA laboratory, Universite de Bordeaux, on topics ranging from Neanderthal landscapes and territories in the Massif Central region of south-east France, to examining how they were the first ancient humans to produce a synthetic material and tools made of multiple parts. Alongside her academic activities, she has also also earned a reputation for exceptional public engagement. The public can follow her research through a personal blog and Twitter account, and she frequently writes for the popular media, including the Scientific American and Guardian science blogs. Becky is passionate about sharing the privileged access scientists have to fascinating discoveries about the Neanderthals. She is also co-founder of the influential Trowelblazers project, which highlights women archaeologists, palaeontologists and geologists through innovative outreach and collaboration.
"Beautiful, evocative, authoritative. Kindred is a beautifully written exploration of our fast-developing understanding of Neanderthals and their culture and a compelling insight into how modern science is revealing the secrets of an extinct species who, for 350 thousand years before Homo sapiens became dominant, inhabited a world "as wide and rich as the Roman Empire.""
– Professor Brian Cox, Physicist and TV presenter
"Blending cutting-edge science with lyrical storytelling, Rebecca Wragg Sykes paints a detailed portrait of our enigmatic relatives."
– Professor Alice Roberts, anatomist, author and broadcaster
"Written with such pleasing, elegant prose, Kindred is a captivating ode to the subtle complexities of palaeoanthropology – the thrill of discovery, the frustrating gaps in the evidence, the tantalising question marks hovering above our favourite ideas. Dr Rebecca Wragg Sykes balances admirable scientific caution with her joyous enthusiasm, and the result is a generous, enthralling history of how we first came to know our ancient cousins, and how we're still getting to know them today."
– Greg Jenner, historian and author
"Kindred is a tour de force. A rich and beautiful synthesis of all that is known about Neanderthal biology and culture, it should be required reading for anyone interested in the history of humanity."
– Dr Tori Herridge, palaeontologist and TV presenter
"Current, compelling, well researched, beautifully written and poetical, Kindred is like no other book you've read on Neanderthals."
– Professr Lee. R. Berger, University of Witwatersrand