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The Smart Neanderthal: Bird catching, Cave Art, and the Cognitive Revolution

Clive Finlayson



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Oxford University Press
06 March 2019
Archaeology; Anthropology; Mathematics & Sciences; Popular science; Evolution; Early man
Since the late 1980s the dominant theory of human origins has been that a 'cognitive revolution' (C.50,000 years ago) led to the advent of our species, Homo sapiens. As a result of this revolution our species spread and eventually replaced all existing archaic Homo species, ultimately leading to the superiority of modern humans.

Or so we thought.

As Clive Finlayson explains, the latest advances in genetics prove that there was significant interbreeding between Modern Humans and the Neanderthals. All non-Africans today carry some Neanderthal genes. We have also discovered aspects of Neanderthal behaviour that indicate that they were not cognitively inferior to modern humans, as we once thought, and in fact had their own rituals and art. Finlayson, who is at the forefront of this research, recounts the discoveries of his team, providing evidence that Neanderthals caught birds of prey, and used their feathers for symbolic purposes. There is also evidence that Neanderthals practised other forms of art, as the recently discovered engravings in Gorham's Cave Gibraltar indicate.

Linking all the recent evidence, The Smart Neanderthal casts a new light on the Neanderthals and the 'Cognitive Revolution'. Finlayson argues that there was no revolution and, instead, modern behaviour arose gradually and independently among different populations of Modern Humans and Neanderthals. Some practices were even adopted by Modern Humans from the Neanderthals. Finlayson overturns classic narratives of human origins, and raises important questions about who we really are.
By:   Clive Finlayson
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 224mm,  Width: 148mm,  Spine: 23mm
Weight:   376g
ISBN:   9780198797524
ISBN 10:   0198797524
Pages:   240
Publication Date:   06 March 2019
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Clive Finlayson is an evolutionary biologist whose research areas focus on birds and the behavioural ecology of Neanderthals. He has been the Director of Excavations at Neanderthal sites in Gibraltar since 1989, and has been involved in major recent discoveries, including that of the first known engraving made by a Neanderthal. A regular contributor to BBC News Online (Science and Environment), he is also the author of several books, including The Improbable Primate (OUP, 2014) and The Humans Who Went Extinct (OUP, 2010). He was elected to the Academia Europaea in 2010.

Reviews for The Smart Neanderthal: Bird catching, Cave Art, and the Cognitive Revolution

The Best Science Books to Read For Summer 2019: From Gibraltar's swelter to a frigid Norwegian fjord, the evolutionary biologist takes readers on an adventure in unexpected revelations about this lost lineage of humans. * Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine * The Smart Neanderthal offers both a fascinating exploration of the latest Neanderthal discoveries and a superb study of the evolution of Neanderthals as cultural icons ... highly recommended to readers interested in evolutionary theory, human prehistory, and the complex afterlives of bones. * Lydia Pyne, Los Angeles Review of Books * This is an anecdotal and quirky book, an act of storytelling in effect, but nonetheless persuasive for that ... The Smart Neanderthal is a touching, slightly eccentric contribution to an evolving story, finding, as all do in this field, tremendous significance in still scant evidence - but it is wonderfully suggestive and engaging. * David Sexton, Evening Standard *

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