How to Think Like A Neandertal

How to Think Like A Neandertal

Book - 2011
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Oxford University Press
There have been many books, movies, and even TV commercials featuring Neandertals--some serious, some comical. But what was it really like to be a Neandertal? How were their lives similar to or different from ours?

In How to Think Like a Neandertal, archaeologist Thomas Wynn and psychologist Frederick L. Coolidge team up to provide a brilliant account of the mental life of Neandertals, drawing on the most recent fossil and archaeological remains. Indeed, some Neandertal remains are not fossilized, allowing scientists to recover samples of their genes--one specimen had the gene for red hair and, more provocatively, all had a gene called FOXP2, which is thought to be related to speech. Given the differences between their faces and ours, their voices probably sounded a bit different, and the range of consonants and vowels they could generate might have been different. But they could talk, and they had a large (perhaps huge) vocabulary--words for places, routes, techniques, individuals, and emotions. Extensive archaeological remains of stone tools and living sites (and, yes, they did often live in caves) indicate that Neandertals relied on complex technical procedures and spent most of their lives in small family groups. The authors sift the evidence that Neandertals had a symbolic culture--looking at their treatment of corpses, the use of fire, and possible body coloring--and conclude that they probably did not have a sense of the supernatural. The book explores the brutal nature of their lives, especially in northwestern Europe, where men and women with spears hunted together for mammoths and wooly rhinoceroses. They were pain tolerant, very likely taciturn, and not easy to excite.

Wynn and Coolidge offer here an eye-opening portrait of Neandertals, painting a remarkable picture of these long-vanished people and providing insight, as they go along, into our own minds and culture.

Publisher: New York : Oxford University Press, [2011], c2012
ISBN: 9780199742820
0199742820
Characteristics: viii, 210 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm

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zipread
Jun 14, 2012

How to Think Like a Neandetal. --- by Thomas Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge. A well-written book that those with an interest in our human predecessors will find illuminating. This book takes a big dose of what we know of Neandertals from Anthropology; tosses in a splash of Archeology; add a smidgen of Psychology and a dollop of a few other ‘ologies and you’ve got this book. There’s a lot of deduction here to come up with what Neandertal may have done for a living; how he may have lived; what his propensity to innovation may have been like. Speculative. But very interesting. Lots of bibliography. Scholarly yes, but without being boring. "This is not a "how to" book for adolescent boys (of any age), nor is it a manual for survivalists who fear an imminent apocalypse. And it is not a satyrical account of any political party, individual, or ideology, however deserving. It is a serious attempt to describe the thinking of a vanished and often maligned population of prehistoric people, the Neandertals." Preface: How to Think Like a Neandertal.

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Liber_vermis
Mar 09, 2012

One of the authors of this readable book was interviewed on CBC Radio's "Quirks & Quarks" science program in February 11, 2012. To listen to the interview, go to:
http://www.cbc.ca/quirks and follow the links to past programs. What's going on in the mind of a Neandertal? The authors have attempted to answer that question in their book. They suggest that Neandertals shared many cognitive abilities with humans. New archeological evidence suggests that they had important limitations in their abilities, primarily an inability to innovate and invent that evolved in modern Homo sapiens. This might have been reflected in their language and communication, in their humour, and in their ability to develop large social groups, or even trade networks. Although having larger brains and more muscular, sturdy bodies, after 170,000 years of successful hunting and gathering, these mental limitations might, in fact, help explain why they disappeared 30,000 years ago. When innovative, talkative, diplomatic Homo sapiens entered Europe and Western Asia, the Neanderthal's cognitive limits might have contributed to their extinction. [Promo from the “Quirks & Quarks” web site]

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Liber_vermis
Mar 09, 2012

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z
zipread
Jun 14, 2012

"This is not a "how to" book for adolescent boys (of any age), nor is it a manual for survivalists who fear an imminent apocalypse. And it is not a satyrical account of any political party, individual, or ideology, however deserving. It is a serious attempt to describe the thinking of a vanished and often maligned population of prehistoric people, the Neandertals." Preface: How to Think Like a Neandetal.

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