Tag Archives: Anthropology

Top Ten Tuesday: Neanderthal Stories I’ve Enjoyed

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Close-up photo of prehistoric art that has been carved into a large rocky cliff. The images carved into it appear to be various animals that resemble, among other species, cattle. It’s hard to tell what other animals are, but they have four legs and sometimes have tails and horns as well. Maybe they are goats? Those of you who have followed me for a while might remember how fascinated I am by Neanderthals, prehistory, hunter gatherers, anthropology, archeology, other extinct hominid species, and similar topics.

These are the sorts of things I love exploring, especially when new details are discovered about that era that upend our previous assumptions about it.

For this week’s Freebie post, I’ll be sharing some of the books about Neanderthals and early modern humans that I’ve enjoyed.

The site I found this photo on didn’t say for sure who carved these images, but there has been Neanderthal cave art found in certain caves that was created long before Homo Sapiens showed up in Europe. It amazes me to think about how similar they were to us!

Let’s dig into my list.  It’s mostly fiction because of how quickly new ideas can replace older ones in the nonfiction genre.  If you know of other wonderful fiction or nonfiction titles on this subject, I’d love to hear about them.

1. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth’s Children, #1) by Jean M. Auel

Genre: Fiction

Why I Loved It: This was my first introduction to fiction about Neanderthals. It was such a detailed and creative interpretation of what scientists knew about this subject in the 1980s.


2. The Inheritors by William Golding

Genre: Fiction

Why I Loved It: It was written from the perspective of Neanderthals. The 1950s assumptions about the differences between them and us  are quite different from modern assumptions, but the writing was crisp and clear.


3. Ember from the Sun by Mark Canter

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction

Why I Loved It: Without giving away too many spoilers, this is about a scientist who finds a perfectly preserved Neanderthal embryo and decides to implant it into a human volunteer. This isn’t something that could ever actually happen, but the ethical and societal repercussions of bringing back an extinct human species made this a must-read for me.


4. Hominids (Neanderthal Parallax, #1) by Robert J. Sawyer

Genre: Science Fiction

Why I Loved It: I’ve often wondered what Earth would be like if Neanderthals had become the only surviving human species instead of us. This series does an excellent job of exploring that question in depth.


5. Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art by Rebecca Wragg Sykes

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Loved It: There’s something to be said for conversational books about the latest scientific discoveries on a topic. I found this easy to read and was surprised by how much more we’ve learned about Neanderthals over the last decade or so.


6. The Ugly Little Boy by Isaac Asimov

Genre: Science Fiction

Why I Loved It: Well, I don’t know that love is the right word here. The antagonist’s decision to kidnap a Neanderthal child and bring him to the 1990s in order to be studied was a terribly unethical and dangerous one. I did love the way Asimov dove into all of ramifications of this choice, though.


7. Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson

Genre: Science Fiction

Why I Loved It: I’m still reading it, but the writing is exquisite.


8. Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes by  Svante Pääbo

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Loved It: Every era seems to bring a new understanding of what the differences were between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. I thought this was a well-rounded look at the topic as it was understood in the 2010s, but I haven’t gone back yet to reread it and compare to what scientists think in the 2020s.





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