“According to the fossil record, Neanderthals appeared between 300,000 and 400,000 years ago and existed until about 30,000 years ago. Throughout their entire existence their technology did not change much.”
― Svante Pääbo, Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes
My fascination with neanderthals has to do with apparently being 2.8% neanderthal myself (genetically speaking).
But then again, unless you are of a particular African decent, you most likely have Neanderthal DNA in you. Anywhere from 2%-2.8%.
DNA is the code of biological life, if you don't know. It is read, and translated by the cells in your body, to make pretty much everything that your body needs, whether still useful, or not.
To understand how we got this DNA, I assume that it had to do with the constant impeding wave of homo sapiens onto neanderthal territory.
As the homo sapiens saw another species, they would simply attack, kill the men and children, and rape the women.
In some, if not most cases, they would also cannibalize their victims – we know this, because some populations of humans have a protein that allows them to digest human flesh.
This was how societies were in the past… long moments of nothing happening, then brief moments of intense violence and rape, and then nothing again.
The other 99% of the time consisted of famine, disease and early death.
Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes is an autobiography of one scientist:
It's his decades-long pursuit into figuring out how to discover the DNA code of creatures that have died tens of thousands to millions of years ago, but more specifically, the Neanderthal.
Everything from dates, meetings, people, technology, scientific details, press releases, and even personal life details are revealed.
The amount of detailed information that is revealed from the chronological events, scientific discoveries and trials is incredible.
Clearly, this book was written by a very studious and precise scientist (as they all should be).
I can't say that every part of the book was easy to follow. Sometimes, the complexity overtook me.
The book felt as if it was written more for final-year high school students who have biology and chemistry training, or university students within the same majors.
But I loved how every detailed discovery and innovation in technology, allowed the author and his team (and many other science teams), to take another step towards revealing the DNA of the neanderthal.
One thing that was perhaps missing, was an epilogue, or even a chapter, of how the author would extrapolate the life of a neanderthal, and their eventual demise.
A conjecture section based on decades of learning everything there is about our ancestors would have been nice.
If you are aspiring scientist, have the spirit of a scientist (like myself), and are fascinated with one of our genetic ancestors, then this book is definitely for you.