To one nineteenth-century scholar, their fierce, ridged brows were evidence of a "moral darkness" that set them irrevocably apart from human beings. Some commentators accused them of cannibalism. Yet by the 1970s the Neandertals were being hailed as "the first flower people" and praised for their apparent compassion and religious piety.
The story of how scientists could come to such divergent conclusions about a set of bones unearthed in Germany in 1856 unfolds with irresistible detail in this enthralling book. Even as The Neandertals assesses the identity, kinship, and character of our possible ancestors, it casts a wry eye on the modern Homo sapiens who have embraced or disavowed them and illuminates the peculiar way in which even science is shaped by human needs and biases.
"From the Trade Paperback edition."