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James Shreeve
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The Neandertal Enigma: Solving The Mystery Of Modern Human Origins

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  159 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
In search of the truth about the Neanderthals, Shreeve takes readers on a prehistoric journey as he examines the scientific evidence and addresses the controversy surrounding their fate. He offers a fascinating theory of what might have allowed two equally human species to share a moment in evolution history, as well as what may have led to the triumph of one and the poign ...more
Hardcover
Published by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1995)
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Barry
Written with a novelist's command of plot and characterization, the author attempts to decide at what point in our journey from tree dweller to condo dweller we became human. Confidently asserting that the first primates who walked upright were "merely animals", he laters decides that the first anatomically modern humans hadn't quite made it, either. He discerns the genesis of humanity in the late paleolithic, about 50 thousand years ago, with the invention of politics. It was about that time th ...more
Roxanne
Apr 13, 2010 Roxanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, anthro
Shreeve, a science writer, interviews dozens of paleoanthopologists and archaeologists about the origin of humanity. I thought Shreeve did an excellent job of melding together all the differing viewpoints--he presents the various theories in an understandable way, and also made the overall tale fascinating as he built the case for his own personal theory. I thought the book was incredibly well written--just imagining the volume of material Shreeve had to work with, I'm impressed by the book's st ...more
notgettingenough
Mar 19, 2010 notgettingenough rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
Thinking of becoming an anthropologist? Read something anthropological first...then pick anything else.
Tom
Nov 02, 2015 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why didn't Neandertal survive? This well researched and clearly presented analysis reviews Paleo-anthropological findings looking for differences that separate Neandertal from Cro-magnon man. The author has interviewed countless experts in the field and has a clear, deep understanding of the subject. The book is written with humor and practical examples that greatly aid the non-scientifically inclined readers without talking down to us. Highly recommended for someone interested in the evolution ...more
Dan
Sep 12, 2013 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is three interwoven stories.

The first is the story of the Neandertals: who they were, what they did, where they came from and where they went, who were their predecessors, successors and neighbors, and what kind of world they inhabited. The field is continually refreshed by new archaelogical and genetic studies. The author, not a scientist but a writer, amasses and organizes the facts in an interesting and skillful way and writes rather well about the science. The approach is largely chrono
...more
Ilya
Dec 24, 2010 Ilya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We don't have a heck of a lot of material from which to learn the prehistory of modern humans and other hominids, and it is unclear, what the material we do have actually means. For example, sets of stone tools used in the south of France over tens of thousands of years fall into four distinct clusters. Were there four distinct Neandertal tribes each with its own style? Or did everybody make and use one set of tools in one environment and another in another environment? Or is the dating incorrec ...more
John
Sep 04, 2007 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like cavemen, obviously
The dust jacket says this book is: "like sitting down with a wonderful storyteller in the cave where stories began". This is not true. You are wrong, Jonathan Weiner, author of "The Beak of the Finch".
This book has many interesting points to raise, but it also gets bogged down in needless anecdotes and digressions. The reason I bought it (at a used book store in my hometown) was because I don't feel like I know anything about human origins or neandertals and this seemed like a good place to sta
...more
Melissa
May 25, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historicizing
A fascinating, fascinating book. After Shreeve lays the groundwork for the ongoing debate on human origins he dives into the fray, taking the reader from one corner of the world to the next, introducing a cast of scientists, many with personalities as large as their theories. As one idea after another is presented for the birthplace and subsequent evolution of the human species the book begins to adopt the tone of a suspense novel--new molecular data casts suspicion over prevailing theories befo ...more
Ross
Dec 02, 2013 Ross rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, although I was annoyed by the prose style which was flippant and silly in many places. I much prefer books about science to be written in a straight forward expository manner. Reading it 20 years after publication, the author could not give an account of the balance of thought today on the issue the book addresses, namely are we descended from the Neanderthals. At the time it was not known that have about 5% of Neanderthal DNA due to interbreeding with ourselves, the so-call ...more
Charlene Mathe
I think the book is very well written, but withhold five stars because I don't find the content as valuable as books that I have rated more highly. One reviewer on Amazon said it best: "A book about the overabundance of guess-work involved in the fields of paleontology, & anthropology, plus a very humorous look at the inflated egos of the scientists involved. Reading this book makes you realize that there are so many questions that we will never be able to answer with any certainty. An enjoy ...more
Ballpeendash
May 31, 2008 Ballpeendash rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written by a Science Writer, NOT a scientist. The difference? Palatability. An excellent read both for the entertainment value as well as the educational. I guess not everybody would find it that enthralling, but for those of us who want to know more about those who paved the way...I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Not only did it serve as a great read, but it also turned me on to several other scientists who's names I had not heard before, and who's books I now own.
Jeffrey
Aug 31, 2013 Jeffrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lucy-andy
An engaging introduction to the sum of Neanderthal research/theory as of a few years ago, and almost as interesting for the look at the people involved in describing early human life and how they arrive at their ideas - so you get a look at the different views of Neanderthals as well as how scientists work. The science in context.
Boris
Jul 11, 2008 Boris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some very interesting facts embedded in the meandering narrative which is as much about human evolution and anthropology as it is specifically about Neanderthals.

I would have preferred that the main points and facts have been extracted into a long periodical article rather than a book-length disquisition.
Zack
Jul 02, 2010 Zack rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
Fascinating though this book was, I couldn't help but wondering as I read how much of it had been updated, disproven or reinterpreted in the fifteen years since its publication. Alas, it was the most recent thing that the Boston Public Library had on the subject of Neanderthals.
Wendy
With books like this why do people watch tv?
Jerry-Book
Feb 04, 2016 Jerry-Book rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The journalist surveys the existing literature and experts on what we know about Neandertal man and what happened to this species. It was fascinating that this species came to a dead end 30,000 years ago.
James
May 12, 2009 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read. The story moves along in an entertaining and comprehensive way that holds the readers attention. Gives an appetite for more.
Jessie Laurence
Jul 27, 2011 Jessie Laurence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a glorious book to have on my way to Ireland!!! I'm definitely partial to this type of book because of my major.
Sonny
Jul 22, 2015 Sonny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It may be a bit outdated now, but by far and away one of the best human origins books I've ever read.
Wei
Jun 21, 2012 Wei rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves:
All good except that the tempo is a bit slow
Jamey
Oct 27, 2007 Jamey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good argumentation. I love this issue.
Jessica
Dec 06, 2011 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
Very dry and tedious.
John
Feb 18, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
anthropology
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