The Neanderthal's Necklace: In Search of the First Thinkers
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The Neanderthal's Necklace: In Search of the First Thinkers

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  79 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Neanderthals are at the center of this compelling narrative by Europe's leading anthropologist, not because they were our ancestors but because they were not. Members of a parallel humanity that evolved in Europe for hundreds of thousands of years, they were in direct competition with Cro-Magnons — modern humans. The way Neanderthals lived and the reasons why they disappea...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 5th 2002 by Basic Books (first published 2001)
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As part of my continuing search to learn more about Neandertals I picked up Juan Luis Arsuaga's book The Neanderthal's Necklace. I read it over the past couple days, and found it fairly enjoyable though really only about half of it was the information I was looking for. The book had been translated from the original Spanish, and I feel that there was something lost in the translation. Several paragraphs seemed a bit disorganized and it felt like it might have made more sense in the original.

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I have a big interest in pre-history and ancient history, and especially the period when pre-history slipped into ancient history. One of the factoids I was happy to see included in this book was that the last of the woolly mammoths are believed to have died out at the same time as the first pyramid in Egypt was being completed. And I guess that's sort of the problem with this book. The info I was most interested in I already happened to know, and the info I didn't know was really dull. Unless y...more
Christopher H.
Juan Luis Arsuaga's The Neanderthal's Necklace: In Search of the First Thinkers (2002) is an excellent and compelling addition to my collection of paleoanthropological books. Dr. Arsuaga is a Spanish anthropologist and has spent much of his career at the famous archaeological sites at the Sierra de Atapuerca. He and his team are known for discovering the largest collection of pre-Neandertal hominins--some 2,000 human fossils, comprising maybe as many as thirty-two individuals. According to Profe...more
I picked up this book at the library after reading an article in the New Yorker about the cro-magnon cave paintings in France. This isn't the best book for beginners, as the bulk of it contains technical discussions of cranial morphology and interglacial climate periods, but I'm just enough of a nerd to try to understand it all.

For instance, I never knew that humans did not descend from neanderthals. We evolved separately in Africa while they evolved in Europe. After humans migrated from Africa...more
I found this book not as interesting as I had hoped. It has a great many asides, such as the development of flora in certain prehistoric areas, that I found quite boring. Although the author predicted that we would find this sort of information in only two chapters, other chapters also have more than their share of it. When starting the book, the style of Arsuaga reminded me of one of a passioned tourguide, who knows basically everything about his subject and loves to expand on his favorite topi...more
The title is somewhat misleading as there is really not much information specific to Neanderthals in it. However, it is an interesting look at Paleolithic site on the Iberian Peninsula. Dr. Arsuaga uses easy to understand language, although this might be to the credt of the translator, Andy Klatt, and a touch of humour to make the subject palatable to laypersons. The middle section on the envirnoment of the Middle and Upper Paleolithic is rather dry however and the mind does wander if you aren't...more
I'm a third of the way in this book and so far it's fascinating! I always like physical anthropology, so that may be why, but I think it's very well-written (though he does digress here and there, he admits when he's doing it).

All said and done, I lost interest in this book three quarters of the way through. It sort of lost its focus, I think (or I did!.
Margaret Sankey
Because someone in POL150 always asks why we aren't Neanderthals, I read this popular recounting of the recent Neanderthal research by the Spanish paleoarchaeologist who centers his reconstruction on the rich site of Atapuerca to make the best informed guesses about the physical, mental and spiritual world of this branch of the family tree.
Definitely a fascinating read for those interested in early humans. Written by a paleoanthropologist who knows his subject quite well, although can be dry at times. There is also a lot of "Iberian peninsula" specific information.
Joe Loyd
Arsuaga makes an exhaustive review of the Iberian Peninsula, where the last Neanderthals lived. He makes an argument for symbolic logic among them, symbolized by a beaded necklace.
Feb 24, 2008 John rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Nonfiction Polymath generalists
Recommended to John by: the title
If you have even wondered why and how we got to be here and the Neanderthals became the branch that stopped blooming in the human family tree, here's your book.
While excellent in the beginning, the end kinda got diluted by the wide range of topics. Good and informative though.
In Nederlands Het halssieraad van de Neanderthaler - Op zoek naar de eerste denkers
Otro estudio de la evolución humana. Tan ameno como otros de Arsuaga.
Jan 03, 2008 Pam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who like non-fiction
Very interesting and scientific non-fiction reading.
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“The red mammoth in the cave at Pindal is very special because its heart, also red, is depicted inside its chest.” 0 likes
“the average Neanderthal cranial capacity was greater than that of modern humans.” 0 likes
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