There is a fantastic article about the new thinking about Neanderthals in The New York Times Magazine — Neanderthals Were People, Too.
It is a perfect introduction to the science that lies behind my next novel, The Last Neanderthal.
There are many things I love about the article but especially this paragraph, a simple list that says so much:
“Neanderthals buried their dead. They made jewelry and specialized tools. They made ocher and other pigments, perhaps to paint their faces or bodies — evidence of a “symbolically mediated worldview,” as archaeologists call it. Their tracheal anatomy suggests that they were capable of language and probably had high-pitched, raspy voices, like Julia Child. They manufactured glue from birch bark, which required heating the bark to at least 644 degrees Fahrenheit — a feat scientists find difficult to duplicate without a ceramic container. In Gibraltar, there’s evidence that Neanderthals extracted the feathers of certain birds — only dark feathers — possibly for aesthetic or ceremonial purposes. And while Neanderthals were once presumed to be crude scavengers, we now know they exploited the different terrains on which they lived. They took down dangerous game, including an extinct species of rhinoceros. Some ate seals and other marine mammals. Some ate shellfish. Some ate chamomile. (They had regional cuisines.) They used toothpicks.”
I should add that yesterday I did a presentation to the media about my novel. To demonstrate how Neanderthal voices might have sounded, I shouted in high-pitched voice. And yes, I sounded exactly like an angry Julia Child.