In the book the author deftly recreates the forested world in which the Neanderthals lived. And this is where Finlayson's strength as an ecologist shows through. He believes that the Neanderthal were a species that thrived in forested areas as ambush hunters. This goes against the conventional picture of a singularly, cold adapted species with long body and short appendages living on the wind ravaged steppe just in sight of an encroaching glacier. It was the open steppes, replacing the the increasingly mosaic forests, that did them in and not some Ragnarok final showdown with Homo sapiens. This theory of Findlayson's has been validated by recent evidence published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution suggesting that the Neanderthal population had a catastrophic crash 40,000 years ago probably due to climate change and slowly flickered out over the next 15,000 years holed up in isolated refuges like the one found in Gibraltar. Another belief that Finlayson expounds upon was that Neanderthal culture and intelligence was much more complex than tradition held, based on modified shells that could have been used for decoration. This has also been validated by the discovery of seal paintings Nerja cave in Malaga, Spain dating back to 43,000 years ago. This is 13,000 years before Homo sapiens arrived in the same region.
|Depiction of seals in Nerja Cave, Malaga Spain|
|Possible Neanderthal modified shells|