The Humans Who Went Extinct by Clive Finlayson
Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived

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Synopsis

Just 28,000 years ago, the blink of an eye in geological time, the last of Neanderthals died out in their last outpost, in caves near Gibraltar. Thanks to cartoons and folk accounts we have a distorted view of these other humans - for that is what they were. We think of them as crude and clumsy and not very bright, easily driven to extinction by the lithe, smart modern humans that came out of Africa some 100,000 years ago.

But was it really as simple as that? Clive Finlayson reminds us that the Neanderthals were another kind of human, and their culture was not so very different from that of our own ancestors. In this book, he presents a wider view of the events that led to the migration of the moderns into Europe, what might have happened during the contact of the two populations, and what finally drove the Neanderthals to extinction. It is a view that considers climate, ecology, and migrations of populations, as
well as culture and interaction.

His conclusion is that the destiny of the Neanderthals and the Moderns was sealed by ecological factors and contingencies. It was a matter of luck that we survived and spread while the Neanderthals dwindled and perished. Had the climate not changed in our favour some 50 million years ago, things would have been very different.

There is much current research interest in Neanderthals, much of it driven by attempts to map some of their DNA. But it's not just a question of studying the DNA. The rise and fall of populations is profoundly moulded by the larger scale forces of climate and ecology. And it is only by taking this wider view that we can fully understand the course of events that led to our survival and their demise. The fact that Neanderthals survived until virtually yesterday makes our relationship with them
and their tragedy even more poignant. They almost made it, after all.
 

About Clive Finlayson

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Prof. Clive Finlayson is Director of the Gibraltar Museum. He is anevolutionary ecologist with a DPhil from Oxford. He is a leadingexponent of the relationship between climate change and speciesdistributions, and is the author of several books includingNeanderthals and Modern Humans (CUP), and Birds of the Straits ofGibraltar (Poyser).
 
Published September 24, 2009 by OUP Oxford. 286 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Humans Who Went Extinct

BC Books

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Once you get past the cover illustration of a standard issue Neanderthal woman – fastback forehead, straight from central casting – author Clive Finlayson delves into a corrective chronicle turning conventional scientific wisdom on its head.

Mar 11 2011 | Read Full Review of The Humans Who Went Extinct: ...

BC Books

See more reviews from this publication

Once you get past the cover illustration of a standard issue Neanderthal woman – fastback forehead, straight from central casting – author Clive Finlayson delves into a corrective chronicle turning conventional scientific wisdom on its head.

Mar 10 2011 | Read Full Review of The Humans Who Went Extinct: ...

Suite 101

Many successful lineages of evolving humans vanished simply because their luck ran out - the Neanderthals and other groups of our proto-ancestors among them.

Dec 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Humans Who Went Extinct: ...

Huffington Post

The rest of us too often forget that the proper time-frame for understanding humanity is maybe 20 million years: 10 million years in the past to 10 million years in the future.

Nov 15 2009 | Read Full Review of The Humans Who Went Extinct: ...

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