Café Neandertal

Café Neandertal

Excavating Our Past in One of Europe's Most Ancient Places

Book - 2017
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"Centered in the Dordogne region of southwestern France, one of Europe's most concentrated regions for Neandertal and early modern human occupations, writer Beebe Bahrami follows and participates in the work of archaeologists who are doing some of the most comprehensive and global work to date on the research, exploration, and recovery of our ancient ancestors. In Cafe Neandertal, Bahrami follows this compelling riddle along a path populated with colorful local personalities and opinionated, polemical, and brilliant archaeologists working in remote and fascinating places across Eurasia, all the while maintaining a firm foothold in the Dordogne, a region celebrated by the local tourist office as a vacation destination for 400,000 years. From this prehistoric perch Bahrami gets to know first-hand the Neandertals and the people who love them--those who have devoted their lives to them. She is thrown into a world debating not only what happened to these close cousins but also what legacy they have left for those who followed. Cafe Neandertal is also a detective story, investigating one of the biggest mysteries of prehistory and archaeology: Who were the Neandertals? Why did they disappear around 35,000 years ago? And more mysteriously, what light do they shed on us moderns? Bahrami takes readers into the thick of an excavation, neck-deep in Neanderthal dirt, and to the front row of the heated debates about our long-lost cousins. Cafe Neandertal pulls us deeply into the complex mystery of the Neandertals, shedding a surprising light on what it means to be human"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Berkeley, CA :, Counterpoint Press,, 2017
ISBN: 9781619027770
Characteristics: ix, 291 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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May 26, 2017

This book such a let down. The author had fascinating data to work with, and loses the reader by being such a poor writer. She wastes much time and space telling about the people she was working with in a manner that feels more like gossip than factual reporting: I took a nap then came downstairs to see the famous anthropologist taking another sip of wine (she makes sure to tell us what kind) and talking about when he was in yadadadada and did yadadadada, Then with barely a comma to separate it she moves on to anthropological discoveries made in Dordogne in the past few days, carries on for a looong time about a found tooth, then changes to things she did or thought or wished she'd done when she was in grad school or in Turkey or wherever, all in poorly and oddly written English. Maybe English is her second or third language; that might account for some of the bizarre syntax. But even so, she should have had a native speaker edit her work. It's hard to believe she makes her living as a journalist.
I had high hopes for this book, but was quickly disappointed.

May 03, 2017

I stuck with this book for 140 or so of its 290 pages. I would estimate that maybe 1/3 of those 140 were actually about Neanderthal/Neandertal, and those parts were very insightful and science based. The rest of what I read was the personal travelogue of the author and this became tedious. The whole "I am walking were Neandertal walked, and picking the same plants" thing got really, really, old. She did a good job illuminating why parts of western Europe were hospitable to Neandertal, but I did not care for the long meandering sections about her personal feelings about the places. Your mileage may vary.


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