Friday 17 February 2012

How To Think Like A Neandertal - Thomas Wynn & Frederick L. Coolidge

How To Think Like A Neandertal
Thomas Wynn
Frederick L. Coolidge
Oxford University Press
OUP Canada
ISBN 978019974282

The title and cover of this book immediately grabbed my attention. First, and they allude to this a few times in the book, is the series of commercials for car insurance with the slogan 'So easy even a caveman could do it'. And second, is the number of people I know who have applied Paleo or Primal caveman diet as part of their lifestyle and fitness regime. Those two points caused me to pick up the book. But this academic exercise was so much more than I could have expected. It was fascinating, and I found repeatedly that I could not put it down, or alternately had to put it down and really ponder and think about what the authors had just espoused. It was an incredible read and I have recommended it to about a dozen people, a few who told me they were hooked part way into the first chapter. The structure of the book is:

1. True Grit
2. The Caveman Diet
3. Zen and the Art of Spear Making
4. A Focus on Family
5. It's Symbolic
6. Speaking of Tongues
7. A Neandertal Walked into a Bar . . .
8. To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
9. You've Got Personality
10. Thinking Like a Neandertal

This was a magnificent read. I have read science fiction about Neandertals such as Robert J. Sawyer's Hominid trilogy, The Neandertal Parallaz: Hominids, Humans and Hybrids. And I've seen numerous science fiction movies with some level of Neandertal involvement. But this book looks at the historic evidence, weighing commonly accepted theories and disputed theories. It compares and contrasts what we find in the archeological records about Homo Sapiens Neanderthalis and Homo Sapiens Sapiens. It also compares the records with current hunter-gatherer tribes and also with some other primates both existing and ancient. They present the evidence, examine theories and present their opinion, often very convincingly. This book was the first academic level book I have read in the two years since I finished university. After reading it, the first thing I did was check to see if they have written other books and I did not care the topic. This book was very well written, is of an academic caliber but accessible to most readers, and very insightful about where we come from and how we got here. I loved it and think you will also.

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