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Death Stalks Kettle Street
John Bowen

Could Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens have met?

The Last Neanderthal: A Novel - Claire  Cameron

 

I am fascinated by archaeology and just how much the meagre remains that we find, can tell us about people from the distant past. Recent research has sequenced a first draft of the genome of the Neanderthal and has revealed that we have between 1 and 4% DNA in common with them. Could we therefore have interbred?

 

Claire Cameron has used The Lovers of Valdero, the skeletal remains of two figures dated as 6,000 years old, as the starting point for her story set 40,000 years ago, in which one is a Neanderthal and one is a Homo Sapien. She surmises that these two early humans could have met and interacted at a point in history, and maybe even raised offspring.

Alongside this story there is Rose, a modern-day archaeologist, desperate to reveal as much as she can from her discovery of the buried skeletons, before the impending birth of her baby.

 

As so often happens in split-time novels, the modern day narrative fell short of the historical section and I was irritated by the author’s technique of stopping the narrative to inform us about Neanderthals through Rose. Unfortunately I also failed to become completely engrossed in the Neanderthal era, which felt a bit contrived and rather fantastical, and then finished inconclusively.

This was a great idea that didn't really work for me, but may be a good read for fans of Jean Auel's books.

 

My favourite quote from the book: "The fall colours tinted the trees and they released their leaves to the ground, like an exhale" (loc 3160)