Format Hardcover
Publication Date 02/06/24
ISBN 9781639366163
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 208

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The Naked Neanderthal

A New Understanding of the Human Creature

Ludovic Slimak

A riveting scientific journey exploring the enigma of the Neanderthal and the species’ unique form of intelligence.

What do we really know about our cousins, the Neanderthals?

For over a century we saw Neanderthals as inferior to Homo Sapiens. More recently, the pendulum swung the other way and they are generally seen as our relatives: not quite human, but similar enough, and still not equal. Now, thanks to an ongoing revolution in paleoanthropology in which he has played a key part, Ludovic Slimak shows us that they are something altogether different -- and they should be understood on their own terms rather than by comparing them to ourselves. As he reveals in this stunning book, the Neanderthals had their own history, their own rituals, their own customs. Their own intelligence, very different from ours.

Slimak has travelled around the world for the past thirty years to uncover who the Neanderthals really were. A modern-day Indiana Jones, he takes us on a fascinating archaeological investigation: from the Arctic Circle to the deep Mediterranean forests, he traces the steps of these enigmatic creatures, working to decipher their real stories through every single detail they left behind.

A thought-provoking adventure story, written with wit and verve, The Naked Neanderthal shifts our understanding of deep history -- and in the process reveals just how much we have yet to learn.

Ludovic Slimak is a paleoanthropologist at the University of Toulouse in France and director of the Grotte Mandrin research project. His work focuses on the last Neanderthal societies and he is the author of several hundred scientific studies on these populations. His research has been featured in Nature, Science, the New York Times and more.  

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Endorsements & Reviews

“Slimak dissolves many improvised notions. The naked Neanderthal refuses to be defined, maintaining a different humanity that allows us to question our own.”

The Wall Street Journal
“The quest for non-human intelligence has captivated the popular imagination lately, from charismatic cephalopods playing peekaboo on the seafloor to AI chatbots that long for love and revenge. Now the search for other minds is turning to the deep time of the human past, when Homo sapiens was not the only intelligent hominid stalking the landscape. So what do we know? Slimak makes two claims based on his own fieldwork, and this is where The Naked Neanderthal takes flight.”

The Boston Globe
"A fascinating, immensely enjoyable read by a brilliant and original thinker who has dedicated his working life to studying Neanderthals." Jonathan Kennedy, author of Pathogenesis
"From creating cave art to burying their dead, how we see Neanderthals reveals as much about us as it does about them, argues Ludovic Slimak in a fascinating new book. We may have our closest extinct relatives all wrong - again" New Scientist
"Slimak’s central argument, a synthesis of decades of his own and others’ research, is that Neanderthals possessed a distinctive form of intelligence in some ways superior to that of Homo sapiens. Clear explications of scientific concepts, lively commentary on the implications of competing ideas, and engaging storytelling describing the pursuit of knowledge by dedicated investigators bring a startling picture of an alternate humanity into view. We gain a clear and memorable sense, for instance, of the creative orientation and aesthetic sensibility suggested by Neanderthals’ craftsmanship, the role cannibalism might have played in their societies, the relationship between their hunting preferences and presumed social values, and the most plausible reasons behind their ultimate extinction. An exhilarating contemplation of human otherness." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Who were the Neanderthals, and what do we really know about their artefacts and tools, customs and culture? An eye-opening and refreshing account, full of surprising revelations and personal reflections from a researcher who has spent thirty years coming face-to-face with another human species." Lewis Dartnell, author of Being Human
"Ludovic Slimak provides a remarkable and well-informed account of the many facets of the lost Neanderthals. It shows us what it means to be human and allows us to better imagine what extraterrestrials might be like." Avi Loeb, author of Extraterrestrial
"A thrilling, bracing and scholarly introduction to modes of being and of paying attention to the world which are both akin to ours and importantly and revealingly different. We need urgently to consider less dysfunctional ways of occupying the cosmos and our own heads. The Neanderthals, speaking movingly and iconoclastically through Slimak, might be able to help."  Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast
"With the style of a poet and imagination of a philosopher, Ludovic Slimak probes the minds of Neanderthals, our closest cousins. All too often Neanderthals are envisioned as either prehistoric brutes or full humans, but Slimak argues that they were something unique, a species that developed their own forms of consciousness and intelligence. In an age of artificial intelligence, this fun and provocative book is a reminder that we still have a lot to learn about biological intelligence." Steve Brusatte, author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs