Clair Cameron specializes in out-of-body experiences. Not in the astral projection sense (that I am aware of, anyway); rather, the characters of her novels demand greater-than-usual imaginative leaps - and large doses of empathy - in order to make them real. The Bear was a tense survival tale from the point of view of a five-year-old girl, but her new novel goes even further, crossing millennia to tell the story of The Last Neanderthal (available April 25).
So how does one get inside the head of another species? Fortunately, with breakthroughs in genome research and new assessments of archaeological evidence, our understanding of human ancestry has come a long way from Ringo Starr in Cro Mag-drag (yes, this was a thing). For example, we know that Neanderthals and our modern human ancestors coexisted, at least for a while, and that if you're of Asian or European descent, between one and four percent of your DNA is Neanderthal. (Cameron's is a disappointing two percent; my results are pending). Here Cameron lists the books that explore the mind, physiology, and world of Homo neanderthalensis - and set the scientific bedrock for her remarkable story.
Seven Books That Tell a New Story About Neanderthals
by Claire Cameron
Have you heard that Neanderthals are no longer thought of as the hairy, grunting knuckle-draggers we learned about in school?
In 2010, a team sequenced the first draft of the Neanderthal genome and made an extraordinary discovery. Modern humans of European and Asian descent have inherited between 1 and 4 percent of their DNA from Neanderthals. Most scientists agree that this is evidence of relatively recent interbreeding between the two groups. It turns out that Neanderthals were much more like us than we previously thought.
I wanted to write a novel that used the new scientific interpretations of Neanderthals to shape the story and characters. I did years of research and worked with experts. This allowed me to ground my story in the science. It also gave me a platform for imagining plausible answers the many questions that are still unanswered. As a modern day archaeologist in my novel says, “a relationship, a feeling, or a glance—it’s the things that don’t fossilize that matter most.”
This is a list of seven of my favorite books that I used as sources while writing my novel, The Last Neanderthal.
More from Claire Cameron:
- The Best Books About Getting Eaten
- Lost at Sea:A Survivor's Tale
- The Only Way Out of the Apocalypse Is Through
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