Erik Trinkaus

  • Neandertals

  • In 1856 - just as Darwin was completing ORIGIN OF SPECIES - the fossilized remains of a stocky, powerful human-like creature were discovered in a cave in the Neander Valley in Germany. Opinions about Neandertal Man have veered wildly ever since: he was not human at all, but closer to ape, he was human but not ancient; he was a cannibal, a shuffling, depraved halfwit; an evolutionary dead-end, wiped out by more efficient and intelligent Cro-Magnons. The controversy continues to this day. Erik Trinkaus - the world's leading authority on Neandertals - and anthropologist Pat Shipman vividly tell the whole story, from the discovery of the bones to the latest research. Theirs is a brilliant first-hand account of the search for man's beginnings and out of a particular man - dead for 40, 000 years - who began a revolution that changed the world.

Erik Trinkaus, Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of Physical Anthropology at Washington University, is considered by many to be the world's most influential scholar of Neandertal biology and evolution. Trinkaus' research is concerned with the evolution of our genus as a background to recent human diversity. In this, he has focused on the paleoanthropology of late archaic and early modern humans, emphasizing biological reflections of the nature, degree and patterning of the behavioral shifts between these two groups of Pleistocene humans. This research includes considerations of the "origins of modern humans" debate, interpretations of the archeological record, and patterns of recent human anatomical variation. In 1999, Trinkaus and an international team of scientists documented that Neandertals roamed central Europe as recently as 28,000 years ago -- the latest date ever recorded for Neandertal fossils worldwide. The team's findings could force other scientists to rethink theories of Neandertal extinction, intelligence and contributions to the human gene pool. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Trinkaus is frequently quoted in the popular media.

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