Book Dreams podcast

Ep. 114 - What Neanderthals and Other Ancient Hominins Teach Us About Being Human, with Gregory Forth and Rebecca Wragg Sykes

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What makes us human? It’s a question we keep coming back to, in part because it's got no definitive answer. In this week’s episode we explore the ultimate existential query by looking at two of our most recent human ancestors–Homo floresiensis and Neanderthals–with two experts, anthropologist Gregory Forth and archeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes. Discovered by archeologists in 2003 on the Indonesian island Flores, Homo floresiensis were nicknamed “Hobbits” for their small stature and large feet. They hunted and may have used fire and made stone tools. Despite their small brains, some scientists believe they may have had mental abilities similar to ours. As for Neanderthals, the last thirty years of research have led to a portrait of a species that is very far from bumbling cavemen wielding heavy clubs. In fact, Neanderthals were sophisticated thinkers, creators, explorers, and innovators, much like Homo sapiens. Eve and Julie talk with Gregory and then Rebecca about what our ancient relatives teach us about ourselves–and whether it’s possible that one of these hominins is still alive today. Gregory Forth received his doctorate at the University of Oxford and was a professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta for more than three decades. He's a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and is the author of more than a hundred scholarly papers and several academic books. Between Ape and Human: An Anthropologist on the Trail of a Hidden Hominoid is his first book for a general audience. Rebecca Wragg Sykes is an archeologist, author, and honorary Fellow in the School of Archeology, Classics, and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool. Her doctoral thesis, awarded in 2010, was the first synthesis of evidence for late Neanderthals in Britain. Her critically acclaimed and bestselling first book, Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art, is a deep dive into the 21st century science and understanding of these ancient relatives. Kindred won the 2021 PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History, was awarded Book of the Year by Current Archeology, and was selected as one of 2021’s 100 Notable Books by The New York Times and a Book of the Year by the Sunday Times. Find us on Twitter (@bookdreamspod) and Instagram (@bookdreamspodcast), or email us at [email protected] We encourage you to visit our website and sign up for our newsletter for information about our episodes, guests, and more. Book Dreams is a part of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate network, a company that produces, distributes, and monetizes podcasts. For more information on how The Podglomerate treats data, please see our Privacy Policy. Since you’re listening to Book Dreams, we’d like to suggest you also try other Podglomerate shows about literature, writing, and storytelling like Storybound and The History of Literature. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

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