Rebecca Wragg Sykes

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Wragg Sykes in 2021

Rebecca Wragg Sykes is a British archaeologist, expert on the Middle Paleolithic, and popular science writer. She is known for her award-winning 2020 book Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art.


  • ... Where do the Neanderthals fit in? They take us way back beyond fingers tracing beasts on stone walls.
    While it's impossible to pinpoint the 'first' of their kind, they became a distinct population 450 to 400 thousand years ago (ka). The night sky then hanging over earth's many hominid populations would have been alien, our solar system light years away from its current position in a never-ending galactic waltz. Pause halfway through the Neanderthals' temporal dominion at around 120 ka, and while the land and rivers are mostly recognisable, the world feels different. It's warmer and ice melt-swollen oceans have flooded the land, shoving beaches many metres higher. Startlingly tropical beast roam even the great valleys of Northern Europe. In total, the Neanderthals endured for an astonishing 350,000 years, until we lose sight of them — or, at least their fossils and artifacts — somewhere around 40 ka.
  • Neanderthals went through repeated cycles of cold conditions and then warm conditions where there were forests developing. ... When musk oxen turn up in the archaeological record, most of the time there are not Neanderthals.
  • Neanderthals knew all sorts of landscapes and climates and different geographies. There is so much more to Neanderthals than the popular image of them ... I wanted to really try to share the way that archaeology is like a multi-disciplinary discipline and a lot of what we do actually is about world-building and how we look at the Neanderthals ... recreating the contextual world.