What possible link could Mark Hayek, an introverted twenty-first century research scientist, have to Raven, a young woman who lived during the late Pleistocene? It has everything to do with an encounter between a band of Early Modern Humans and a group of Neanderthals intent on hunting bison.
As meticulously researched as Jean Auel’s Earth Children series but with the benefit of recent discoveries, this novella is an updated story revealing how contact between Neanderthals and Early Humans had surprising results.
This is my first foray into prehistoric fiction. It’s never really appealed before, not sure why, but I found this fascinating and totally intriguing. Mark Heyek from the Parkinson’s Institute is a research scientist working in the field of genetics. Having sent a saliva sample to Genetics and Me, Inc. for further research into Parkinson’s disease, and as lead collaborator, he is invited to attend a meeting. What follows is an amazing fictional, although based on scientific knowledge, look back at the genetics that make up modern man.
Greg stops and turns so abruptly that Mark bumps into him. “You’ve got to stay. You’re our guest of honor. Look on the back wall.” Greg raises an arm, his fingers spread back towards the podium. “One of those is yours. We got your saliva sample in time to work it up, and man, do we have a surprise for you.”
The story transports us back thousands of years and introduces Raven, a healer who has lost her husband and, because she’s also childless, has been banished from her tribe. Raven’s sister, Willow, has persuaded her mate, Bear, to allow Raven to join their own tribe. As Bear is bringing Raven home they happen upon a group of trespassing Neanderthals hunting Bison, one of whom is seriously hurt during the hunt. After Bear’s group have taken possession of the Bison meat and the ‘Longheads’ have been sent on their way the injured Neanderthal is taken back to Bear’s tribe. Bear doesn’t want to provoke a war between the tribes so Raven tends to his injuries until he is released. Raven feels an affinity with the ‘Longhead’ and when she awakens one morning to find him gone she follows him to say goodbye. The idea that the choices Raven makes would impact on the genetic history of modern man is incredibly thought-provoking.
Raven’s hard, and sometimes cruel, world is brought vividly to life and even though she has been taken into her sister’s tribe her life, as a woman in those times, is not her own. She’s entirely at the mercy of the tribe leader and bound by their way of life as is shown by Bear’s conduct towards her.
Not only is the order and ranking in tribal law detailed, but also how Early Modern Humans and Neanderthals might have come into contact and reacted with each other.
As Mark finds out, many people including himself, carry Neanderthal genes although he’ll never know for sure the exact circumstances that brought about this occurrence. But it signifies that Early Modern Man didn’t take the place of extinct Neanderthals but rather the races mixed and interbred, which is proved by the presence of Neanderthal DNA in present day man. It’s such an interesting approach to how life might have been all those years ago, and even more so because it’s a very credible scenario.
A wonderfully researched, dramatic and detailed narrative sets the scene for forthcoming instalments of The Replacement Chronicles, which I look forward to following.
Many thanks to Harper Swan for sending me an e-copy for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team
About the author
Harper Swan lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband and two sweet but very spoiled cats. She has taught Spanish as well as English. Her interests include history from all eras, archaeology, and genetics. She especially enjoys researching ancient history and reading about archaeological finds from Paleolithic sites.