They survived by their wits in a snowbound world, hunting, and sometimes being hunted by, animals many times their size. By flickering firelight, they drew bison, deer, and mammoths on cavern walls—vibrant images that seize our imaginations after thirty thousand years. They are known to archaeologists as the Cro-Magnons—but who were they? Simply put, these people were among the first anatomically modern humans. For millennia, their hunter-gatherer culture flourished in small pockets across Ice Age Europe, the distant forerunner to the civilization we live in now.
Bestselling author Brian Fagan brings these early humans out of the deep freeze with his trademark mix of erudition, cutting-edge science, and vivid storytelling. Cro-Magnon reveals human society in its infancy, facing enormous environmental challenges from glaciers, predators, and a rival species of humans—the Neanderthals. Cro-Magnon captures the adaptability that has made humans an unmatched success as a species. Living on a frozen continent with only crude tools, Ice Age humans survived and thrived. In these pages, we meet our most remarkable ancestors.
“Archaeology contributing editor Brian Fagan provides readers with intimate accounts of what he imagines Ice Age life was like for both the vanishing Neanderthals and the invading Homo sapiens who developed the basis of modern culture. He lauds the ‘endless ingenuity and adaptability’ of ordinary men and women living in bitterly cold Paleolithic Europe. ‘My DNA tells me that, genetically, I’m one of them,’ Fagan concludes, ‘and I’m proud of it.’”—Archaeology (Editors’ Pick)
“Fagan provides readers with a fascinating discussion of the lifestyle of Neanderthals and early modern humans . . . In bringing these ancient human societies to life, Fagan combines an engaging narrative style with a well-written and easily understood scholarly discussion . . . an excellent resource.”—National Speleological Society newsletter
“[A] fascinating account . . . Fagan’s narratives of cave-painting and hunting—among other anecdotes—really bring this history-laden book to life.”—The Sierra Club's Green Life Blog
“Highly entertaining and instructive . . . [Fagan] does an admirable job in bringing vividly to life the Europe of between eighty and ten thousand years ago . . . Fagan's book has been overtaken by the onward progress of his science—this happens to lots of such books—and there are aspects of his case that invite debate. But it is an admirable book nevertheless; the re-imagining of the past is entertainingly done, and a great deal of science, especially climate science, is accessibly introduced on the way.”—Barnes & Noble Review
Brian Fagan was born in England and spent several years doing fieldwork in Africa. He is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of New York Times bestseller The Great Warming and many other books, including Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of the New World, and several books on climate history, including The Little Ice Age and The Long Summer.