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Episode 47 - Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin

Happy lunar new year!  We rang in the Year of the Ox with Butterfly Swords , which was Jeannie Lin's first book.  It won the Golden Heart Award back in 2009 and started her illustrious career. Ai Li is to be married to the powerful and hawt Li Tao, a scheming jiedushi.  When she discovers his treachery and his murder of her brother she escapes to warn her father, the Tang Emperor.  Except her father isn't really all that fussed about it?  She's helped along the way by Ryam, Noted White Guy.  They travel all around China meeting people and running away from people and hitting people with swords, which is delightful. There's really no content to be concerned about in this book (it's a more recent book!) - if you dig action packed historical romances there won't be anything in here that's an unpleasant surprise.

Episode 21: Clan of the Cave Bear




Ayla is an anatomically modern human (is it technically Cro Magnon?  This is set in modern day Ukraine. To the Wikipedia!) orphaned and raised by a tribe of psychic Neanderthals.  This one isn't the one with all the doin' it (evidently that is Valley of the Horses which also has a bunch of blonde dudes who shop at Cave-REI), it's the one with a ton of rape and abuse in it. (A note: the cave I was talking about extensively is Shanidar.  Shalimar is, of course, a perfume.  Apologies.)
Image result for clan of the cave bear cover
So the fun thing about this book, and the factor that I know made everybody's mom love it, is the great research Auel put into it.  (Shades of Savage Ecstacy, y'all.)  She really knew her shit, at least about the state of research into Homo neanderthalensis in the late 70's - but since then there have been amazing finds and a lot of research using tools unavailable when Auel started writing.  Some of which, by the way, match her fiction.  (Uh, not the psychic part.  But the fucking part, yes!)  
Although the blue eyes, not so much.  Not coexisting with Neanderthals.
Here are some really great articles about some of this stuff.
Cave bears Chauvet painting
So much of what we know about Neanderthals is conjecture, but there is evidently no anatomical reason for them not to speak.  Additionally, the Neanderthal Genome Project shows that we share a gene with them that's important to our speech (warning, PDF).  
Here are some throwing spears that predate the Neanderthals - as I understand it there is no reason to think Neanderthals couldn't throw well.
Neanderthals on Gibraltar were killing the shit out of birds. Fuck birds.
Errbody out here fuckin' errbody.  Neanderthals fucking humans, Neanderthals fucking Denisovians, Homo sapiens also fucking Denisovians and getting some adaptive traits from them, and if I understand this right there's a reintroduction of archaid hominids from Africa at some point that's posited.  We find a new plant, we taste a little bit of it.  We break ground in new territory, we map it.  We find another person of a different species, we fuck 'em.  You can dress us up, but you can't take us out.
This is a charming short interview with Auel right before The Land of Painted Caves came out, but what I really love about it is the excerpt they picked from the book.
Image result for neanderthal facial reconstruction
Modern facial reconstructions of Neanderthals are a lot less alien than they used to be - expectations of what they'll look like has surely changed along with the assumption that they were radically unlike us.  Guess what?  They may have had more evolved faces than you do!  (Or, at any rate, had changed in the face after splitting from us.)  
Oh hey guess what some of the Shanidar remains including Shanidar 1, our evidence that Neanderthals cared for tribe members in old age and disability and Auel's clear inspiration for the character of Creb, and Shanidar 4, the "flower burial" which might mean that Neanderthals had complex funerary practices or might mean that burrowing animals like flowers, may have been looted during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  I can't confirm or deny it with a five minute search - these remains were/are held by the Iraq Museum.  Anybody know if they're still there?


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