The Flower People of Shanidar
Telling a New Tale about our Neanderthal Brothers
Starting in the 1950s the image of the Neanderthal as brutish and subhuman started to give way to a vision of a much more intelligent and cultured creature. The Neanderthal finds in Shanidar, Iraq were crucial in this promotion from beast to brother were. These discoveries reached a larger public through Ralph Solecki's book Shanidar. The first flower people (1971). The pollen found seemed to indicate the burial of a Neanderthal on a bed of flowers. This hypothesis initiated a productive interaction between archaeological research and popular culture. Novels, popular science books, dioramas in museums, documentaries and movies exploited the powerful imagery of the flower burial. In all these narratives the comparison of Neanderthal and Homo sapiens is key. Our understanding of the two species can only be rendered as a histoire croisée.