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Leighton author lands top literature prize

Created on 15/12/2021 @ 09:58

The breathtaking beauty of the Long Mountain helped to inspire a Leighton-based author to write a critically acclaimed book that has won a much sought-after prize for literature. 

Dr Rebecca Wragg Sykes moved to Leighton in 2018, drawn by the “forest, hills and an abundance of wildlife on the Long Mountain” as she was writing Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art (Bloomsbury), a history of the Neanderthals.

It has this week been named The Hessell-Tiltman book of the year for non-fiction of specifically historical content, earning her a prize of £2,000.

Rebecca, an Honorary Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, used her experience at the cutting-edge of Palaeolithic research to share our new understanding of Neanderthals, shoving aside clichés of rag-clad brutes in an icy wasteland.

She reveals them to be curious, clever connoisseurs of their world, technologically inventive and ecologically adaptable. Above all, they were successful survivors for more than 300,000 years, during times of massive climatic upheaval.

“I love living here as I write a lot while sitting outside,” Rebecca told us. “Since the Neanderthals lived during warmer climates as well as ice ages, being surrounded by forest, hills and an abundance of wildlife on the Long Mountain is always inspirational. 

“I am also really grateful to the Monkey Puzzle Cafe and the Royal Oak, because during the first year of writing, I would spend a lot of time there with my laptop and endless coffees, and they were always so welcoming.”

The book has received critical acclaim with the renowned TV physicist, Brian Cox, describing it as “beautiful, evocative, authoritative”.

Last month it was listed as one of the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2021, and is this year's Current Archaeology's Book of the Year. 

Since it was published in the summer of 2020, amongst numerous positive reviews and accolades it was also picked as Book of the Day by The Guardian, Book of the Week by The Times, and one of 2020's Best Books by The Sunday Times and others.

Alongside her academic expertise, Rebecca has earned a reputation for exceptional public communication in print, broadcast and as a speaker.

Her writing has featured in The Guardian, Aeon, and Scientific American, and she has appeared on history and science programmes for BBC Radio 4.

She works as an archaeological and creative consultant, and co-founded the influential TrowelBlazers project, highlighting women in archaeology and the earth sciences.


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