Marylène Patou-Mathis

The Savage and Prehistory, the White Man’s Mirror Publication date : January 20, 2011

Marylène Patou-Mathis has published several authoritative works on prehistory, notably on Neanderthal Man. She is a director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and heads the archaeo-zoology section in the Prehistory Department at the National Natural History Museum, in Paris. She has a doctorate in prehistory.

Throughout history how has Western man regarded human beings that differ from him? How is the Other imagined and treated, depending on whether that Other is geographically far away, like the “savage” in Dr Livingstone’s writings, or temporally distant, like the Prehistoric humans whose fossils were first discovered in the nineteenth century?

Covering two centuries, from the Enlightenment to the present, Marylène Patou-Mathis examines here the complex relationship that the Western world has maintained with the figure of Primitive Man, either as savage or as Prehistoric Man.

From the great debates on the place of humanity in the animal kingdom, to the vast universal exhibitions of the colonial era, from Adamism to the creation of racialist hierarchies, from the discovery of the first Neanderthal human fossil to the opening in the West of museums of indigenous or tribal arts, the author brings to life two centuries of fear, shame and attempts at reconciliation with our distant fellow humans.