ARMONK, N.Y. – Six years ago, Armonk residents Dimitra Papagianni and Michael Morse’s marriage had a banner day: newborn twins and a book deal to write a new prospective on Neanderthals.
“We had the twins, came home from the hospital, and I opened up an email that said we had a book deal, and that we needed to write it in one year,” Morse said. “We kind of looked at each other — looked at our new additions to the family — and said ‘There’s no way we can do that.’ ”
The book, The Neanderthals Rediscovered: How Modern Science Is Rewriting Their Story, took about six years to write and officially comes out on Oct. 7. The couple will unveil the book to the public with a reading and signing on Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. where much of it was written: the North Castle Public Library. Papagianni and Morse began the book in England before moving to Armonk three-and-half years ago.
“We moved here in the middle of writing the book, I believe, page 64,” Morse said. “Which is funny because if you look at the last line of that page, it reads ‘It is at this moment that the Neanderthal story truly begins.’ So the story we’re telling, that was done here in Armonk.”
The story encompasses a new take on the extinct Neanderthals, and why they’re no longer among humans.
“Everyone has heard the word ‘Neanderthal.’ Some one calls you that, you know what it means,” Morse said. “But these are people who were stronger than humans, who were living parallel to them. So why are we here and they’re not? Why did a stronger version of us not work?”
The origins of Neanderthal research, along with the origins of Papagianni and Morse, begin in Europe. The two met while studying at the University of Cambridge. Papagianni was getting her Ph.D. in archeology, while Morse was studying the history of science and archeology.
It was Papagianni who became enthralled with Neanderthals in her spare time, when she concluded many questions of the extinct Homo subspecies remained largely unanswered.
“In doing the research, I realized there was a need for a book like this,” she said.
Though the two complemented each other's efforts, there were plenty of long nights and “plenty of ice coffee” at the North Castle Public Library. However, over time, the two found a process that worked.
“We write differently,” Papagianni said. “I write traditional, academic style. So I would write the first draft, give it the bones. Mike would flesh it out and turn it into an exciting story. Neither of us on our own could have done this. It took both.”
Those interested in finding a copy of Neanderthals Rediscovered can do so at local book stores and Amazon.