A new book on the early history of The Gibraltar Skull “Almost Homo Calpicus” by Alex Menez has been published this week. The book tells the story of the Rock’s most famous fossil and answers the questions often asked such as what happened to the skull whilst it was in Gibraltar and how it ended up in England in 1864.
Coinciding with the start of the Gibunco Gibraltar International Literary Festival 2018 the book was launched on Wednesday evening at the Gibraltar National Museum by Heritage Minister John Cortes. It was then presented at the festival yesterday by Dr. Menez who was joined by Dr. Geraldine Finlayson and also spoke on the very latest news on the Neanderthals and the current research.
Launching the book Professor Cortes, a long-time friend of the author, described Dr Menez as being “thorough, meticulous and scientific and the subject that he has chosen is a fascinating one”.
The book tells the story of the unearthing of the skull in Forbes’ Quarry first reported in March 1848. Until now almost nothing has been known about its early history.
The research that Dr Menez has undertaken, continued Professor Cortes, “centres the skull’s position in history and makes it relevant to us nowadays”.
The author himself describes the book as a compilation of material related to the early history of the Gibraltar Skull from 1848 when it was first presented to the Gibraltar Scientific Society to 1868 when it was received in London and presented to the Royal College of Surgeons.
Whilst researching the history of Natural History on the Rock, another of his projects, Dr Menez looked in greater detail at The Gibraltar skull and it soon became apparent this needed further research and a volume all of its own.
“There is so much interest related to The Gibraltar Skull not just the fossil but the people surrounding the history of the skull right up to the current day,” he told the Chronicle.
“The Gibraltar skull has a legacy,” he emphasises.
“It has spawned extra work in Gibraltar – investigation of the caves, initiated research looking for other Neanderthal finds, and has been the main impetus for all the research since it travelled to Britain in 1864,” he said.
In the books preface Dr Menez writes how his research revealed what he believes is a fascinating story about the people and events surrounding the skull.
“I saw that the skull is like an arrow through time, a physical object that connects the past to the present, and to the future,” he further writes.
Professor Clive Finlayson, a world leader on the Neanderthals, told the Chronicle how the history of the subject, the historiography of The Gibraltar Skull, was crucial to understanding how we have arrived at the present day.
“This is a vital volume and one which fills the gap. We have all known about the skull, bits of the history. But this one is comprehensive, almost exhaustive and covers almost every angle. I have certainly learnt a lot and anybody interested in the history of Gibraltar should have a volume. The book is packed with information, but it is written in a way that makes it accessible to a wide public,” he commented.