Ever since Darwin first suggested that humans are descended from apes, the theory of evolution has engendered a firestorm of controversy. But the schism between creationism and evolution is by no means the only source of disagreement; even within the evolutionist camp there are fierce divisions. Are all humans part of a single species comprised of many different varieties? Or is each race a separate species? Even Darwin had no easy answer for that one. Some scientists, including Carleton Coon
, believe that Homo erectus
began in Africa, then migrated to different locations in the world, where it evolved into Homo sapiens
at different rates--Europeans and Asians evolved quickly, while other races remained more "primitive." Others, such as author Christopher Stringer, agree that Homo erectus
spread across Asia and Europe, but became extinct everywhere but in Africa, where they continued to evolve. Eventually, a new and improved Homo sapiens
swept once more out of Africa--this time to stay.
There's plenty of paleontological and genetic evidence to support Stringer's point of view, and he argues it convincingly. Short of the invention of a time machine, African Exodus is the next best way to revisit the origins of modern man.
From Library Journal
In sharp contrast to the multiregional interpretation of hominid development offered by Milford Wolpoff and Rachel Caspari in Race and Human Evolution (LJ 12/96), Stringer, director of the Human Origins group at London's Natural History Museum, and McKie, science editor of the Observer, argue for a single-origin theory for the recent emergence and essential unity of our species. The authors maintain that the erectus-sapiens transition happened only once, with Homo sapiens sapiens migrating out of Africa about 100,000 years ago and subsequently spreading worldwide. To make their case, they examine fossils, artifacts, and especially genes (e.g., the Kibish skull from Ethiopia, the Katanda culture of Zaire, and ongoing nuclear DNA findings). Special attention is given to the ape-human split, the so-called Neanderthal problem, and Cro-Magnon sociocultural advancements. The complex issues surrounding hominid evolution are made apparent here. Enhanced by numerous illustrations and extensive notes, this work is recommended for large anthropology collections.?H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
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