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African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity Paperback – June 15, 1998

3.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Reprint Edition edition (June 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805058141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805058147
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,900,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I pondered purchasing this book for quite a long time based on some of the negative views written on this page about this book. After reading several other books on this topic I took the plunge. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found some of the reviews about the book to be simplistic or myopic in thought. I ponder how many of the bad reviews were written by paleontologists who disagree with C. Stringer. Being a meteorologist, I found nothing offensive. I strongly agreed with his concept of hard scientific data and quantifying numbers to prove points.
No doubt, this book was written with latter evidence, including the DNA evidence that allows more specific conclusions. I found the lineage and concepts in line with those put forward by Tattersal and others suggesting no real bombshells in this book.
The book reads very well and is generally well written. The book portrays what most up-to-date books on this topic cover in a concise and consistent manner. The treatment of Neanderthals is good and in no way is negative. It is tragic that they did not survive much beyond about 30 kyrs ago. Anyone interested in current thinking on human evolutions should read this book. Finally, the title of this book is well taken; we are all Africans based on our evolution. Too bad we all don't realize who and what we all are!
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Format: Hardcover
Christopher Brian Stringer (born 1947) is a British anthropologist who is a Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum. Robin McKie is a science writer. They wrote in the Preface to this 1996 book, "For the past few years, a small group of scientists... have shown that we belong to a young species, which... conquered the world in a few millenia. The story... challenges many basic assumptions we have about ourselves: that 'races' deeply divide our populations; that we owe our success to our big brains; and that our ascent was an inevitable one. Far from it... Neanderthals became extinct even though they had bigger brains than Homo sapiens; while chance as much as 'good design' has favored our evolution."

They summarize, "an upright, small-brained ape gave rise to several different hominid lines and eventually... led to the emergence of Homo sapiens... one group of our immediate predecessors, the Neanderthals... [were] an intelligent species in their own right---although... we have learned that they are not the ancestors of human beings today, but are more like... cousins." (Pg. 83)

They argue, "Of course, there was clearly no single exodus, no one triumphant army of early hunter-gatherers who were led Out of Africa toward a new world by a Paleolithic Moses. Instead, our exodus would have occurred in trickles as our ancestors slowly seeped out of the continent, expanding their hunting ranges and taking over new territory." (Pg. 160-161)

They state, "The progeny of the people who found Australia 50,000 years ago, and the descendants of the tribes who poured down the Americas 12,000 years ago, as well as the heirs to all those other settlers of Europe, Africa, and Asia, share a common biological bond.
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By A Customer on March 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book simply because I wanted to learn about the origins of mankind. The authors provide ample and well-sustained evidence for their points. The book is fairly recent and thus has the advantage of hindsight, new knowledge and modern research techniques, such as DNA tests, which the authors use to support their argument.
This is not to say that it is perfectly logical. I found the book's low point to be the authors' reasoning for the higher prevalence of Rh-negative blood among very old Western European groups (such as the Basques), which somehow they explain away by those groups' relative isolation from new agricultural societies with higher counts of Rh-positive blood coming in from the East. Also, I didn't care to take sides in an intellectual (and personal) argument with other scientists who don't share the Out of Africa theory, which seems a hidden objective of this book. As for "African Exodus" being a response to "The Bell Curve", I didn't quite get the authors' punch line. This last point, however, didn't bother me at all since The Bell Curve is so obviously discredited by itself.
Read this book if you want to be informed, period.
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Format: Paperback
This book should be read in conjunction with my own Race, Evolution, and Behavior so that all the missing pieces of the puzzle can be seen. The parts of the book that review human origins are competent and very readable. Unfortunately, major errors appear in the book when it descends to the politically obligatory trashing of both The Bell Curve and my own work. In my case, instead of taking the time to read, cite, and critique my 1995 book intelligently, the authors rely mainly on a 1994 account of it in the tabloid magazine Rolling Stone! The basic political argument of African Exodus is as follows: "In any case, the story of our African Exodus makes it unlikely that there are significant structural or functional differences between the brains of the world's various peoples" (p. 181). The logic here is especially odd given that other parts of the book present a fascinating discussion of how populations vary in jaw size and in number of teeth. For example, page 215 states: "Among Europeans, for example, it has been found that up to 15 percent of people have at least two wisdom teeth missing...while in east Asia, the figure can be as much as 30 percent in some areas." As an example of evolutionary pressure, the book describes how before modern medicine, impacted wisdom teeth often became infected and led to death. The authors appear to find it plausible for evolution to act through differential death rates resulting from differences in the number of wisdom teeth and yet find it implausible that death rates could vary in different regions because of differential intelligence as an adaptation to extreme cold.Read more ›
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