on April 22, 2003
Although this book is the "companion" to the Nova TV series it stands well on its own, in a conversational style. The book does a good job of introducing human ancestors, starting with Lucy - the female Australophitcus afarensis, that launched Dr. Johanson's career and fame. Perhaps what the book does best, is introduce the study of paleoanthropology and archeology by presenting both sides of topics. For example: did modern humans all came out of Africa or evolve in separate places throughout Europe and China?; when and why did hominids first walk on two legs (scavenger or hunter)?; are Neanderthal's our ancestors? He presents how studying anatomy helps understand the physical changes needed to walk on two feet and to give birth to a large brained baby. He also introduces the recent idea of "experimental archeology" that conducts trials on current landscapes or prey to see how early hominids may have lived. At the time of the book were the beginnings of studies with mitochondrial DNA. His conclusion about the birth of art, may be tentative, but should provoke interesting thoughts. If you can see the TV special, it also includes conveys a better feel of the conditions the archeologists are working under, and also vintage film of some of the finds.