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Born in Africa: The Quest for the Origins of Human Life Paperback – May 8, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610391055
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610391054
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Kirkus Reivew, April 15, 2011

"An appealing account of human evolution and the fiercely competitive anthropologists who are unearthing our ancestors’ remains and arguing over what they mean…. The author does a superb job of describing the nuts-and-bolts of field research, the meaning of the often headline-producing findings and the ever-changing variety of species who split off from the common ancestors of chimpanzees and hominids.”


About the Author

Martin Meredith is a journalist, biographer, and historian who has written extensively on Africa and its recent history. He is the author of many books including The Fate of Africa and Diamonds, Gold, and War. He lives near Oxford, England.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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You will learn much after reading this book.
Stephen Pletko
A wonderful account on archeological work on human evolution.
A Duttaahmed
This is an overview and on that basis it succeeds very well.
Book Fanatic

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a short book and reads quite rapidly and easily. I found it to be a very good overview of the topic. The author takes the reader through the historical discovery of hominid fossils in Africa (and to some degree elsewhere) up to the very latest. He does a good job explaining what they contribute to our understanding of hominid evolution. Towards the end he brings us up to date on the evidence brought to bear by biological techniques such as analysis of mitochondrial DNA and y-chromosome lineages.

Given the short length of the book and the breadth of topic one should not expect in-depth analysis. This is an overview and on that basis it succeeds very well. It was interesting and informative. If you are well read on this topic you probably won't learn much but you probably will still enjoy the book.

I have no problem recommending the book to those interested in "The Quest for the Origins of Human Life". Thumbs up!
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pletko on September 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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"This book follows the endeavours of scientists striving to uncover the mysteries of human origins over the past 100 years...

The first part of this book focuses upon the exploits of key field scientists, starting with the pioneer researchers of the early twentieth century. Their task was not only to find significant fossils--the principal evidence of human evolution--but to convince a sceptical scientific establishment of the importance of their discoveries. Some fossil finds remained in dispute for years. Modern researchers pushing back the frontier of human origins to 7 million years ago have encountered similar hurdles.

The second part of [this] book opens at that primordial frontier and moves forward along the trail of discoveries leading to the emergence of our own species, Homo sapiens, and its gradual migration around the world."

The above comes from this slim, informative book by Martin Meredith. Meredith is a journalist, biographer, historian, and author. He has written extensively on Africa and its recent history.

The pioneer scientists striving to uncover the mystery of human origins, known as the science of palaeoanthropology, were mainly anthropologists and archaeologists. Today we have a many other scientists involved in this science such as molecular biologists, biochemists, geneticists, palaeoclimatologists, geochronologists, and palaeontologists (scientist who studies fossils and the biology of extinct organisms).

(More precisely, palaeoanthropology is the "study of the physical and behavioural aspects of humans in prehistory.")

The key indicators of humankind's ancient ancestors are fossils.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bill Taylor on July 15, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Look no further!

I read this twice through on vacation. It's a great read, and up-to-date, having just been released. I had been looking for something that explained all the finds and what they meant in the big picture of human origins. This book does that, and it also gives an interesting history of the finds from the first discovery of Australopithecus right up to Turkana Boy. As an added bonus it gives a wonderful short summary of the migration paths of the human family out of Africa.

Loved it!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By P. McClain on August 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wonderful review of the latest findings and thoughts on the origins of homo sapiens, but presented in a unique way, chronologically, historically, with the politics behind the finds and theories also fleshed out. I read a lot of books in this area of human evolution and the subsequent migration "out of Africa" and this book is a great supplement and very readable for the layperson.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Chris M. White on September 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I've read Meredith's other important works but this one puts him in a category all by himself. Aside from his books on political history, biography, and the Boer Wars, now he has established himself as an African scientific historian with this latest book. You will learn so much more than you can imagine if you pick up this book, take notes on it as you read, and then discuss it with others. You will not regret it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Arb on August 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must say first off that I'm addicted to books about the origin of human life. This non-fiction work is written in novel form and reads as a historical fiction. Meredith does not stray from his subject, which is the origin of man in Africa. He does not wander around the world discussing other archelogical finds, but those other finds are referenced in the book. Meredith keeps the story in Africa. The book is a page turner, I couldn't put it down. But more than that, he tells of the political infighting among the anthropologists and their thinking in their time. I remember the factual details and names referenced in Born in Africa more than in the other books I've read on the same subject. I highly recommend this book, even for those who are not particularly enthralled with the subject.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Simon Laub on August 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
We all want to know something about our origins! And after reading Martin Merediths book you will certainly be a little wiser. There are many pieces to the puzzle though. And there is no simple path, where evolution turns a crouching ape into a tall, erect human male over the ages. Instead, the path to Homo Sapiens was very indirect. Along the way, our planet witnessed many variations of the human form, multiple migrations out of Africa. etc.

Nevertheless, Martin Meredith gives a good overview:
Most of our modern day ideas about evolution comes from Darwin, so it is fitting that Martin Meredith starts his book about the quest for the origins of human life, with a Darwin quote! The most likely birthplace of humankind is Africa, since it is the homeland of gorillas and chimpanzees, apes which he deemed to be our closest living relatives. In Darwins ''The Descent of Man'' his precise words are: ''The living mammals are closely related to the extinct species of the same region. It is therefore probable that Africa was formerly inhabited by extinct apes closely allied to the gorilla and the chimpanzee; and as these two species are now man's nearest allies, it is somewhat more probable that our earlier progenitors lived on the African continent than elsewhere.''
That all sounds very logical to the modern reader, but obviously Meredith is right to state that: The implications of Darwins theory were profound, it opened up the possibility of a world without purpose, or direction, or longterm goal. It stripped humankind of its unique status and was seen to undermine Victorian respect for hierarchy and social order.

Sure, it might all be horrible confusion.
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