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Fairweather Eden: Life Half a Million Years Ago As Revealed by the Excavations at Boxgrove Hardcover – May, 1998

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From Publishers Weekly

Boxgrove, a gravel quarry in Sussex, England, is one of Great Britain's best-known archaeological sites. A wealth of fossils have been unearthed from this location, including fragments of what has been called the oldest European. Roberts, the archaeologist in charge of Boxgrove, and science writer Pitts use these remains, along with bones of long-extinct animals and primitive tools, to answer one of the biggest debates in Stone Age archaeology, "whether these people were actively hunting or whether they were scavenging from carnivores." The authors come down squarely in the camp of those promoting a belief in active hunting, and conclude that these early hominids possessed a great deal more intelligence than they are usually given credit for. In addition to providing modest insight into the capabilities of our ancestors, Pitts and Roberts do a superb job of describing the way archaeology is conducted. Theirs is a fascinating account of how a world-class dig has been forced to operate on a shoestring budget, making remarkably good use of undergraduate students and unpaid volunteers. Many of the experiments they describe, such as having a modern-day butcher cut up a deer with Paleolithic tools, are elegant, informative and intriguing. 16 pages of b&w illustrations.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Roberts headed the archaeological dig at Boxgrove in southern England, the best-preserved early human site in the world. In 1993, his group discovered a human shin bone 500,000 years old, two human teeth, the oldest-known antler hammer, and tools, all associated with the same time frame. This book is primarily about the dig but also about the origins of archaeology and some of the changes in scientific theory that made it possible to interpret the geology of the site. The discoveries made there have led to new ideas about the intelligence and abilities of ancient hominids, who apparently were not the brutish creatures previously depicted. Experiments performed by crew members and other scientific tests have proven that what were thought to be crude stone hand axes and other tools were actually well designed for specific uses. Recommended.?Marilyn K. Dailey, Natrona Cty. P.L., Casper, WY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Fromm International; 1st Fromm International ed edition (May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0880641940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0880641944
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,693,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on April 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What a career as a journalist Pitts might have had. The superb "people skills" and vivid descriptive powers expressed in this book make it a very "human." Pitts, however, is an archaeologist, bringing a strong scientific background to an account of a prehistoric dig and what it brought to view. As the evidence mounted of ancient hominids living along the Sussex coast, it became clear that Boxgrove revealed an unprecedented age for European habitation. Boxgrove, as this book makes graphically clear, will become the standard against which older archeology will be judged and future finds compared.
It is difficult to distinguish the respective contributions made by each author in this book. Mark Roberts, a young archeologist at the beginning of the excavations who became the Director of the site, is a dedicated digger. He managed logistics, personnel, site management and analysed the results. It is likely that he provided significant portions of the scientific background for the account. The story is simply one of persistence in using evidence to gain support for extending operations when funding seemed threatened. Those extensions continued to reveal an assemblage of fossils, tools, and other signs of human activity. All from half a million years ago.
With the authors contributing background material on climate conditions, glaciation and sea levels, soil content and the new science of geomagnetism, we're given a detailed picture of the world surrounding those ancient people. What impact did that environment have on their lives? What does the evidence suggest about how they coped with what nature imposed on them? Did they hunt, or scavenge? Was meat a mainstay or a "side dish" in their diet?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mark P. Chaffin on September 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a compelling read which brought the world of archeology to light. Clearly written and highly informative in its presentation.
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