Where did we come from? Though it's been fairly well settled that our species was born in Africa, the debate still rages over our hometown. In the Footsteps of Eve: The Mystery of Human Origins
is a beautifully written argument in favor of the southern end of the continent rather than the eastern locations more popular among paleoanthropologists. Author Lee R. Berger's discovery and analysis of 117,000-year-old fossilized footprints of modern humans in South Africa, as well as a wealth of other fossils and artifacts, point to a speciation event in the unique ecosystem found along the Cape. His tells his story lyrically, and the rich descriptions of his finds and reconstructions of past events conjure strong imagery in the reader's mind; unfortunately, the book must rely on these descriptions since illustrations are sparse. Using clear, careful language, Berger explains the differing theories of recent human evolution, how his differs from the Leakey-Johansen model cradling H. sapiens
near the Horn of Africa, and where the argument stands as of his writing in early 2000. Capturing the excitement of fossil hunting, the frustration of challenging established authority, and the sheer delight of scientific pursuit, In the Footsteps of Eve
finds the mystery of life in ancient dust and rocks. --Rob Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
Popular books on human evolution abound. Berger, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, enters this competitive field with an engaging volume that discusses the fossils every bit as much as the scientists who discover them and interpret their meanings. Scientifically, Berger stakes out controversial new territory in claiming that the prevalent hypothesis that humans first arose in East Africa is false. Instead, he argues that the evidence points to South Africa as the original birthplace of our species. Furthermore, he asserts that Lucy, the famous fossil long thought to be one of our ancestors, is instead a member of a species on a terminal side branch of the evolutionary tree. While the average reader is in no position to determine whether Berger's views are correct, the information he presents is comprehensive and accessible. Berger also impressively demonstrates how, in the highly competitive field of human origins, large hypotheses based on small pieces of evidence can arise from preconceived biases as much as compelling data. Although his writing is occasionally clumsy and he casts himself in a larger role than his accomplishments warrant to date, Berger offers a great deal of absorbing material in this first-person account; this book is sure to entice those interested in human origins. B&w photos throughout. 6-city author tour. (June)
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