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In the Footsteps of Eve: The Mystery of Human Origins (Adventure Press) Hardcover – June 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Series: Adventure Press
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0792276825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0792276821
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is an interesting book on Human Origins that shifts attention away from East Africa to South Africa. It makes one aware of the vital importance of South African discoveries in the field of paleoanthropology due to the abundance of remains, but points out some of the South African finds' problems as well, such as the difficulty in dating cave remains. Furthermore, Berger provides a nice history of South African Paleoanthropology.
Berger also reminds those interested in paleoanthropology about the controversial nature of the field and places himself right in the middle of the controversies of the 1990s with his long arms - short legs theory. This theory is Berger's contribution to anthropological controversy and tries to remove the title of "mother of all humankind" from Lucy and perhaps place it in South Africa (and for sure suggest that earliest H. sapiens come from South Africa). However, here is where his main faults come forth. His chapters on the scientific and technical reasons that Africanus's limb proportions are of importance is sloppy and not convincing. Furthmore, he seems to have taken a real beating from Tim White (co-discoverer of Lucy) who attacks one of Berger's claims of finding a chimp-like tibia associated with Africanus. Berger writes that he survived and even perhaps won this battle, but Tim White seems to me to be the true victor.
Moreover, there are plenty of typos in the book, which make reading less smooth than it ougth to be and there are way to few pictures and charts.
Even with these flaws, I recommend the book to those interested in paleoanthropology already because it brings one up to speed on all the new finds and re-classification.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. P. Rushton on July 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The great value of this easy to read and engaging book is that it brings to centre-stage the fossils and artefacts of South Africa which have been eclipsed in recent decades by the (deserved) attention given to those in eastern Africa. My ears popped as I heard my wife read out loud (we alternated chapters) about the 10 million hand axes and other stone tools just south of Kimberley and the tens of thousands of hand axes, choppers, cores, and other elements further to the west, illustrating the success of the transitional archaic Homo sapiens that lived there about 100,000 years ago. A fossilized sand footprint from 117,000 years ago, clearly human, was another exciting discovery.
Professor Lee Berger is another bold, brash, ambitious personality in the tradition of Broom, Tobias, Leakey, and Johanson. (He wrote in his diary, while still a graduate student, "Watch Out Richard Leakey.") Yes, he is a bit of an unabashed self-promoter like the others but is so engaging about it that its easily forgiven and it makes the book even more enjoyable to read. Its all in a good cause -- to bring Australopithecus Africanus back as a contender as forerunner to H. habilis and H. sapiens and to push Johanson's "Lucy" off into the shadows. Whether he succeeds in redrawing our family tree or not, and the jury is still out, Berger has reinvigorated the detective story about human origins. Recent Out of Africa -- Yes! but from which part? East, or South?
Four stars, not five. There were just not enough pictures or charts, especially for a National Geographic Book and far too many typos. Parts seemed altered in page proofs or "rushed into print." Let's hope there's a great second edition soon.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By SB on June 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
From the keyboard of a amateur, this is an engaging and thoughtful book about a powerful and fascinating subject. Lee Berger has succeeded in bringing to light some of the most personal issues to our species, how and when we became human. He is a superb writer discussing what could be dry scientific issues with in a suspenseful and charismatic way. If you have any interest in the current scientific thought on human evolution, you must read this book!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Deb McKay on April 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Lee Berger and journalist Brett Hilton-Barber have written an engaging and concise overview of the main events in the discovery and interpretation of human evolution, including the obligatory personality clashes and disagreements. This sort of thing has been covered before in other books, but what is new and important here is the focus on the significance of the South African hominid fossils. One of the unfortunate side effects of the apartheid era in South Africa and the economic and intellectual embargoes imposed upon it was the loss, for so many years, of the knowledge of some of the world's finest hominid fossils. Unearthed and then locked away in vaults, they languished unstudied and undescribed for many years. For students of human evolution, this was literally an undiscovered country. This book is a compelling look at these fossils, and the intellectual journey that Berger embarked on in order to understand them.
Berger chose to go to South Africa at a time when it was considered inappropriate for academics to be seen dealing with that country. He was fully aware of the potential consequences of such a move, including the possibility of being barred entrance to Kenya (and access to its fossils), but for an ambitious student, the attraction of working with original and often previously unexamined hominid fossils was too powerful to ignore. And, as this book clearly illustrates, Berger was nothing if not ambitious.
There has been relatively little work published on the South African fossils since the 1950s (most notably some analyses on their functional morphology), so much of what we see in textbooks regarding them is based on rather old work.
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More About the Author

Prof. Lee R Berger FRSSaf ASSAf is a Research Professor in Human Evolution and the Public Understanding of Science in the Institute for Human Evolution, School of Geosciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa and an Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa and the Explorers Club and is a Member of the South African Academy of Sciences. He discovered the site of Malapa in 2008, and is the discoverer of the new species of early human ancestor Australopithecus sediba. He is the Director and Principle Investigator of the Malapa Project and leads over 125 scientists in what has been described as the largest Palaeontological project in recent history. He is also the leader and Principle Investigator of the Rising Star Expedition which has discovered one of the richest early hominin sites on the continent of Africa.

Berger, an award-winning researcher, author and speaker is the recipient of the Friedel Sellschop Award for Young Researchers, the Golden Plate of the Academy of Achievement, and the National Geographic Society's first Prize for Research and Exploration. His work has been the recipient of Discover's top 100 Science Stories of the year on several occasions and he serves on the Senior Advisory Board of the Global Young Academy of Sciences. His work has been featured in National Geographic, Time and Scientific American. He has written numerous books and more than 200 popular articles and academic . He has appeared in dozens of television documentaries and is a regular commentator on evolution and palaeontology. An acclaimed speaker, he has delivered invited lectures to hundreds of corporate, government and other prestigious organizations, including the World Summit for Sustainable Development, the Royal Geographic Society, the Time, Fortune, CNN Global Forum, the Young Presidents Organization and the National Geographic Society. His talks deliver a powerful message about perseverance, the thrill of discovery and the potential for exploration and discovery in the 21st century.
He graduated from Georgia Southern University in 1989 and received his PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1994. Lee is an Eagle Scout, and Boy Scout Honor Medal winner. He is an avid Diver and PADI Divemaster. Lee is married to Jacqueline and they have two children - Megan and Matthew.