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LUCY: THE BEGINNINGS OF HUMANKIND Paperback – September 15, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition (September 15, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671724991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671724993
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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If you have an interest in anthropology this book is a great place to start.
Jeanette Wells
It is interesting to note, as Johanson describes about anthropology, that science is more than just field work and analysis.
Glenn P. Butler
I read it again when I was in a teenager, and I realized just how wonderful the book really is.
L. Carlson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on March 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
The value of this book hasn't diminished with the passage of time. It's compelling story of the growth of paleoanthropology in the 20th Century remains unmatched. Johanson's role should be known to most, but this personal relation endures as a landmark for those interested in the development of humanity. He's given us a lucid story of the life and work of the paleoanthropologist both in the field and laboratory. He is candid in assessing other workers and himself in tracing the line of descent from ape-like creatures to modern humans.
He opens with a peerless overview of the key figures in the field, their insights, prejudices, successes and failures. The field was dominated by British research. The small German community of scientists held little challenge, and American researchers were nonexistent. Heady with victories that had left the Victorian Empire firmly established, the British stoutly maintained that intelligent humans were the product of the North European environment. Tropic peoples were torpid and apathetic. The harsher conditions of Northern Europe had forced increased cranial capacity, leading to intelligence. Brain growth, in their view, had preceded human bipedalism. If cranial enlargement was shown to be of British origins, so much the better. The Piltdown find was a prime example of that scenario, nearly universally accepted as fitting into the preconceived assumption.
When a tiny skull found in 1925 in South Africa indicated that a human ancestor walked upright over a million years ago, there was consternation. Modern human roots couldn't be African and bipedalism before intelligence seemed outlandish. The Taung Child, however, couldn't be refuted, increasing the attention to African origins.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Glenn P. Butler on June 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
As a reader who has a sparse knowledge of anthropology, I can say this book was a pleasurable and informative read.
Dr. Johanson divided the book into a prologue and five parts. The prologue describes the events of November 30, 1974, the day Lucy was discovered. The first part covers a brief background to the earliest fossil finds and is invaluable to any reader who is interested in who's who among some of the earliest scientists working on human origins. Part two covers his actual field expeditions to East Africa. During his first field season, Johanson became concerned about financing when his original grant of $43,000 was dwindling away. It is interesting to note, as Johanson describes about anthropology, that science is more than just field work and analysis. There is political, financial, and human relation issues that need to be mastered for the mission to succeed.
I found part three, the analysis of Lucy, to be the most compelling. Johanson includes Le Gros Clark's paper and accompanying illustrations to highlight eight differences between chimpanzee jaws and human jaws. Knowledge of these differences were of immeasurable value in the analysis of an australopithecine jaw. Part four delivers a brief account of how our ancestors began to walk upright. I found this to be interesting but highly speculative. The final section includes drawings of how australopithecus afarensis may have appeared.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone with a desire to know more about human ancestors and how a paleoanthropologist proceeds in uncovering our past.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book allows for those readers who know nothing about the archaeological world a glimpse into the past. For those readers, such as myself, I congradulate the author and encourage others to read this book. It is an interesting look into the events leading to the discovery of Humankind's oldest known ancestor, Lucy, and chronicles Dr. Johanson's growth from hot-shot college grad. to experienced field worker, with world renown. As it is from his perspective, it gives a more personable and personal angle to the story as a whole.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By L. Carlson on January 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have to say that this was the book that made me seriously interested in paleontology and archaeology. I first read it in 6th grade (no, it is not a children's book), and I enjoyed the anecdotes that Johanson provided time and again. I read it again when I was in a teenager, and I realized just how wonderful the book really is. Johanson provides an in-depth look into the life of a paleontologist (himself) while detailing his work in simple, easy to understand language. Even the difficult scientific methods and information were described in a way that makes them accesible to the common people; or at least people who are not archaeology majors. I was amazed at his ability to write an interesting, yet incredibly truthful account of the discovery of "Lucy", presumed to be the "first" human...in other words, the missing link in the evolutionary tree between humans and animals (primates). The book began my love of all things related to palentology and archaeology, which I hope will never be sated! :) I recommend that anyone who was ever curious about dinosaurs as a child, or the exciting reality that these people see things that have not been seen for millions of years, or where in the world we came from, how we got to be who we are.....in short, anyone and everyone, please take the time to borrow, if not buy this book!
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