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on February 26, 2011
Origins: Human Evolution Revealed is a large format "coffee table" style overview of the current scientific thinking with respect to human evolution. There are many colored photographs, diagrams and maps. A striking reconstruction of Lucy peers out from the dust jacket. Origins is an introduction, aimed at a general audience. The many illustrations make it highly accessible. Nonetheless, the text is not "dumbed down" and packs in considerable information. Origins need not be read as a narrative, in fact each chapter can be read as a "stand alone" and there is some repetition across chapters.

The book is divided into two sections, the first consisting of a series of short (10-15 page) chapters each focusing on a specific early hominid species. Starting with Proconsul africanus (about 18 million years ago) through Australopithecus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, and ultimately Homo sapiens, each chapter describes circumstances surrounding the initial and subsequent finds, the resulting scientific debate and discussion, and our current thinking with respect to where each species fits in the primate evolutionary "bush". Provided are brief sketches of the key scientific figures associated with each species (e.g. - the Leakey's). John Gurche contributed interesting artistic reconstructions of each species' appearance, reflecting current thinking.

The second section focuses on the global migration of Homo sapiens and his predecessors, tracing multiple waves of migration from Africa throughout the world. Separate chapters focus on the dispersion from Africa, and the migrations into Europe, Australasia, and the Americas. There are also chapters on art and tool making. These latter are understandably limited given that they must cover vastly complicated subjects in just a few pages. This section too is well supported with maps and photographs.

I had a few negative impressions: First, the aerial overview maps illustrating key archeological sites were not particularly helpful. Second, as noted above, the sections on art, tool making, and climate change (1 page plus a diagram!) are disappointingly sketchy. Finally, there is no bibliography or suggestions for further reading, something such a lavish overview cries out for. Overall, Origins is a well done introduction to human evolution. Four stars.
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on May 16, 2011
This book provides a beautifully illustrated thoughtful and sympathetic treatment of our most significant prehuman, near human and direct human anticessors. Dr Palmer provides a brief panoramic overview of the scope of the text and then dives deep into the details of the focus species. In the first part of the book:Meet the Ancestors, he lays out the latest findings from the various disciplines and provides a vivid profile of each of his subjects. In the second part: The Human Odyssey, he starts with our dispersion from Africa and traces the uniquely human evolution of art, sophisticated tool making,and weaponry.

One comes away with a sense of close familiarity and connectedness with our distant past and an appreciation for the multifaceted developments which make us so unique in our humanity.

This book was a thoroughly enjoyable and very enlightening read
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on June 21, 2013
Following the authoratative works of Paul Bahn and Randall White, author Doughlas Palmer gives us yet another wonderful coffee table book about the origins of humans. It is 9 1/2 x 11 1/2 and is packed with dozens of full page color photographs depicting our ancestors from Proconsul Africanus to Homo Sapiens. After a brief introduction, in part one 13 species are described in full detail in text and in photos giving us an overall view of what is known about each species. Art, tools, Food, fire and shelter are also discussed.

In part two, Palmer traces our foot steps out of Africa and dispersal into the rest of the world. Many maps and charts are provided. He then explores the origins of art, and the tools that evolved into weapons. There are some fine photographic examples of paleolithic cave art, bead and shell art, tools and musical instruments.

I especially liked the color artistic representations of what these creatures may have looked like in real life. Putting a face on them somehow makes them seem more real than the study alone of fossil bones and skulls of these hominids. Given this, Homo Neanderthalensis men looked more like us than not. It is likely too that (because of the climate ) he had fair skin.

Overall, Palmer has done a masterful job presenting ancient man to us on a lay man's palate. One cannot hope to come away from this tome without a more incitefull view of the origins, evolution and advancing culture of our species. Any student of paleoarchaeology would benefit from having a copy of the book in his library.
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on March 7, 2012
If you want to learn more about the origins of the human species and our extinct relatives without spending too much time and energy trying to understand a strictly academic read, this is the book for you.

It has wonderful artwork by renown paleoartist, John Gurche, and also has tons of information from the vigorous research done by the author, Douglas Palmer, so you will definitely learn a thing or two about where we came from as a species and how we possibly migrated out of the African continent to become one of the most dominant species on the planet. You will become acquainted with the various members of our unique offshoot of the great ape family; from the Neanderthals of ice age Europe and the Middle East, to the diminutive Indonesian Hobbits.

For me, I'm a very visual individual and I love looking at pictures and great artwork (as I'm an illustration student who loves his prehistoric animals),and this book certainly delivers. From pencils sketches to immensely detailed sculptures (like the one on the cover), you will not be disappointed. Crisp and gorgeous pictures are also provided of the, fossils, localities and countries where these creatures were discovered.

The only fault I can find with this book is its size and weight. It's best read sitting down.
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on January 18, 2015
Very beautiful, but unfortunately is reveals nothing about human evolution. Fossil, paleo-environmental, physiological etc.evidence shows that our Ice Age ancestors (Pleistocene Homo) did not run over open plains as still assumed here, but followed the African & Eurasian coasts & rivers (e.g. 1.8 mill.yrs at least as far as Java, Georgia, Algeria & Turkana), beach-combing diving & wading bipedally for littoral, shallow aquatic & waterside foods (e.g. google researchGate marc verhaegen). It is sad that so many popular works on human evolution are still so unscientific & outdated, neglecting essential information & recent scientific publications, e.g. S.Cunnane 2005 "Survival of the fattest: the key to human brain evolution" (World Scient.Publ.Comp. Singapore) on the scarcity of brain-specific nutrients in savanna-based foods, but their abundance in waterside foods.
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on April 13, 2013
a fascinating journey through the Human family tree. Amazing illustrations and real to life artists' recreations of early Hominids. it's a 'can't help picking it up' type book.
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on June 5, 2013
I have been curious about our origins for many years. This is the best theory, backed by evidence, I have found yet.
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on May 14, 2014
Full of theories & pictures - it is interesting. I have read other books in this subject that I found more compelling. The writer knows his subject & writes well.
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on February 11, 2013
Frifghtening for some but a great reality check to others. We are what we seem & it's truely amazing that we have envolved this far.
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on September 7, 2013
beautiful pictures of our suspected ancestors and good discussion of our evolutionary journey. an easy book to thumb through starting anywhere.
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