Top positive review
34 people found this helpful
Well done overview
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.