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Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human Paperback – October 1, 1993

ISBN-13: 978-0385467926 ISBN-10: 0385467923 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (October 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385467923
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385467926
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Famed paleoanthropologist Leakey relates an intellectual odyssey, describing his discoveries of human origins and his reflections on the nature of humanity. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-- Leakey and Lewin discuss how conceptions of human anatomical and behavioral development have been radically altered within the last 12 years by new discoveries and research in other fields. They review the developments and assert Leakey's own hypotheses based on these discoveries. Although supporting a specific view of human evolution, they also illuminate other theories and their proponents, if mainly to argue against them. This is an engrossing book written for the layperson, fully explaining anthropological terms and theories when necessary. It's a solid introduction to current theory concerning human development.
- Hugh McAloon, R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Frederick,
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 16 customer reviews
Overall a good book with some good anthropology in it and also an exciting depiction of the discovery.
John McGinn
From 2003 till about 2006, I systematically went through them all, plus others that I had added in the course of this reading plan.
Orville B. Jenkins
359-360) This is an excellent book, that will be of great interest to anyone studying the matter of human origins.
Steven H. Propp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on August 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you've never read Leakey, start with this book. This well conceived and finely crafted work should grace any library. Bringing skillful research and writing skills to relating the evidence of human origins, Leakey and Lewin demonstrate why this team has been so successful. More than simply technical skills are visible here. There's a strong sense of humanity applied here to everything from flying an aircraft to preparing a specimen for appraisal. A major element in Leakey's presentation is his willingness to revise his opinions in the face of new evidence
Leakey once suffered from 'lack of credentials' in his work as an paleoanthropologist. Drawn to this work by a fascination with our past instead of by an academic background, he's shamed his critics with stunning finds, excellent logic in assessing their value, and the presentation talents shown here. The lack of academic constraints frees him to bring fossils to life in speculative scenarios no schooled scientist would dare. He does it here with plausible accounts of our ancestors possible lifestyles. The guild scientists may complain that 'there isn't enough evidence' to draw these scenes, but Leakey is careful to point to the evidence, drawing many elements together to produce these scenes. They are vivid and thought provoking in portrayal and need no more defense than that. And they are supported by fine illustrations of many aspects of paleoanthropology.
Leakey's examination of language development occupies a significant part of his discourse. These arguments are worthy of your close inspection. Verbal communication has long been viewed as the sole distinction between humans and the other animals. Leakey shows how even this feature cannot be considered a sharp demarcation.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Woodard on June 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Richard Leakey introduced millions to the evolution of humanity in his first "Origins", but over the years it had inevitably become outdated. This book is less dramatic but far more complete scientifically, and is an essential read for anyone who wants to keep up with our past. Moreover, where the first book tended toward philosophical speculation, in this one he builds theory on facts; where before he focused on his own views with little discussion of other researchers, in this one he quotes them with the dilligence of a reporter. Where the first book was often gramatically infuriating, this one has the polished language and clearly stated logic that make learning complex concepts seem effortless.
Best of all, this time he takes us along on the adventure of discovery. Leakey is no closeted academic; he can find food and water as the ancient hunter-gatherers did, with no modern tools, in what looks to the untrained eye like a dry wasteland. He understands the politics of the illegal ivory trade as well as the interpretation of fossils. He was not stopped in either his explorations of human origins or his quest to save African wildlife by years of kidney failure, near-fatal pneumonia, death threats from poachers, or even the loss of his legs in a plane crash. He covers the science in full detail, yet the reader has a sense of immediacy one never gets from the academic literature. We are parties to acrimonious debate and feel the thrill of pouncing on the apparent error of a rival. We spend months in the bush, and are immersed in a lifelong search that yields, after innumerable frustrations, to the occasional astonishing discovery.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By sparke303 on July 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
Richard Leakey is one of the most well-known, and respected, fossil-hunters today. One must stop to appreciate the irony of his rebellion toward his parents, without whom he may have actually had to go to college to establish the credibility he enjoys due to his last name.

Leakey's "shots" at Donald Johanson and other scientists aside, much of the analysis presented in "Origins Reconsidered" is quite interesting. His rebuttal of the "Lovejoy hypothesis" is well-articulated and rather persuasive. But the way he barely hints at his infamous "4-million-year-old homo habilis" fossil debacle (a claim he held far longer than evidence supported it) is awfully self serving.

The driving force behind Leakey's studies is this fundamental question: "what separated members of the genus homo from the "bipedal ape" australopithecines, and what were the environmental factors that favored homo's survival and led to australopithecus' extinction?" Nearly the entire book focuses on the analysis of this question, and rather eloquently at that.

This book would be best for the student of paleoanthropology, whose reading list on the subject would extend beyond this single volume. While scientifically valid, the range of theories in the area is vast, and each developing theory carries its own controversy. Only by understanding the range of these theories can one hope to have a good idea of the bipedal-ape-to-human evolution.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John McGinn on August 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book covers in details the exciting discovery of Turkana boy, a nearly complete junvenile H. erectus skeleton. Although a little limited in scope (look for other books for a good overview of the current state of human evolution) it does a great job of detailing the discovery and its significance. Leakey also does a good job of trying to peer into the minds of these primitive hominids, examining their intellect, speech, compassion, etc. in the last several chapters and what makes us who we are. This book however is more of description of the discovery than anything else, as shown by the considerable amount of space dedicated to the descriptions of the area and the sequence of events leading to the discovery and excavation. Overall a good book with some good anthropology in it and also an exciting depiction of the discovery.
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