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Humanistic understanding of our closest not- quite ancestors
on December 7, 2009
A terrific and well written analysis of human prehistory with emphasis on a nuanced understanding of our relationship and competition with Neanderthals. Incorporates new knowledge about the rapid cycles of climate change that influenced modern human success and other hominid failure in the last 100,000 years. This slim book gives a great overview of primate and hominid evolution with emphasis on how luck and good fortune in addition to possibly "superior" traits influenced Homo sapiens' ultimate success. Presents more of a focus on facts while withholding some prejudiced judgements that have previously colored our interpretations of prehistory by the final "victors" (us). Very thoughtful and thought provoking, with superb writing that makes technical topics accessible to the lay reader. Evolution is not just about DNA but also must take into account climate change, geography, and habitat stability/transformation in a complex interplay of forces. A smart read that suggests we should be a little more humble about our evolutionary success, and even more concerned about how our impact on climate can affect our future.