Customer Reviews


30 Reviews
5 star:
 (20)
4 star:
 (9)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


175 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hominid Family Photo Album
This book is the work of the artists and scientists of the Fossil Hominid Reconstruction and Research Team. Sawyer is the physical anthropologist, Deak is the paleoartist, and Sarmiento wrote the text. They take all that is known about each species within the genera Australopithicus, Ardipithicus, and Homo, and synthesize that data into stunning, beautiful, and somewhat...
Published on June 11, 2007 by Ralph White

versus
12 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars We aren't sure of anything
I can totally understand why we don't have too much factual information about time periods that are so long ago; but the evidence for these Species is so limited, we can't draw any conclusions. A lot of the time even the existence of the species is still being debated. I'm writing my review about 160 pages in, out of 250 and its been slow, technical reading. About the...
Published on August 27, 2008 by Andy Warhol


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

175 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hominid Family Photo Album, June 11, 2007
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans (Hardcover)
This book is the work of the artists and scientists of the Fossil Hominid Reconstruction and Research Team. Sawyer is the physical anthropologist, Deak is the paleoartist, and Sarmiento wrote the text. They take all that is known about each species within the genera Australopithicus, Ardipithicus, and Homo, and synthesize that data into stunning, beautiful, and somewhat disturbing likenesses of individuals. Whether in forecasting the future or in reconstructing the past, the further you get from the present day, the more uncertainty is introduced. The authors admit to a blending of science and art, and they admit that the more flimsy the fossil record, the greater their artistic license. It is said that all of the known fossils of proto-humans would fit in the bed of a pickup truck, and it is with this implicit caveat in mind that you must evaluate the accuracy of the reconstructions. Also, only bone fossilizes, and this is a book about soft tissue, so there is considerable inductive logic implicit in the reconstructions. The result is simply phenomenal, and we all owe a great deal to Sawyer, Deak, and Sarmiento for their scholarship and their inspiration. My guess is that any future corrections to their work will likely appear immaterial to the scientifically literate general reader which is their target audience.

The paleoanthropological discoveries in the text of this elegant photo album of proto-humans have been published before; the reason you will want to read this book is to meet your family in the flesh, to see what your ancestors looked like. Take each reconstruction as a hypothesis; this is what they most likely looked like, based on our current interpretation of the fossil record.

This book's stunning illustrations will be certain to attract a fresh audience of paleoanthropological novices, and they will find, after their initial shock, that the authors present a rather comprehensive introductory course in the topic. It is a welcome addition to a bibliography of recent books aimed at the general reader, including "The Dawn of Human Culture", by Richard Klein, "From Lucy to Language," by Donald Johansen, "Extinct Humans," by Ian Tattersall and Jeffrey Schwartz, and "Becoming Human," by Ian Tattersal (see my Amazon reviews). This book doesn't require a vocabulary in craniodental morphology, and for the most part Sarmiento's text employs terms in common usage, in preference to scientific terms less familiar to the general reader.

What emerges from these pages is the slow, but accelerating evolution of proto-humans, by a process of brutal natural selection, including many failed "branches" in the evolutionary tree, all but one ultimately leading to extinction, leaving only ourselves.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


87 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A catalogue of cousins, August 2, 2007
This review is from: The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans (Hardcover)
There's a great deal of information available to the interested seeker of human origins. What has been lacking is a good descriptive overview and logical arrangement of the fossils found. Sawyer and Deak have responded to that need with this volume. Arranged in order of the oldest to the youngest of fossil specimens, the authors summarise which parts have been uncovered. In addition, they further descriptions of the likelihood of bipedalism, the known locations with assumed roaming areas, the associated wildlife and climate information. A special feature presents the way the "man-ape" probably appeared in its natural habitat.

The oldest fossils are very fragmentary and lead more to suggestions as to how they fit in the human lineage. Some clearly were successful creatures in their own right, but likely lie in a line that died out in time. Those aged pieces need further finds to establish their place - the chief reason the authors describe the probable range they inhabited. Later, more complete, fossils offer more information. The authors begin depicting fossil pieces in a restored placement with Australopithicus afarensis, the now-famous "Lucy" revealed by Don Johanson and his team in 1973. The authors provide an almost startling image of this hominid searching the savannah for her "lost daughter" - a very human characteristic. Laetoli's preserved footprints are described with the implications for how close to modern humans A. afarensis could stride.

After "Lucy's" time, about 3.5 million years ago, hominids developed into many and varied types. Lucy's fossils were found in Ethiopia, but a million years later a new species, with robust jaws and bearing a crested cranium appeared. Paranthropus aethiopicus had nutcracker jaws and was more sturdily built than Lucy. Yet, in the same time frame, Lucy's likely direct successors also emerged. One of these may have been the first to apply tools to aid food processing. Far away in what is now South Africa, other branches of Lucy's clan may have evolved as a result of earlier forebears migrating. Within another half-million years, examples of hominids in the direct lineage to today's humans appear, only a short distance from the supposed range of Lucy's wanderings. Their descendents launched new migrations traced by finds to the east of their original homelands.

The recent find near Dmanisi in Georgia provides a look at hominid life nearly 2 million years ago. Flaked stone, likely used for meat cutting, although no bones with cut marks have yet been revealed. A contemporary of the Georgian hominid wandered yet further east, typified by the skull and thigh bone excavated by Eugene Dubois in 1891. Homo habilis has been found in other sites, demonstrating its wandering habits. The most astonishing find outside our African origins is the small hominid, H. floresienses, discovered in a cave in Indonesia.

Ultimately, of course, the sole survivor of hominid evolution, Homo sapiens, outlasted its many competitors. The last major contender alongside our species was Home neanderthalis, ranging from today's Middle East into Western Europe. The authors' coverage of this species is thorough, but not extravagant. Moving to our species, Sawyer and Deak provide a good overview of the factors used in classifying the fossils without greatly extending their coverage in comparison to the other topics. To conclude the book, they describe the techniques used in making the representative images of the various hominid species discussed in the text. The key point is how they developed the faces in the images. These stand in stark contrast to some of the historical illustrations of "early man" done earlier.

This book is a valuable resource for anyone interested in our ancestral past. Written in a straightforward manner, the authors give the available data, describing various speculations with care. They avoid dwelling on the many controversial questions that have plagued palaeoanthropology, and have no particular positions of their own to forward or defend. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


81 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Extended Family Photo Album, July 3, 2007
By 
Carl Flygare (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans (Hardcover)
"The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans" is a numinous, scientifically accurate, and artistically inspired depiction of human evolution - the ultimate extended family photo album and history - that follows the emergence of 22 human species from our primordial cradle in Africa six to seven million years ago to the dawn of Homo sapiens.

Unlike overly popularized accounts, "The Last Human" unflinchingly notes that Homo sapiens was not an inevitable outcome. Environment and contingency generated, and the fossil record documents, a hominid family tree sprouting many branches including forerunners, relatives, and extinctions. Photorealistic three-dimensional reconstructions portray hominids such as Australopithecus afarensis, Homo rhodesiensis, Homo erectus, and Homo neanderthalensis (among others) with startling and emotionally evocative intensity.

The accompanying text provides a comprehensive account of each species with information on its emergence, chronology, geographic range, classification, physiology, lifestyle, habitat, environment, cultural achievements, co-existing species, and possible reasons for extinction.

By masterfully merging scientific insight and artistic interpretation into a coherent and compelling whole "The Last Human" eloquently articulates how family history is everyone's heritage. This is a category-defining book that deserves to be widely read. It has my highest recommendation.

Also try Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors by Nicholas Wade, The First Human: The Race to Discover Our Earliest Ancestors by Ann Gibbons, From Lucy to Language: Revised, Updated, and Expanded by Donald Johansen, or the Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins by Carl Zimmer.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Pictorial Guide To Human Evolution For Those Who Aren't Scientists, July 5, 2007
This review is from: The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans (Hardcover)
"The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans" is a beautiful, illustrated guide to human evolution that's aimed for a scientifically literate general audience, without much of the terminology associated with paleoanthropology and other relevant aspects of physical anthropology. The principal authors, physical anthropologist Gary P. Sawyer and artist Viktor Deak, are the co-leaders of the Fossil Hominid Reconstruction and Research Team based at the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Anthropology, which has used the techniques of forensic anthropology to recreate these vivid illustrations of these extinct hominid species, often relying on the latest paleoanthropologic research (though, in a couple of instances, the authors observe that some artistic license was taken with the final appearance of several individuals). This book is essentially a visual companion to the dioramas and other related displays featured in the recently opened Spitzer Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History, in which the reconstructions made by Sawyer and Deak have taken their rigntful prominent places as among the most intriguing in this elegant hall devoted to human evolution. If nothing else, both this book and this new permanent exhibition, demonstrate more convincingly than ever, that human evolution has been an increasingly "tangled web" of species diversity, of which Homo Sapiens - humanity - is the sole surviving species. In addition to Sawyer's and Deak's contributions, there is eloquent writing too from Richard Milner, an anthropologist and writer who is affiliated with both the museum's anthropology department and Natural History Magazine. The book's text does an admirable job covering not only the paleontology of each species (e. g. geological and paleobiogeographic range, palecological reconstruction), but also delves into the probable cultural attributes of each of the twenty-two hominid species. Without question, this book is artistically - and scientifically - the latest word on human evolution aimed for a general audience; I strongly commend Yale University Press for trying to keep its production costs to a minimum to ensure a potentially large audience for it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interpreting facial details in reconstructions, January 24, 2008
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans (Hardcover)
This is a marvelous book and I will not give it fewer than 5 stars, despite my small criticism of it, which is that many of the reconstructions seem to closely resemble chimpanzees or gorillas until we get to the genus Homo when, voila!, they start to resemble people. For example, take a look at Paranthopus boisei on page 137. I don't doubt that the soft tissues were correctly placed. But what do you suppose this reconstruction would look like if the builders had gone to the other extreme and made it look more like Jack Palance instead of like a gorilla? Yes, it has a short face etc, not the extreme prognathism of a gorilla. There are two extremes in making reconstructions such as these---making them look human, or making them look like apes and P. boisei looks like something a gorilla could love. No one knows the actual state of affairs in these creatures from several million years ago. That's why these reconstructions are essentially artistic opinions (assuming the underlying meat is correctly placed). But why make most of them look so very apelike? An interesting digression on such reconstructions might be to make 3 versions, one looking deliberately apelike, one deliberately human-like, and one sort of a grand average. So what would P. boisei look like if his builders had tried to groom him so that he could ride the subway without causing phones to ring at the zoo? We will never know as long as he keeps getting dressed up like a gorilla. Maybe less facial hair is all that would be needed. And it would have been nice to see more of these reconstructions from different angles besides just the one that was provided in most instances.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and beautiful, September 6, 2007
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans (Hardcover)
Brilliant and beautiful, this book may be helpful to those who find human evolution difficult to understand or accept.

The artwork is spectacular and succeeds at bringing long-extinct hominids back from the dead.

I highly recommend this book for both casual science fans and serious students of human evolution.

I recently gave a guest lecture on early hominids at my children's school and showed the students some of the art from this book in addition to my own replica skulls. They were blown away. The story of our origins--as described by the evidence--is fascinating and irresistible to virtually everyone who has a curious mind.

I only wish I could give this gorgeous book more than five stars!

I also recommend:

Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters

Evolution Boxed Set

Walking With Cavemen

--Guy P. Harrison, author of

Race and Reality: What Everyone Should Know About Our Biological Diversity

and

50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God

-
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Stunning Visual Catalog of Hominids, January 22, 2009
By 
JV (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans (Hardcover)
This book contains stunning, high-quality color photographs of forensic artists' reconstructions of early hominids. (It's also the glossiest book on human origins I have ever seen) Some photographs look incredibly life-like. Mixed in are black and white diagrams, which show geographical data. Compared to the stunning color photography, the diagrams in this book are very disappointing. All of this is accompanied by about 2 to 10 page descriptions of each hominid. The descriptions get more detailed for later species, as evidence becomes more abundant. They focus on things like morphology, skeletal structure, diet, etc. Ultimately, this book feels more like a visual catalog of hominids, than an explanation of human origins. If you're a new-comer looking for a better understanding of human evolution and the processes behind it, I wouldn't recommend this title. Instead, I would suggest checking out Carl Zimmer's "Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins". Zimmer's book is brief, but much more comprehensive when it comes to explaining the actual mechanisms that power human evolution. It also offers much more detailed visual explanations, comparisons of modern humans, apes and extinct hominids, and diagrams on the processes and mechanisms behind human evolution. Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of many., February 10, 2008
This review is from: The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans (Hardcover)
Discussions surrounding human origins have become increasingly complicated, but this book provides a useful means of looking at the variability that paleoanthropologists are finding in the fossil record. This doesn't mean that every word or species assignment is without debate, but it is a useful tool for looking at the variety of species that either share deep ancestry or are direct ancestors of modern human beings.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our humble origins, and the unique and treacherous evolutionary path from back then to us, May 22, 2010
By 
Simon Laub (Aarhus, Denmark, Europe) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans (Hardcover)
A spectacular book. Stunning illustrations.
That makes you appreciate more than ever how remarkable it really is that we ended up being able to ponder our own past....

The author's stick to facts and steer away from opinion and conjecture. It is straightforward interpretations of the fossils. And on top of that you have artists stunning illustrations of what the fossils might actually be telling us.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in human ancestors. I can't recommend it enough!

-Simon
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Last Human, October 5, 2009
By 
Ralph D. Hermansen (Lake Isabella, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans (Hardcover)
"The Last Human" is worth owning as a reference guide to early humans, if for no other reason. The book is printed on thick high gloss paper and there are numerous color photographs within the book. The book contains essentially three sections per prehuman species discussed. First, there is usually a small fantasy story, which tries to help one see life as this creature saw it way back when. Second, there is a photograph of the creature as he/she might have looked when alive. Third, there is a data section listing facts such as kinds of fossils found, geology of the fossil sites , dating, climate at the time, animals found in the same stratum, and historical notes. The book starts with the oldest of our possible ancestors and progresses species by species forward in time, ending with our species (Homo sapiens).

The fantasy stories are based on factual evidence ( indications of cannibalism, tool marks on animal bones, stone tools, etc). However, There are many things still unknown to us such as when man could actually communicate by speech. So, one should realize the stories may be wrong in some aspects. The flesh and blood recreations of the fossil skulls are most likely accurate as far as general shape of the head is concerned. Scientific methods were employed to add tissue to the skulls. However, no one really knows when we first lost our fur coats or the shapes of our noses. So again, sprinkle a little salt on the proposed creature's appearance and reserve judgement. The data section for each species is as detailed as what could reasonably expected considering the huge task these authors have undertaken. The interpretations of what the bones tell us might be contested by other anthropologists, but controversy has been the norm for this field from its beginning. The one big impression, that I came away with, was that the authors are dubious that most of these creatures were basically bipedal walkers. They believe that they were upright walkers for short periods, but may have resorted to quadrupedal motion if they needed to get away fast. Up until reading their book, I had thought bipedal walking was dominant for the australopithicines and surely for the homos. Yet, they express doubt even about the the bipedalism of early homos, like homo habilis.

A word to the authors for when they start a revision to this books: First, I give you high credit for the great task that you completed. However, you can make this book much, much better than it is. The data sections are overwhelming in wordiness. For example, you give us lengthy sentences of all the animals found in the concerned stratrum. It would be easier to read if the animals were shown as a list in a table with other columns indicating whether extinct, and other traits. There should be a detachable super table relating these animals to periods of existence, climate preference, etc. Also, in describing fossil features and how one species compares with another, provide photos of what you are discussing. I feel that you were overwhelmed by the task and took the easier way out rather than making a proper argument by illustrating your comparative anatomical conclusion. Remember, the reader would like to view the data and see if he/she agrees with your conclusion. On the plus side, I applaud you for including a map of where the respective fossils were found and the graphic showing the period that it was alive. I appreciated that graphic aid immensely. Now you need to add more graphic aids to the textual descriptions.

General conclusion: Readers, who are serious about studying our prehistoric ancestors, should buy this book without hesitation. It is organized for your convenience and is chuck full of revelant facts. It is expensively produced and yet is attractively priced.
reviewed by: Ralph D. Hermansen on October 5, 2009
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans
The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans by Ian Tattersall (Hardcover - June 28, 2007)
$49.95 $34.89
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.