10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
good introduction into the world of paleoanthropology,
This review is from: The Complete World of Human Evolution (Hardcover)
This book gives a good introduction into the origins and ancestry of the human species. It is divided into three parts.
The first part gives insight in how the research field operates with chapters about the geological timescale, human variation, analytical techniques, dating technologies, taphonomy, etc. What is especially good about this segment is that it also discusses six excavation sites so you get a real feel about what paleoanthropology is all about. This is all done in a short, understandable way, but without simplifying things.
The second part covers the fossil evidence and takes us on the trail of our origins. It covers some 30 million years of history. Beginning with the origins of primates, it takes you on a tour covering the fossils of amongst others Proconsul, Australopithecus Africanus, Homo Ergaster, Homo Erectus, the Neanderthals, Homo Floresiensis, Homo Sapiens. These are all discussed in short chapters doing justice to the scientific issues concerning them (and there are a lot, because all the evidence is scarce and incomplete). Other issues, what makes an ape, migration (multi-regional versus out of Africa), Neanderthal DNA, and others, are also discussed separately.
The third part interprets the evidence. Discussing locomotion in apes and humans, feeding habits, use of tools, art etc.
All in all this book gives a short but clear cut introduction into this field. It is well ordered, written clearly and accompanied by beautiful photography, illustrations and graphics. I also read Carl Zimmer's Smithsonian Intimate guide to human origins but prefer this one because it does more justice to the scientific difficulties and complexities that this field of research has to cope with. (But by all means read that one also! Or his Parasite Rex, which was great!)