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142 of 143 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Summary of Human Evolution for Non-Scientists, November 25, 2005
This review is from: The Complete World of Human Evolution (Hardcover)
This book is actually about the evolution of apes, starting with Proconsul and working up to all of the living apes, including us. But it is we who are at center stage, with the others in supporting roles.

The book starts with an extended section on how fossils and evolution are studied. This includes how dates are estimated, how fossils are formed, and how environments and climate fit into the picture. Then there are descriptions of some dig sites. The next section, titled "The Fossil Evidence", covers many fossils from our past, along with some analysis. The final section, "Interpreting the Evidence", is mostly about what the evidence tell us regarding behavior, especially tool use. This will be the payoff for many readers, since it is what makes us human.

There is little technical language; when it is necessary to use a technical term, it is usually explained, for example "humerus (upper arm bone)". There is no way to avoid using the scientific names of the fossil species, but the translations, such as "Greek ape" for "Graecopithecus", will help.

The text is divided into bite-size pieces of 2-6 pages, each with several illustrations. The pieces have such titles as "Dating the Past", "The Neanderthals", "The First Americans". The illustrations consist of photos and drawings, mostly in color, as well as graphs and charts. It's not quite a coffee table book, but I did find myself a few times thumbing through to look at the pictures.

Obviously, a book with such a large scope can't cover any particular topic in any detail. But if you want more information on something, you can Google it. Instead, this book brings everything into one picture, so to speak, showing how the pieces relate to each other. It is a fine introduction or overview for any interested non-scientist.
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Location: Long Island, NY

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