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The Complete World of Human Evolution (Second Edition) (The Complete Series) 2nd Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0500288986
ISBN-10: 0500288984
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Editorial Reviews

Review

A spectacular, authoritative guide. . . . It will bring you up to speed on even the most recent discoveries. (Archaeology)

Its style and format make it accessible―and attractive―to a far larger audience and it deserves the widest readership. (Times Higher Education Supplement)

Nicely illustrated with a good selection of black-and-white and full-color photographs and drawings. (Choice)

A lavishly illustrated account . . . clearly and authoritatively written . . . describes how the human species evolved into the most successful invasive on Earth. (Choice)

…a readable introduction to human evolution. (The Guardian)

About the Author

Chris Stringer is Head of Human Origins at the Natural History Museum, London.

Peter Andrews is the former Head of Human Origins at the Natural History Museum, London.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Complete Series
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 2 edition (January 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500288984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500288986
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edward F. Strasser on November 25, 2005
Format: 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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Format: Hardcover
Among science's "throwaway" lines, few have achieved the status of Charles Darwin's. When "The Origin of Species" was published, he dropped a teasing line about human ancestry at the very end: "Light will be thrown on the origins of man . . ." For over a generation after his death, the most significant human fossil proved a forgery. Stringer and Andrews have updated the record. In doing so, they've given us a finely crafted and superbly produced account of our ancestry. The term "world" is significant, as they display fossils, artefacts and the digs where these items were found from the southern tip of Africa to the edge of South America.

Breaking the study into three segments, the authors relate the history of archaeology, illustrating the evolutionary picture and the tools that detail it. They explain what the fossil evidence demonstrates about our ancestors, primate through hominid to human. Finally, they trace the path of our ancestors' expansion out of Africa into Asia, Australia, Europe and the Western Hemisphere. The running theme of the book is that we belong to the ape family. The primates have a long, diverse history, which firmly set our roots. From African origins, the apes sent emigrants into Asia and Europe. The hominin apes followed those paths and further. Human evolution didn't cease merely because our species inhabited most of the planet. The authors note the complexity of evolutionary forces and caution those who feel there is some "directionality" in our rise. Species survival must reflect knowledge of our roots.

As an enhancement to explaining how data about our evolution has been found and assessed, the authors have selected several sites of major importance.
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Format: Hardcover
I recommend that one read an introductory text on biological evolution before going into this book, but even without that backgroud "The Complete World of Human Evolution" is a great way to learn about apparent human evolution. The authors incorporate a lot of charts, graphs, and pictures to illuminate the field of paleoanthropology for the educated reader who has no formal background in the field. I liked how the authors introduced the academic study of paleoanthropology to the reader, as well as briefly discussing a handful of important archaeological sites. They discuss primate anatomy and evolution and how this relates to human evolution. In the middle portion they discuss each genus and/or species and how they fit into the entire picture. The final portions discuss the role genetics plays in our understanding of human evolution and migrations. The tone is mildly academic but if one knows how to read there shouldn't be a problem. Again, I particularly enjoyed this book because of the pictures and drawings of fossils, archaeological sites, etc., but they are by no means a crutch for the authors. They elucidate modern ideas about the subject, and they readily admit it when there isn't a consensus about a particular point. Admittedly, the authors believe what they know and one can tell that in their tone. There is also a nice bibliography but I found it to be a little dated. I would have liked to have seen more up-to-date resources about how the nonspecialist reader can find out about new finds and discoveries. Overall, if one is interested in this subject, one can start here.
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