- 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: 56 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #197,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Complete World of Human Evolution (Second Edition) (The Complete Series) 2nd Edition
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“A spectacular, authoritative guide. . . . It will bring you up to speed on even the most recent discoveries.”
“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.”
“A lavishly illustrated account . . . clearly and authoritatively written . . . describes how the human species evolved into the most successful invasive on Earth.”
“…a readable introduction to human evolution.”
- The Guardian
About the Author
Chris Stringer is Head of Human Origins at the Natural History Museum, London.
Top customer reviews
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These folks know their stuff.
The authors are both prominent anthropologists connected with the Natural History Museum in London. Chris Stringer is a leading anthropologist in more ways than one. Involved since 1970s, he helped develop this field by being among the first: to focus on Modern Human Origins, to bring database analysis to Anthropology and use sophisticated statistical analysis to analyze information “buried” there. He is best known for being a first and leading proponent of “Recently Out of Africa" theory (ROA) for Modern Human origins. (On this he is about as close to the horse’s mouth as you are likely to get).
Peter Andrews was the head of Human Origins at the Museum until he retired. He continued there as a research associate and is a Professor Emeritus, University College, London. He is a noted expert on Miocene Apes and the evolution of primates leading to Human Origins, and is interested in their Paleoecology (ancient habitats and ecology).
LEVEL AND LITERARY QUALITY
So not surprisingly, this book is not the best book to read if it’s your first introduction to the field. But while not at the beginner’s level, it’s only a step up. You will get more out of it if you do read an introductory book like Carl Zimmer’s “Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins” or Robie Mckie’s “Dawn of Man- The Story Of Human Evolution” (IMHO – better written than Carl’s but more out of date). Both of those books were well written by talented science writers, and are heavily illustrated.
This book’s authors are scientists and the book has just a bit of a academia to it (especially the Miocene apes material). But it was written for the lay-public and it is definitely accessible with even just a little background. They try to avoid scientific jargon for and usually clearly define pretty what they cannot avoid. There is no technical analysis involved, not a bit of math or the like.
Chris is a talented wordsmith. His writing is open and conversational and he knows how to add color and interest to make it engaging. But his writing style also suffers from the downside of conversation – it can ramble and jump around and is prone to run-on sentences and paragraphs.
Dr Andrews is less open and conversational, but his structure is more coherent. On the other hand, both men tend to cross-references -move back and forth.
The publisher is great. Not only did they produce a high quality book, I believe they imposed a format that helps. The material is organized by being broken down into clear readable segments with subtitles. And they use copious illustrations that break up the text that would otherwise run-on. (I have read some other of Chris’s book without this format, and it’s a lot more work). A brilliant move by the publisher.
There are numerous illustrations: taking up about half the space of the book. But contrary to one reviewer’s comment’s, they are mostly useful and support the text and add clarify and additional information. There are, however, too many site collection and scenery photos which could be reduced.
The photos and illustrations are mostly high quality (many are colored) which adds to the reading experience. But I am not a fan of the reconstruction scenes. To me that artist’s interpretations tend to look too much alike (between species) and cartoonish - not of the same quality currently available. But some charts are exceptionally good. The species timeline at the front of book is one of the very best I have seen and it helped to stay organized in reading about the species, especially the apes. The land / sea configuration maps on page 100 is not usually seen in introductory books, but helpful. And generally the fossil comparisons are well done.
The book is an up to date (2011-12) overview of the evolution of late primate (especially Miocene Apes) to Modern Human origins. It covers most of the major species of Hominoids. One of the books strongest assets is material on Miocene Apes. Its hard to find such a review, written at this level. The book is worth having for this alone.
It mostly deals with the major fossil species but also describes important collecting sites and gives background on their likely habitats. This has a lot of information and detail packed into its 229 pages (about 115 pages of equivalent text). Most of this information is of a summary nature –the book is a good review of the field, but at the same time, gets into sufficient details on specific aspects of fossils that reveal information about our evolution.
Two other reviewers Vierhout "noord23" and Jerry Saperstein do a good job of summarizing the general content of the book so there is no point of repeating it here.
The publisher’s devices help organize the book, but it would help if the writing itself was more organized and coherent. (which is why I initially was going to give it 4 stars). I tried to use the index to overcome the fractured writing but found it to be a minimal ONE. This is a publishing area that could be improved. I also found the illustration credits almost useless.
A criticism on content is that it’s very weak in DNA and genetics – which has made major contributions lately, and is likely to become one of the most important subfields. You are going to have to get this information from more advanced reading. The same can be said about inferring behavior and social organization. While some is present at the end of the book there is much more that can be said about it. On the plus side, much in this area currently is really speculation – which this book does not get into. (Chris Springer's more advanced book: "Lone Survivors....." goes into more detail here but the fractured writing is the same, and the publisher is poor.)
RATING AND VALUE:
Initially I was going to give this 4 stars. But on reflection decided on 5 stars. For the right person, this would be appropriate. This is a very good book for someone who was more informed but hasn’t checked the field for a while and wants to be brought up to date. It’s good for someone who has an introductory level background but wants to begin to gain more advanced background in the area – an ideal transition book. And it’s illustrations, quality and information about Miocene apes and other incidental information make it worthwhile for others.
Subsequent chapters discuss the origins of primates from the middle miocene to the middle pleistocene, details of many significant hominid finds, and several excellent chapters on interpreting the evidence (how - and what - inferences paleontologists make about hominid behaviors, the geographic spread of homo sapiens, and an outstanding chapter on DNA.) Truly a treasure-trove of information. Equally impressive to the level of detail are the number of pictures and images (over 180) of skulls, bones, charts, maps and photographs of excavations.
While there are a number of excellent books on the subject (Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution,The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution,Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins (MacSci),The Neandertals: Changing the Image of Mankind,The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans), this would be my recommendation as a "first choice" to read for those interested in the subject.