- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; 1St Edition edition (June 28, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300100477
- ISBN-13: 978-0300100471
- Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 1.2 x 10.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 39 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #630,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans 1St Edition Edition
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
From Publishers Weekly
Remarkable in scope and clarity, this stunning collaboration among scientists, scholars and artists reveals the vast panorama of hominid evolution. The project began when the Fossil Hominid Reconstruction and Research Team, led by anthropologist Sawyer and paleoartist Deak, began reconstructing fossilized skulls and skeletons, using meticulous procedures of forensic anatomical reconstruction to build three-dimensional models of contemporary humankind's known predecessors. Paleontological and anatomical data for each species were combined with anthropological and climatological research to produce this volume, covering 22 species and 7 million years. As chapters move chronologically from our most primitive antecedents, the poorly known "ape-men" of the African Sahel, through more well-known ancestors, such as the Australopithicines, Homo habilis and Neanderthals, the data grows in complexity and quantity; happily, fictional accounts of individual hominids draw readers into each new chapter. Illustrated with astonishingly life-like portraits of long-gone species, this volume also includes appendices that describe in detail how those portraits were achieved. Both inspiring and humbling, this look at humanity's ancestors-the worlds they inhabited, the challenges they faced and the legacies they left behind-is fascinating, informative, and deeply provocative.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
As paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall points out in his introduction to this marvelous new book on our ancestors, we Homo sapiens find ourselves in the unusual situation of being alone on the planet as the sole surviving hominid. For most of the history of the hominid lineage, the world was home to coexisting prehumans and humans. From paleontological and anthropological data previously available only in scientific publications, the authors have created an accessible field guide to our extinct cousins. Beginning each section with a short slice-of-life story about the species in question brings that hominid to life, with the supportive scientific evidence following. Skulls are often the most common or complete fossil evidence, so they are well described, along with other remains (bones and/or tools), fossil sites, other associated animals, the probable climate, and a discussion of the species' classification. Striking illustrations accompany the write-ups and breathe life into dry fossil bones. This very current book explains the science as it now stands and is a must-buy for all libraries. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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But - contrary to other reviewers - I don't think it's a good introductory text. it's basically well written and minimizes technical jargon, but if you are not familiar with the field you would get more from it and appreciate it even more from reading an introductory book(s) first. (E.g. a true introductory text like Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins by Carl Zimmer or slightly more advanced books by Chris Stringer or Ian Tattersall)
One reviewer called it A Hominid Family Photo Album - which is very apt - as it' subtitle says "A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans". It's mostly presentations of the collective species - not about individual fossils but a generalization of the species as a whole.
The best part are the reconstructions - IMHO - the best out there. They are artistically and realistically portrayed - but most importantly, they don't over-humanize the soft features of the species before homo-erectus (a problem with other recent artistic representations). The author's credit Ian Tattersall with guiding their reconstructions, and it shows. They also include some interesting information about their reconstruction process and the history of representations of hominids. The reader should be aware that each of these reconstructions are based on the best current information possible, but still involve inferences and speculation. And the earliest species are very speculative (and the book should really make this point more apparent).
The book has a brief summary of basic facts about the species. The descriptions of the scientific data available on the different species was a good synopsis of the species bones, age, environment, possible diet and anything else that might be known.
But for me the greatest and under appreciated aspect of the book is that it gives a fairly objective evaluation of species and fossils status and what can reliably inferred from fossils and other evidence - and where some scientists are making weakly substantiated inferences or outright speculations. I don't think it's possible to find a better summary and it will give a serious student insight to the field. This book is full of such gems.
Creationist might jump at this because it exposes the uncertainty in the field, but the truth is - the field is far from set. It's in the process of unfolding - true of most sciences, but especially true of human origins which has only recently been able to locate and focus on the right locations of fossils in the right time periods. It's better that this information has been made accessible to us so we have a true picture of this interesting field.
You will find very little about evolutionary processes, genetics, determining age or related information and nothing about the field processes or fossil analysis but this doesn't appear to be the intent of the book - and a reader would benefit from other books more focused on those areas.
There is almost nothing about individual fossils or details about the collecting areas - beyond what is summarized for the species as a whole. But given the summary intent of the book, I am not certain this is necessary. Readers should just be aware that they will have to find that information elsewhere.
To the authors - Very good job. But as good as it is, the book can be significantly improved. Ralph D. Hermansen's review makes several valuable suggestion which I heartly endorse. In addition I would note that the book shows very few fossils - 15 total, mostly skulls and only one skeleton and could benefit from more. There is little about potential lineages and very little on interspecies comparisons and about the development of bipedalism and its relationship to the evolution of Hominids. Also I would have liked to know which specific fossils the reconstruction are based on and what assumptions and deductions/inductions did they make to develop the reconstructions. All of this would support the central purpose of the book, and I believe make it more beneficial.
Finally I join other reviewers who are not that enthusiastic about the little vignettes at the first of each chapter. Intriguing idea to give the reader insight into the lives of the hominids, but in executing them - less fantasy and more science might be better.
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.