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Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World's Most Famous Human Fossils Hardcover – August 16, 2016
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"Seven Skeletons is not simply a mixtape of paleoanthropology’s greatest hits. Instead, Ms. Pyne uses each celebrity fossil as a springboard to ask why these particular fossils have captured our attention.... [A]n important reminder that we are a self-obsessed species that loves a good hero story."—Brian Switek, The Wall Street Journal
"[Pyne's] selections highlight the different ways a fossil can achieve celebrity status. Catchy nicknames, media attention, unusual circumstances surrounding a discovery and even scandals can help.... The book provides plenty of interesting backstory for each fossil.... [A] peek at how the field of paleoanthropology itself has evolved over the last century."—Science News
“Describing human evolution through accounts of fossils that became media events might seem a publicity ploy, but science journalist Pyne pulls it off. [Pyne] casts her net... widely, adding captivating accounts of how each discovery fascinated the mass media and entered literature and popular culture.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"Highly readable and an excellent title for armchair explorers with dreams of their own history-making discoveries."—Booklist
"Impressively blends the humanities and science to greatly enrich both."—Publishers Weekly
“Ever wondered how we got here, and how we think we know? Lydia Pyne takes us on a grand romp through some high (and low) points of the scientific discovery and cultural interpretation of the human fossil record, and along the way shows just how intimately the two are intertwined.”—Ian Tattersall, author of The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack and Other Cautionary Tales from Human Evolution
“How and why do some important fossils become famous and others do not? Seven Skeletons is a story about science, but also its impact in popular culture… remind[ing] us that context matters in shaping how we think about science and the past.”—Samuel J. Redman, author of Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums
“As lively and readable as it is informative and instructive. By framing her account around the intimate history of seven individual hominid fossils, Pyne shows that paleoanthropology is about far more than dead and dry bones.”—Lukas Rieppel, Assistant Professor of History, Brown University
“A skilled historian and a lively, colorful writer, Lydia Pyne takes us beyond the headlines and into the archives, revealing intimate details of scientific investigation, discovery, marketing, and myth-making in the stories of seven of the best-known human fossils. Seven Skeletons is a sprightly, informative page-turner with a deeper message: the strange careers of human remains have much to tell us about how we use science to understand what it means to be human.”—Nathaniel Comfort, Professor of the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University
About the Author
Lydia Pyne has degrees in history and anthropology and a PhD in history and philosophy of science from Arizona State University. She has participated in field and archival work in South Africa, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Iran, and the American Southwest. She has published articles and essays in The Atlantic, Nautilus, and Public Domain Review. She lives in Austin, Texas, where she is an avid rock climber and mountain biker.
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Top Customer Reviews
My paradigm for this kind of writing is Margaret Wertheim. Pythagoras' Trousers is a beautiful example of how someone can take a scientific topic - in Ms. Wertheims' case physics and mathematics - and use it as a mirror of our own culturally conditioned minds and hearts.
One specific frustration is in the chapter on Lucy, Ms. Pyne mentions the important paleoartistic work of John Gurche. I looked, apparently in vain, for a photo of his interpretation of Lucy. Instead, I found a photo of Lucy from the backside, being prepared for display by another excellent artist - Elisabeth Daynes
And this is an exciting and encouraging look at the field of paleoanthropology and access to these marvelous discoveries by both professional and amateur alike. As this field has grown over the last hundred years, the knowledge accrued has escalated in both quantity and speed of revelation to the point where new finds are shared rapidly with the scientific community and the public very quickly. Lydia Pyne does a detailed history of the seven most well-known fossil finds - Lucy, The Old Man of La Chapelle, Piltdown, the Taung Child, Peking Man, Flo and the newest finds, Sediba. She explains in layman's terms why these fossil finds are the seven best known out of thousands of important finds, and what it tales to generate a famous fossil. An important work for all of us interested in archaeology and the evolution of humanity.