From Publishers Weekly
Tattersall (Becoming Human
), a curator in the anthropology division of the American Museum of Natural History, uses fossil and archeological records to examine the seven (or so) million years from the dawn of the Hominidae, the family that includes humans, to the gradual development of agriculture and permanent settlements. His topic is huge and his pages are few, but this overview will give readers a sense of the current thinking in the field. Tattersall discusses the characteristics that separate Homo sapiens
from extinct hominids, concluding that the gulf between us and our closest relative opened up when our enlarged brains gave rise to symbolic reasoning. Asserting that hominid evolution is more complex than previously thought and that the idea of a linear progression of species is far too simplistic, Tattersall presents mitochondrial DNA evidence that we are not directly related to Neanderthals and declares, We are not the result of constant fine-tuning over the eons, any more than we are the summit of creation. Finally, he explains the techniques used to interpret the physical evidence of evolutionary processes. This is an elegant, if brief, introduction to a complex field. 20 b&w illus. (Feb.)
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"[L]ucid and insightful prose...[A]n excellent introduction to a part of history that most historians skip over due to its remoteness in time, the complexity and the changing nature of the evidence, and the difficulty of the science it takes to understand it...[A]n extremely well presented and at time engaging history of the exploration of our evolutionary origins." --World History Connected
"A lucid and at times elegant introduction to the complex field of evolutionary theory.... Tattersall takes the reader on a lively and readable romp through the eons of hominid history.... Ian Tattersall's masterful treatment of early human evolution represents an auspicious point of departure for Oxford's new series on world history."--The Journal of World History
"Contributes without doubt to provide a better understanding of academic research in this field."--Elizabeth Do Lam, Teaching History