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Missing Links: In Search of Human Origins by…

Missing Links: In Search of Human Origins (1981)

by John Reader

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  1. 00
    The Great Dinosaur Discoveries by Darren Naish (AndreasJ)
    AndreasJ: Both books look at palaeontology through the prism of the history of discovery.

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A history of palaeoanthropology organized around a series of epochal fossil finds, starting with the original Neanderthal Man from Germany and ending with Ardipithecus ramidus from Ethiopia, with one chapter dedicated to the Piltdown Man hoax. It's not strictly chronological - the Neanderthal chapter, for example, deals with Neanderthal research down to the book's publication date - but by accident of discovery the overall trend is from younger to older fossils, as the early finds happened to be of relatively late species.

Reader (who's a well-informed outsider rather than a palaeoanthropologist himself) carefully avoids taking sides in any active debate, rather stressing that the existence of debate suggests the inconclusiveness of the evidence. Active debate within the scientific community that is - creationists will not find any comfort in these pages. The picture of human evolution one comes away with is thus far hazier than popular press accounts that present one hypothesis as if the only one.

One unavoidable impression from the story is that palaeoanthropology has and has had more than its fair share of big egos. Reader suggests that this is because consummate self-promoters have been the ones best placed to attract funding for their investigations. Mini-biographies of many of the major figures, such as Dubois and the Leakeys, are given.

All in all an excellent read, my only complaint would be I'd want more of it - many subjects that are touched on could have been treated at greater length. It's already a weighty tome at 538 pages, mind!
1 vote AndreasJ | Nov 8, 2015 |
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This is the story of the search for humanity's origins--from the Middle Ages, when questions of the earth's antiquity first began to arise, through to the latest genetic discoveries that show the interrelatedness of all living creatures. --from publisher description… (more)

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