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Born in Africa: The Quest for the Origins of Human Life Paperback – May 8 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (May 8 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610391055
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610391054
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 14.5 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #453,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Kirkus Reivew, April 15, 2011

"An appealing account of human evolution and the fiercely competitive anthropologists who are unearthing our ancestors’ remains and arguing over what they mean…. The author does a superb job of describing the nuts-and-bolts of field research, the meaning of the often headline-producing findings and the ever-changing variety of species who split off from the common ancestors of chimpanzees and hominids.”


About the Author

Martin Meredith is a journalist, biographer, and historian who has written extensively on Africa and its recent history. He is the author of many books including The Fate of Africa and Diamonds, Gold, and War. He lives near Oxford, England.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pletko TOP 50 REVIEWER on Sept. 1 2011
Format: Hardcover
XXXXX

"This book follows the endeavours of scientists striving to uncover the mysteries of human origins over the past 100 years...

The first part of this book focuses upon the exploits of key field scientists, starting with the pioneer researchers of the early twentieth century. Their task was not only to find significant fossils--the principal evidence of human evolution--but to convince a sceptical scientific establishment of the importance of their discoveries. Some fossil finds remained in dispute for years. Modern researchers pushing back the frontier of human origins to 7 million years ago have encountered similar hurdles.

The second part of [this] book opens at that primordial frontier and moves forward along the trail of discoveries leading to the emergence of our own species, Homo sapiens, and its gradual migration around the world."

The above comes from this slim, informative book by Martin Meredith. Meredith is a journalist, biographer, historian, and author. He has written extensively on Africa and its recent history.

The pioneer scientists striving to uncover the mystery of human origins, known as the science of palaeoanthropology, were mainly anthropologists and archaeologists. Today we have a many other scientists involved in this science such as molecular biologists, biochemists, geneticists, palaeoclimatologists, geochronologists, and palaeontologists (scientist who studies fossils and the biology of extinct organisms).

(More precisely, palaeoanthropology is the "study of the physical and behavioural aspects of humans in prehistory.")

The key indicators of humankind's ancient ancestors are fossils.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christy Urban on Oct. 15 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is a great read, it is very well written and engaging. It is a book I would reread just for the enjoyment and relaxation of doing so.
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By Pastryboy on March 22 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent well written book which clearly lays out the timeline and origins of Human life. Detailed descriptions of the excavations of the Leakeys, Johanson, White, and all the well known Archaeologists, paleoanthropologists,and the many other scientists involved in "putting the pieces" together.
A highly recommended fascinating book. Difficult to put down.

[[ISBN:1586486632 Born in Africa: The Quest for the Origins of Human Life]]
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By Mary F on March 1 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I like to keep up with the latest developments in human evolution. Sometimes its hard to understand the sequence and relationships among the different forms. This book made it much simpler to create a mental picture of the progression.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 26 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Good Overview of Hominid Evolution and Paleoanthropology in Africa June 5 2011
By Book Fanatic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a short book and reads quite rapidly and easily. I found it to be a very good overview of the topic. The author takes the reader through the historical discovery of hominid fossils in Africa (and to some degree elsewhere) up to the very latest. He does a good job explaining what they contribute to our understanding of hominid evolution. Towards the end he brings us up to date on the evidence brought to bear by biological techniques such as analysis of mitochondrial DNA and y-chromosome lineages.

Given the short length of the book and the breadth of topic one should not expect in-depth analysis. This is an overview and on that basis it succeeds very well. It was interesting and informative. If you are well read on this topic you probably won't learn much but you probably will still enjoy the book.

I have no problem recommending the book to those interested in "The Quest for the Origins of Human Life". Thumbs up!
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Uncovering the mysteries of human origins Sept. 1 2011
By Stephen Pletko - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
XXXXX

"This book follows the endeavours of scientists striving to uncover the mysteries of human origins over the past 100 years...

The first part of this book focuses upon the exploits of key field scientists, starting with the pioneer researchers of the early twentieth century. Their task was not only to find significant fossils--the principal evidence of human evolution--but to convince a sceptical scientific establishment of the importance of their discoveries. Some fossil finds remained in dispute for years. Modern researchers pushing back the frontier of human origins to 7 million years ago have encountered similar hurdles.

The second part of [this] book opens at that primordial frontier and moves forward along the trail of discoveries leading to the emergence of our own species, Homo sapiens, and its gradual migration around the world."

The above comes from this slim, informative book by Martin Meredith. Meredith is a journalist, biographer, historian, and author. He has written extensively on Africa and its recent history.

The pioneer scientists striving to uncover the mystery of human origins, known as the science of palaeoanthropology, were mainly anthropologists and archaeologists. Today we have a many other scientists involved in this science such as molecular biologists, biochemists, geneticists, palaeoclimatologists, geochronologists, and palaeontologists (scientist who studies fossils and the biology of extinct organisms).

(More precisely, palaeoanthropology is the "study of the physical and behavioural aspects of humans in prehistory.")

The key indicators of humankind's ancient ancestors are fossils. Fossils are "the remains or impression of a prehistoric plant or animal that has become hardened into rock." The goal of past field researchers was to find the oldest human ancestor. Today this goal has broadened to include the search for the origins of modern humans as well as human ancestors.

Meredith in his book tells us about the history of the discovery of fossils. We get to follow the significant field researchers and scientists who have made these discoveries.

As you probably can imagine, telling a story like this can be quite involved, even tedious. This is what makes Meredith's book a joy to read: his book is never tedious. He cuts out extraneous detail.

All the material in this book about the exploits of key field researchers was certainly interesting. But what I found especially interesting were the personal feuds, intense disputes and rivalries, and on-going controversies involved in the science of palaeoanthropology. For example, Meredith tells us:

"A Rift Valley conference in London in 1975 was marred by scientists shouting at each other."

You will learn much after reading this book. But there is one undeniable conclusion:

"We have all inherited an African past."

The cover of this book (displayed above by Amazon) shows an area called Olduvai Gorge in East Africa. It is sometimes called "the Cradle of Mankind."

Meredith tells his readers about the sources of his book:

"The material for this book is based largely on the work, writings, and reminiscences of several generations of scientists."

Finally, there are over forty black and white pictures found in this book, divided into two groups. My favourite, found in the second group, has the caption:

"A reconstruction of the skeleton of Lucy--Australopithecus afarensis--discovered in Hadar, Ethiopia, in 1974."

In conclusion, this is a valuable book that gives a good, non-detailed account of the exploits of anthropologists, archaeologists, and other scientists attempting to uncover the mysteries of human origins over the past century!!

(first published 2011; map of Southern Africa; map of Africa; map of Eastern Africa: The Great Rift Valley; preface; introduction; 2 parts or 18 chapters; main narrative 195 pages; glossary; notes on sources; selected bibliography; index; about the author)

<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>

XXXXX
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Looking for a great book on human origins? July 15 2011
By Bill Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Look no further!

I read this twice through on vacation. It's a great read, and up-to-date, having just been released. I had been looking for something that explained all the finds and what they meant in the big picture of human origins. This book does that, and it also gives an interesting history of the finds from the first discovery of Australopithecus right up to Turkana Boy. As an added bonus it gives a wonderful short summary of the migration paths of the human family out of Africa.

Loved it!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Born in Africa unique and timely Aug. 27 2011
By P. McClain - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wonderful review of the latest findings and thoughts on the origins of homo sapiens, but presented in a unique way, chronologically, historically, with the politics behind the finds and theories also fleshed out. I read a lot of books in this area of human evolution and the subsequent migration "out of Africa" and this book is a great supplement and very readable for the layperson.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
All about the origins of humankind Aug. 23 2011
By Simon Laub - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
We all want to know something about our origins! And after reading Martin Merediths book you will certainly be a little wiser. There are many pieces to the puzzle though. And there is no simple path, where evolution turns a crouching ape into a tall, erect human male over the ages. Instead, the path to Homo Sapiens was very indirect. Along the way, our planet witnessed many variations of the human form, multiple migrations out of Africa. etc.

Nevertheless, Martin Meredith gives a good overview:
Most of our modern day ideas about evolution comes from Darwin, so it is fitting that Martin Meredith starts his book about the quest for the origins of human life, with a Darwin quote! The most likely birthplace of humankind is Africa, since it is the homeland of gorillas and chimpanzees, apes which he deemed to be our closest living relatives. In Darwins ''The Descent of Man'' his precise words are: ''The living mammals are closely related to the extinct species of the same region. It is therefore probable that Africa was formerly inhabited by extinct apes closely allied to the gorilla and the chimpanzee; and as these two species are now man's nearest allies, it is somewhat more probable that our earlier progenitors lived on the African continent than elsewhere.''
That all sounds very logical to the modern reader, but obviously Meredith is right to state that: The implications of Darwins theory were profound, it opened up the possibility of a world without purpose, or direction, or longterm goal. It stripped humankind of its unique status and was seen to undermine Victorian respect for hierarchy and social order.

Sure, it might all be horrible confusion. But there is also truth and wonder in Darwins approach, and Meredith opens the book with a very fitting Sir Thomas Browne quote: ''We carry within us the wonders we seek without us.''

Eventually we became humans though. And off to a rough ''start'':
I.e. harsh conditions in Africa clearly took their toll on Homo Sapiens. Genetic researchers point to a bottleneck in population numbers some 60.000 years ago. Some estimates suggest that the numbers plummeted to as low as 5.000 people.
But, 60.000 years ago - African hunter gatherers had developed a fully fledged language. Making small groups more cohesive and facilitating long-range planning. And, according to the genetic evidence, all human lineages in the world today can be traced back to this ancestral population in Africa 60.000 years ago.
Then, some 60-50.000 years ago, geneticists informs us, a few people from the African population (perhaps as few as 150) left Africa at the southern end of the Red Sea, and went on to populate the rest of the world.

What a story!

-Simon


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