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Born in Africa: The Quest for the Origins of Human Life [Paperback]

Martin Meredith
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 8 2012
Africa does not give up its secrets easily. Buried there lie answers about the origins of humankind. And yet, though vital clues still remain hidden, scientists have over the last century transformed our understanding about the beginnings of human life. In Born in Africa, Martin Meredith follows scientists' trail of discoveries about human origins, recounting their intense rivalry, personal feuds, and fierce controversies as well as their feats of skill and endurance. And he limns their momentous accomplishments: Scientists have identified more than twenty species of extinct humans. They have firmly established Africa as the birthplace not only of humankind but also of modern humans. They have revealed how early technology, language ability and artistic endeavour all originated in Africa; and they have shown how small groups of Africans spread out from Africa in an exodus sixty-thousand years ago to populate the rest of the world.

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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncovering the mysteries of human origins Sept. 1 2011
By Stephen Pletko TOP 50 REVIEWER
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars good overview March 1 2014
By Mary F
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient Mankind 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 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!
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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>>

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proving himself the top Africa specialist Sept. 2 2011
By Chris M. White - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I've read Meredith's other important works but this one puts him in a category all by himself. Aside from his books on political history, biography, and the Boer Wars, now he has established himself as an African scientific historian with this latest book. You will learn so much more than you can imagine if you pick up this book, take notes on it as you read, and then discuss it with others. You will not regret it.
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