The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know about Human Evolution

Ian Tattersall, Author Oxford University Press, USA $35 (288p) ISBN 978-0-19-506101-7
Head of Manhattan's American Museum of Natural History's anthropology department, Tattersall here weaves a vigorous historical narrative of paleontologists' attempts to reconstruct human origins from the fossil record. Beginning with the unearthing of Neanderthals and ``Java Man,'' he carefully sifts through a remarkable succession of hominid finds from Africa, Eurasia, China, Indonesia and Israel, including Don Johanson's 1973 discovery in Ethiopia of ``Lucy,'' a 3.4-million-year-old female hominid skeleton, and the Leakey team's 1984 find, ``Turkana Boy,'' a 1.6-million-year-old Homo erectus skeleton uncovered in Kenya. Citing disagreements among scientists over interpretations of radiocarbon dating, comparative anatomy and biochemical techniques, Tattersall unreels a catalogue of paleoanthropological misidentifications, dogmas and misperceptions. He draws a hypothetical evolutionary tree that includes three genera of our hominid ancestors-Homo and Australopithecus (accepted by conventional wisdom) plus a new genus, Paranthropus-altogether embracing a dozen species leading to Homo sapiens. Illustrated. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/1995
Release date: 03/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-19-510981-8
Hardcover - 276 pages - 978-0-585-11178-0
Open Ebook - 276 pages - 978-0-19-976187-6
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