Origins: How Earth’s History Shaped Human History

Lewis Dartnell. Basic, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5416-1790-2
Dartnell (The Knowledge), a University of Westminster science communication professor, links plate tectonics to the emergence of the first hominins in a sometimes simplistic but intriguing look at the environment’s role in shaping human nature. Exploring how climate fluctuation drove hominin species out of Africa, Dartnell reviews early human history, covering migration, the development of agriculture, the rise of Mediterranean cultures, and the political consequences of clay, chalk, flint, copper, kaolin, and other natural resources. Curiously, Dartnell notes, a band of Democratic-leaning counties in otherwise conservative U.S. states coincides with the boundaries of an ancient ocean. He also conjectures loosely on how geology has influenced Britain’s national identity and why China has claimed the Tibetan Plateau. More conclusive is his discussion of how ocean currents have affected exploration and colonization. His writing in places seems aimed at younger readers—volcanoes “pop and fizz,” the earth’s egg shell crust holds gooey mantle, and the land mass that became the East African Ridge is described as “a huge zit.” Science mavens may also be taken aback that he provides primers on some fairly basic concepts, such as ice ages and human genetics. However, the central project of this book—providing a geological take on human history—is well illustrated and at moments, surprising. Agent: Will Francis, Janklow & Nesbit. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/05/2019
Release date: 05/14/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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