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Ancient Bones: Unearthing the Astonishing New Story of How We Became Human (2019)

av Madelaine Bohme

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
5215398,535 (3.79)6

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» Se även 6 omnämnanden

engelska (13)  tyska (1)  nederländska (1)  Alla språk (15)
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I had not given much thought to what was knowable about pre-history before reading this book, which poses a fascinating and compelling theory extending humankind's history 3 million years further into the past from "Lucy".

Not only do the authors explain what changes made us the noblest ape, but they also describe the changing environment which forced those evolutionary adaptations - and the methods used to determine.

Fascinating stuff. Very grateful to have received an advance reader's copy via LibraryThing. ( )
  chaz166 | Feb 9, 2021 |
In Ancient Bones Madelaine Bohme reviews analysis of current work in paleoanthropology, including her own work, to question the long-accepted theory of Africa as the original home of the human race. The bones of Ethiopian Lucy are 3.2 million years old. Bohme and her team in Germany found bones of a hominin millions of years older than the African finds. She evaluates other European and Asian discoveries of very early human ancestors for the first ⅔ of the book.
These hominins were able to walk upright and she discusses the changes necessary for feet, the placement of the head in relationship to the spine, the rib cage, the hands in all of these creatures. My only quibble with this part of the book (and it's a feature I particularly dislike in academics writing for a general audience)is her attempt at You Are There moments at the beginning of each section. Instead of engaging this reader, they feel like wasted paper.
On the other hand, the book came alive as she began to discuss the effects of climate change and the development of a Savannah belt on the evolution of humans. She traces the cause and effect of using fire to its making the development of smaller teeth possible, which makes greater intelligence and spoken language possible. She also gives a fascinating look at other human lines that developed and speculates as to why only Homo Sapiens (albeit with Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in our genome depending on where we live) was the only species to survive.

Thank you to Early Reviewers for my copy of this book! ( )
  LizzieD | Jan 23, 2021 |
I got Ancient Bones through LT's Early Reviewer program and it is one of the best books I have received through the program. Ancient Bones is a well written and readable update of the current status of paleontology/archaeology of mankind. To expand, I use paleontology/archaeology as the distinction between the two is generally understood to be that archaeology deals with anatomically modern humans with archaeology and later, human culture while paleontology focuses on the fossils of non-human life. This book focuses distinctly on the transition point (or points) between modern humans and proto-ape ancestors.

Ancient Bones makes the argument that humanity descended more directly from a species in Europe and thus challenges the long prevailing "out of Africa" human migration theory. While interesting and well argued, this section of the book is more a snapshot of one side of an ongoing scientific debate about the origins of humanity. The more relevant and interesting portion of the book to me was the broader update that is provided about the scientific consensus surrounding human evolution and how it can be reconciled with the finding that some of our oldest ancestors were found in Europe.

If it has been awhile since you learned some of this history, the update is a bit of a surprise. Personally, I had the sense that our knowledge of human evolution was built on the discoveries of people like the Leakeys and their work in Olduvai Gorge that established that our first ancestors lived in eastern Africa and eventually migrated north into Europe and Asia. Neanderthals were alternatively part of the line or an offshoot that died out but otherwise modern humans arose in Africa and slowly spread throughout the globe.

Ancient Bones does a marvelous job of updating this understanding. In doing so it incorporates finds like the so called "hobbit" skeleton in Indonesia, Denisovan remains from Russia, and a lot of the information we have learned from detailed genetic analysis of earlier finds . This results in a far more complex story of evolution with different proto-humans appearing and disappearing with substantial evidence that the different species were still closely related enough to interbreed. The genetics also point to other branches of the human tree that we still haven't found.

As Ancient Bones freely acknowledges there remain a lot of unanswered questions and more we need to learn. With that acknowledgment, Ancient Bones serves as a very readable update on the current understanding of where we came from. Highly recommended. ( )
  Oberon | Jan 15, 2021 |
Though a fan of science in its many forms, I am much more familiar with the early days of Christian Biblical history than with scientific history of the human species. I have studied it, but the ground seems to be slowly shifting in this realm. Böhme details these shifts in this work as he summarizes the evidence over the last 20-30 years. She does so through a lucid, suspenseful, and engaging manner. She questions many older theories through generally acknowledged facts and does not appear to have an overriding agenda.

Genetic analysis is beginning to teach us much about early humans and human-like species. The story that is emerging is related here (and it’s not a finished story yet). Humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans likely all shared DNA (that is, interbred) until differences united in what came to be known as the species of Homo sapiens. Those species likely came out of a “savannah belt” that included not just Africa but also Eurasia. Thought by thought and concept by concept, Böhme unpacks how we have come to grasp this new story. She does so through finely examining the data from find after find and skillfully integrating it in with existing theory. (That is, she proceeds like a scientist should.)

The translation is clear and flows well. Aside from direct references to Germany, it’s hard to tell that this work was originally composed in the German language. It is quite accessible to general audiences that have an interest in science. It doesn’t bog down in needless detail but keeps perspective on the big picture. The illustrations – particularly the maps – teach a lot.

Paleontology is fascinating because like religion, it can tell us where we came from and thus where we can go. Ideally, it does so in a non-ideologically driven manner, and Böhme represents this field well in this regard. If you’re curious about knowing the latest science on where humans came from, this book provides a compelling investigation. As with all science, it may not contain the final word, but it summarizes our best guess at present. I’m glad Böhme’s research has led my curiosity in digging through the facts as she has done with her hands through some of the finds. ( )
  scottjpearson | Dec 14, 2020 |
A fascinating look at the newest research into our earliest ancestors. The author pulled together the stories of the varied finds of (sometimes tiny) bones/teeth of early apes and humans in a coherent and straightforward manner. As an amateur archeologist (I volunteer at digs), I loved the descriptions of digs and the science behind the analysis of bones. We have so many more tests available to us now to determine the age and analyze the context of the finds than we did in the middle 20C.

Bohme also explores the "Out of Africa" theory of human migration and gives a good bit of evidence that it might be in error. I kept waiting for her to also address the political implications of overturning this popular and widely-held theory, but she chose not to get into that hot mess. She stuck to the findings and science as we know it now--and pointed out that it might change as we get more evidence. This was an ARC and missing some of my favorite parts of research books, such as an index, but all the notes were provided.

NOTE: The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book through an early reader program in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  MarysGirl | Dec 1, 2020 |
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