LUCY’S LEGACY ~ The Quest for Human Origins
Book review and technical detail LUCY’S LEGACY ~ The Quest for Human Origins Donald C. Johanson , Kate Wong
|Technical detail of LUCY’S LEGACY ~ The Quest for Human Origins|
|Title||LUCY’S LEGACY ~ The Quest for Human Origins|
|author||Donald C. Johanson , Kate Wong|
|Category||Science & Technology|
|Publishing Date||1st January, 1970|
Fast-moving account of the author’s momentous discovery of the famous “Lucy” fossil.Excavating in Ethiopia in 1974, Johanson (director, Institute of Human Origins/Arizona State Univ.; co-author: From Lucy to Language, 1996, etc.) found a 40-percent-complete fossil of a female hominid skeleton that proved to be 3.2 million years old. He dubbed it “Lucy,” after the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” played repeatedly by members of his team while celebrating the find. More formally named Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy is widely regarded as a crucial evolutionary step between apes and humankind, and the story of her unearthing is well-told in the book’s first half with the help of Scientific American reporter Wong. Plentiful, well-chosen details convey the excitement and importance of the 1974 expedition and those that followed, as well as their frustrations. Descriptions of Ethiopia’s political upheavals and of the Ministry of Culture and Sports Affairs’ byzantine bureaucracy remind us that an anthropological dig is a complicated international affair. Technical information, such as how potassium-argon fossil dating works, is provided in jargon-free prose that draws readers into the paleoanthropologist’s world. Among the welcome flashes of humor is Johanson’s visit to the set of the TV program NOVA, where he advises a rubber-suited actress on how Lucy would have moved. The second half of the book places Lucy in context by exploring links in the evolutionary chain before and after Australopithecus afarensis. It pays tribute to the work of other paleoanthropologists, from pioneers Louis and Mary Leakey to Johanson’s contemporaries. A chapter on archaeologist Michael Morwood’s recent discovery in Southeast Asia of so-called “hobbits”—fossilized skeletons of human ancestors scarcely more than three-feet tall—is especially engrossing. An informative overview of paleontology and evolutionary concepts.
“Lucy is a 3.2-million-year-old skeleton who has become the spokeswoman for human evolution. She is perhaps the best known and most studied fossil hominid of the twentieth century, the benchmark by which other discoveries of human ancestors are judged.”–From Lucy’s LegacyIn his New York Times bestseller, Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind, renowned paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson told the incredible story of his discovery of a partial female skeleton that revolutionized the study of human origins. Lucy literally changed our understanding of our world and who we come from. Since that dramatic find in 1974, there has been heated debate and–most important–more groundbreaking discoveries that have further transformed our understanding of when and how humans evolved. In Lucy’s Legacy, Johanson takes readers on a fascinating tour of the last three decades of study–the most exciting period of paleoanthropologic investigation thus far. In that time, Johanson and his colleagues have uncovered a total of 363 specimens of Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy’s species, a transitional creature between apes and humans), spanning 400,000 years. As a result, we now have a unique fossil record of one branch of our family tree–that family being humanity–a tree that is believed to date back a staggering 7 million years.Focusing on dramatic new fossil finds and breakthrough advances in DNA research, Johanson provides the latest answers that post-Lucy paleoanthropologists are finding to questions such as: How did Homo sapiens evolve? When and where did our species originate? What separates hominids from the apes? What was the nature of Neandertal and modern human encounters? What mysteries about human evolution remain to be solved?Donald Johanson is a passionate guide on an extraordinary journey from the ancient landscape of Hadar, Ethiopia–where Lucy was unearthed and where many other exciting fossil discoveries have since been made–to a seaside cave in South Africa that once sheltered early members of our own species, and many other significant sites. Thirty-five years after Lucy, Johanson continues to enthusiastically probe the origins of our species and what it means to be human.
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