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The Fossil Chronicles: How Two Controversial Discoveries Changed Our View of Human Evolution

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Two discoveries of early human relatives, one in 1924 and one in 2003, radically changed scientific thinking about our origins. Dean Falk, a pioneer in the field of human brain evolution, offers this fast-paced insiders account of these discoveries, the behind-the-scenes politics embroiling the scientists who found and analyzed them, and the academic and religious controversies they generated. The first is the Taung child, a two-million-year-old skull from South Africa that led anatomist Raymond Dart to argue that this creature had walked upright and that Africa held the key to the fossil ancestry of our species. The second find consisted of the partial skeleton of a three-and-a-half-foot-tall woman, nicknamed Hobbit, from Flores Island, Indonesia. She is thought by scientists to belong to a new, recently extinct species of human, but her story is still unfolding. Falk, who has studied the brain casts of both Taung and Hobbit, reveals new evidence crucial to interpreting both discoveries and proposes surprising connections between this pair of extraordinary specimens.

Review:

"Falk, an anthropologist with the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, N.M., explores two key discoveries and the fallout they caused among paleoanthropologists regarding their significance for human evolution: the Taung child in South Africa in 1924 and the skeleton nicknamed Hobbit, found on Flores Island, Indonesia, in 2004. The author, closely involved with the latter discovery, vividly captures the excitement of uncovering new knowledge and the passion scientists bring to their work, placing each find in the broader context of its day (doubts about Taung, for instance, followed from the 1912 Pilodown Man hoax), and examining what each find teaches us about ourselves and where we come from. Falk's tone is conversational — regarding Hobbit, she quotes from her diary, 'Yippee Skippee... She ain't a microcephalic!' — but frequently gives way to dense passages of data. The book is most enlightening in its treatment of the personal politics and rivalries that accompany the scientific process, the internecine quarrels over the specifics of evolution even among scientists who agree on the theory's broad outlines, and how 'scientists... can be as emotionally invested in their explanations of human origins as religious fundamentalists are in theirs. After all, the topic literally entails matters of life and death.' 30 illus. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

"With wit and authority, Falk tells the parallel stories of two fossil discoveries that surprised the world, revealing the larger significance of these finds. Her lively recounting combines new historical research with her first-hand involvement in controversial interpretations."—Pat Shipman, author of The Animal Connection and The Man Who Found the Missing Link

“An absorbing and engagingly personal account, by a leading participant, of two of the major “brain wars” that have raged along the path to our current understanding of human evolution.”--Ian Tattersall, author of The Fossil Trail and Human Origins

“In The Fossil Chronicles, Falk engages us with a ‘tale of two brains. While navigating the surfaces of these ancient brains, she reveals the convolutions of scientific controversies and how personalities and paleopolitics shape the ways we think about human evolution.”—Nina G. Jablonski, author of Skin: A Natural History

About the Author

Dean Falk is a Senior Scholar at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her previous books include Finding Our Tongues: Mothers, Infants, and the Origin of Language and Braindance, Revised and Expanded Edition: New Discoveries about Human Origins and Brain Evolution.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. Of Paleopolitics and Missing Links

2. Taung: A Fossil to Rival Piltdown

3. Taungs Checkered Past

4. Sulcal Skirmishes

5. Once upon a Hobbit

6. Flos Little Brain

7. Sick Hobbits, Quarrelsome Scientists

8. Whence Homo floresiensis?

9. Bones to Pick

Notes

Glossary

References

Index

Product Details

ISBN:
9780520266704
Author:
Falk, Dean
Publisher:
University of California Press
Subject:
Biology-Evolution
Subject:
Anthropology - Physical
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Series Volume:
How Two Controversia
Publication Date:
20111031
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
23 b/w photographs, 7 line illustrations
Pages:
280
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 1 in 1.03 lb

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General Medicine
History and Social Science » Anthropology » Physical
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Evolution

The Fossil Chronicles: How Two Controversial Discoveries Changed Our View of Human Evolution Used Hardcover
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$24.00 In Stock
Product details 280 pages University of California Press - English 9780520266704 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Falk, an anthropologist with the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, N.M., explores two key discoveries and the fallout they caused among paleoanthropologists regarding their significance for human evolution: the Taung child in South Africa in 1924 and the skeleton nicknamed Hobbit, found on Flores Island, Indonesia, in 2004. The author, closely involved with the latter discovery, vividly captures the excitement of uncovering new knowledge and the passion scientists bring to their work, placing each find in the broader context of its day (doubts about Taung, for instance, followed from the 1912 Pilodown Man hoax), and examining what each find teaches us about ourselves and where we come from. Falk's tone is conversational — regarding Hobbit, she quotes from her diary, 'Yippee Skippee... She ain't a microcephalic!' — but frequently gives way to dense passages of data. The book is most enlightening in its treatment of the personal politics and rivalries that accompany the scientific process, the internecine quarrels over the specifics of evolution even among scientists who agree on the theory's broad outlines, and how 'scientists... can be as emotionally invested in their explanations of human origins as religious fundamentalists are in theirs. After all, the topic literally entails matters of life and death.' 30 illus. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by ,
"With wit and authority, Falk tells the parallel stories of two fossil discoveries that surprised the world, revealing the larger significance of these finds. Her lively recounting combines new historical research with her first-hand involvement in controversial interpretations."—Pat Shipman, author of The Animal Connection and The Man Who Found the Missing Link

“An absorbing and engagingly personal account, by a leading participant, of two of the major “brain wars” that have raged along the path to our current understanding of human evolution.”--Ian Tattersall, author of The Fossil Trail and Human Origins

“In The Fossil Chronicles, Falk engages us with a ‘tale of two brains. While navigating the surfaces of these ancient brains, she reveals the convolutions of scientific controversies and how personalities and paleopolitics shape the ways we think about human evolution.”—Nina G. Jablonski, author of Skin: A Natural History

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