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African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity [Paperback]

Chris Stringer , Robin McKie

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Owl Books (NY); Reprint edition (Jun 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805058141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805058147
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 640,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for a much maligned book. 23 May 1999
By "rgrumm" - Published on Amazon.com
I pondered purchasing this book for quite a long time based on some of the negative views written on this page about this book. After reading several other books on this topic I took the plunge. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found some of the reviews about the book to be simplistic or myopic in thought. I ponder how many of the bad reviews were written by paleontologists who disagree with C. Stringer. Being a meteorologist, I found nothing offensive. I strongly agreed with his concept of hard scientific data and quantifying numbers to prove points.
No doubt, this book was written with latter evidence, including the DNA evidence that allows more specific conclusions. I found the lineage and concepts in line with those put forward by Tattersal and others suggesting no real bombshells in this book.
The book reads very well and is generally well written. The book portrays what most up-to-date books on this topic cover in a concise and consistent manner. The treatment of Neanderthals is good and in no way is negative. It is tragic that they did not survive much beyond about 30 kyrs ago. Anyone interested in current thinking on human evolutions should read this book. Finally, the title of this book is well taken; we are all Africans based on our evolution. Too bad we all don't realize who and what we all are!
26 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good -- as far as it goes 6 Feb 2000
By J. P. Rushton - Published on Amazon.com
This book should be read in conjunction with my own Race, Evolution, and Behavior so that all the missing pieces of the puzzle can be seen. The parts of the book that review human origins are competent and very readable. Unfortunately, major errors appear in the book when it descends to the politically obligatory trashing of both The Bell Curve and my own work. In my case, instead of taking the time to read, cite, and critique my 1995 book intelligently, the authors rely mainly on a 1994 account of it in the tabloid magazine Rolling Stone! The basic political argument of African Exodus is as follows: "In any case, the story of our African Exodus makes it unlikely that there are significant structural or functional differences between the brains of the world's various peoples" (p. 181). The logic here is especially odd given that other parts of the book present a fascinating discussion of how populations vary in jaw size and in number of teeth. For example, page 215 states: "Among Europeans, for example, it has been found that up to 15 percent of people have at least two wisdom teeth missing...while in east Asia, the figure can be as much as 30 percent in some areas." As an example of evolutionary pressure, the book describes how before modern medicine, impacted wisdom teeth often became infected and led to death. The authors appear to find it plausible for evolution to act through differential death rates resulting from differences in the number of wisdom teeth and yet find it implausible that death rates could vary in different regions because of differential intelligence as an adaptation to extreme cold. While Stringer and McKie describe how noses and skin color have been shaped in different regions, they deny that there are any cognitive differences and they withhold from readers the modern literature on brain size and IQ. Perhaps least forthright in this regard is the citation (p. 177) of Beals et al.'s (1984) study of worldwide variation in cranial size (which I cited earlier) and their attribution of these racial differences only to "climate," as though climate is not a likely potent source of natural selection for intelligence.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Steven H. Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Christopher Brian Stringer (born 1947) is a British anthropologist who is a Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum. Robin McKie is a science writer. They wrote in the Preface to this 1996 book, "For the past few years, a small group of scientists... have shown that we belong to a young species, which... conquered the world in a few millenia. The story... challenges many basic assumptions we have about ourselves: that 'races' deeply divide our populations; that we owe our success to our big brains; and that our ascent was an inevitable one. Far from it... Neanderthals became extinct even though they had bigger brains than Homo sapiens; while chance as much as 'good design' has favored our evolution."

They summarize, "an upright, small-brained ape gave rise to several different hominid lines and eventually... led to the emergence of Homo sapiens... one group of our immediate predecessors, the Neanderthals... [were] an intelligent species in their own right---although... we have learned that they are not the ancestors of human beings today, but are more like... cousins." (Pg. 83)

They argue, "Of course, there was clearly no single exodus, no one triumphant army of early hunter-gatherers who were led Out of Africa toward a new world by a Paleolithic Moses. Instead, our exodus would have occurred in trickles as our ancestors slowly seeped out of the continent, expanding their hunting ranges and taking over new territory." (Pg. 160-161)

They state, "The progeny of the people who found Australia 50,000 years ago, and the descendants of the tribes who poured down the Americas 12,000 years ago, as well as the heirs to all those other settlers of Europe, Africa, and Asia, share a common biological bond. They are all the children of those Africans who emerged from their homeland only a few ticks ago on our evolutionary clock... underneath our species has scarcely differentiated at all." (Pg. 177) They add, "Our exodus's timescale is so brief that only slight differences, if any, in intellect and innate behavior are likely to have evolved between modern human populations." (Pg. 183) They suggest, "it was the genetic capacity to speak a complex language that raised modern humans from the millennia-long doldrums we were sharing with the Neanderthals until 40,000 years ago. It gave us the power to take over the world." (Pg. 205)

This book will be of definite interest (whether or not one accepts all of the arguments and evidence presented) to anyone studying the orgins of humanity, as well as various modern ethnic groups.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars VERY INFORMATIVE 18 Mar 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I picked up this book simply because I wanted to learn about the origins of mankind. The authors provide ample and well-sustained evidence for their points. The book is fairly recent and thus has the advantage of hindsight, new knowledge and modern research techniques, such as DNA tests, which the authors use to support their argument.
This is not to say that it is perfectly logical. I found the book's low point to be the authors' reasoning for the higher prevalence of Rh-negative blood among very old Western European groups (such as the Basques), which somehow they explain away by those groups' relative isolation from new agricultural societies with higher counts of Rh-positive blood coming in from the East. Also, I didn't care to take sides in an intellectual (and personal) argument with other scientists who don't share the Out of Africa theory, which seems a hidden objective of this book. As for "African Exodus" being a response to "The Bell Curve", I didn't quite get the authors' punch line. This last point, however, didn't bother me at all since The Bell Curve is so obviously discredited by itself.
Read this book if you want to be informed, period.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative and up to date research 4 Mar 2011
By Aleutian Ice Skater - Published on Amazon.com
I thought the book was excellent. As a geographer, I am interested in human origins and migrations. I found this book to be well written and well researched. I have shared it with several of my anthropologist friends who have also enjoyed the material. I would recommend this book to anyone with similar interests.
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