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Homo Britannicus: The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain [Kindle Edition]

Chris Stringer
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Book Description

HOMO BRITANNICUS tells the epic history of life in Britain, from man’s very first footsteps to the present day. Drawing on all the latest evidence and techniques of investigation, Chris Stringer describes times when Britain was so tropical that man lived alongside hippos and sabre tooth tiger, times so cold we shared this land with reindeer and mammoth, and times colder still when we were forced to flee altogether. This is the first time we have known the full extent of this history: the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project, led by Chris, has made discoveries that have stunned the world, pushing back the earliest date of arrival to 700,000 years ago. Our ancestors have been fighting a dramatic battle for survival here ever since.

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'A superlative achievement. HOMO BRITANNICUS is pure stimulation
from beginning to end.' -- Bill Bryson

'Essential reading for all those interested in human history - or,
indeed, in the story of the British landscape.' -- Richard Fortey

'This important and eminently readable book pulls together all the
best scientific work on the first humans to inhabit Britain.' -- Tony Robinson

This is a fantastically accessible science book laced with mystery
and intrigue.If you read one book this year,make it this.
-- Sally Palmer, Focus Magazine December 2006

‘This is a beautiful book on a fascinating subject, written by the
world authority. What more could one ask?’ -- Richard Dawkins

About the Author

Chris Stringer is Britain's foremost expert on human origins and works in the Department of Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum. He currently directs the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project, aimed at reconstructing the first detailed history of how and when Britain was occupied by early humans. His previous books include African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity and The Complete World of Human Evolution.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read! 30 Nov. 2006
'A delightful addition to his previous 'Complete World of Human Evolution', Homo Britannicus, written by Chris Stringer, offers a fascinating account of the history of human occupation in Britain from the first evidence of hominid activity circa 700,000-500,000 years ago to the arrival of modern humans about 12,000 years ago. In addition to being of erudite specialist interest to his peers and students in palaeontology and archaeology, this clearly written book -- which offers useful additional background in text and illustrations, humour and a share of the author's own experiences -- is a real pleasure to read for the lay person with little knowledge of these disciplines. After a thorough study of the role of climatic changes in the history of human adaptation to, or extinction from, new environments, Chris Stringer ends his book with a crucial appeal for our common responsability in preserving our future, threatened by global warming today, not tomorrow. Essential for learning about the past, this is palaeontology at its best use for the present and future. Anyone interested in the complete story of the British Isles should read this book without delay'.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AHOB advances an alert 4 Jan. 2008
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
For a good many schoolchildren [too many, IMV], the history of Britain begins with Julius Caesar crossing the Channel. Confronted by resistance by the "blue people", he forcefully pushed the Island Kingdom into the historical arena. This outlook is regrettably shortsighted, as Chris Stringer makes vividly clear in this stunning account of pre-historic Britain. Although the first early human finds didn't occur there, the concept of "Stone Age" was vigorously debated in Britain as the artefacts and fossils emerged in view, particularly in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Moreover, it was British scholars like John Hutton and Charles Lyell who took the lead in extending the age of the Earth. That extension led to speculation and investigation of who and what had come before, demolishing the view of yet another Englishman, James Ussher who had postulated an Earth "created" in October of 4004 BCE. In short, stratigraphy began replacing Scripture.

Stringer explains how Britain was subjected to several "invasions" long before the Roman political martyr was glorified, then assassinated. These invasions weren't for booty or slaves, but for dinner. Changes in climate resulted in changes in sea level, with Britain forming a peninsula of Europe many times over the millennia. Another result of climate led to large parts of that peninsula being sheathed in ice, rendering it uninhabitable ' to human or other invaders. They made it, finally, with the first human artefacts being dated at 700 000 years ago. They weren't dining on mutton, however. It was deer, rabbits, and astonishingly, hippopotamus. The image Stringer offers of hippos crossing the Mediterranean and swimming along the Atlantic littoral to reach what is now Suffolk, isn't one easily dismissed from memory.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly tailored to the layman 7 Nov. 2010
By Petra Bryce VINE VOICE
This book introduces the reader to the science behind the early human habitation of Britain by putting the people into their individual contexts of climate and the depending geography, fauna and flora. It gives a clear and detailed account of the various schools of thought that prevailed at one time or another and introduces us to human evolution through fossilised human remains and the development of hand tools, as well as the science behind understanding ice ages and interglacials. The language is not too scientific and easily understandable to the layman, just once or twice later on in the book he succumbs to the temptation of name-dropping a specific scientific term without further explanation. The illustrations, maps and photographs are first class and go some way towards providing the reader with a clear understanding of what this book is all about, so I would always prefer the hardcover edition to the paperback. I have to agree with some of the other reviewers that the last chapter (about future climate change) seems a bit out of place in a book about palaeontology; he does have a point in that humankind has always been very vulnerable to climate change, be it for better or worse, but to devote an entire chapter to it in which he is speculating and appears to be sermonising, is simply not in line with the rest of the book which is solidly grounded in scientific fact. In the appendix we have an opportunity to meet the core members of AHOB as well as one of their associate members and it was great to read about their obvious enthusiasm and their various and diverse backgrounds that come together to make this project so successful, but to have 25 pages of it was stretching my patience a little bit.

On the whole, a very worthwhile book and excellent introduction to a fascinating subject that whets the appetite for more.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed and infuriating bag 23 Jun. 2011
By Charles
This book doesn't quite do what it claims in its overwrought title. It stops dead at a point about 11,000 years ago when humans gained a permanent foothold in Britain, skips quickly over the development of human life in Britain from 11k ago until the present day, and then jumps to a tired polemic about the dangers of climate change. This is a shame because the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) project on which the book is based is fascinating, and the writer is clearly an authority on the subject.

It covers its subject chronologically, which seems fair enough, and it contains a great deal that is not about human life, but about the context in which it was lived. Again, that is fair enough, but the structure and narrative seem confused at times. Sub-sections would have helped enormously, as would a reworking of the text so that we could read about the climatic context, then the more general environmental context in terms of flora and fauna, and then about where and how humans lived in those contexts. Instead, it reads as a series of detailed descriptions of different archaeological digs, and so jumps about all over the place. Pulling out bits of information about how and where people lived, and why they ended up there is not a particularly easy task.

The writing style lurches from clear, dry academic prose that would not be out of place in Nature to weak attempts at a more populist style: anything unexpected, for example, always seems to be "astonishing;" never intriguing or perplexing or surprising.

Someone else here describes this book as a curate's egg, and they're right.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating stuff.
Absolutely fascinating stuff- so much information from a whole team of experts' research conveyed in a way that the non expert can access.
Published 12 days ago by P Green
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Excellent explanation for the layman (or woman!) of how we got here. It takes some concentration but it's well worth the effort and should be a compulsory read for intelligent... Read more
Published 25 days ago by John Kew
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, easy, educatioanl, interesting read
I have a huge interest in the evolutionary trip out of Africa but wanted to look more into evolution in the UK. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Claire
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A fascinating read
Published 1 month ago by Williamb
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
OK but too much of a per4sonal agenda
Published 4 months ago by Rosemary B.
5.0 out of 5 stars We are older than we think .
I had no idea that humans lived on in Britain as long ago as seven hundred thousand years.But perhaps the most thought provoking aspect in this lovely book is the certainty that... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Andy O'Connor
5.0 out of 5 stars Contains a wealth of information
Now this was a book that I have been waiting for! It gives a well documented description of how both animals and human beings settled in this country throughout the ages. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Geoff_MI
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book.
Well written and very interesting. Well worth the penny I paid for it as book in almost new condition.
Published 7 months ago by AlysJB
5.0 out of 5 stars Britain's First Folk
A readable account of how we Brits came to be here, written by one of the country's leading experts in human evolution.

Well presented with illustrations.
Published 9 months ago by Trevor
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent!
I think I will read this again. I think it is still in my cupboard, I hope so! this is the kind of book that makes me want to go to the British Museum or the Museum of London... Read more
Published 12 months ago by SYLVIA CLAIRE STUBBS
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