Customer Reviews


42 Reviews
5 star:
 (21)
4 star:
 (9)
3 star:
 (5)
2 star:
 (7)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!
'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...
Published on 30 Nov 2006 by Ms. G. B. Delbarre

versus
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed and infuriating bag
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...
Published on 23 Jun 2011 by Charles


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!, 30 Nov 2006
By 
Ms. G. B. Delbarre (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
'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'.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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 (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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. They thrived in "Britain", along with wolves, lions and other tropical animals. And they were hunted by the humans who had followed them from Africa - albeit by a different route. Until the cold returned. Then it was reindeer, woolly mammoth and fur-bearing rhinos. As the ice advanced, such species, along with their hunters, vanished from the landscape.

These cycles of habitability over the British Peninsula have occurred several times just in the period of human occupation. The worst ice age there was 450 000 years ago, and it was severe enough to keep the peninsula free of humans for 50 thousand years after its retreat. After a temperate period allowing new settlement, humans were again pushed into Europe only twenty thousand years later. Other shifts led to inexplicable vacating by humans for a lengthy period, even though life abounded in Europe. Neanderthal arrived about 60 thousand years ago. A large-brained species, they worked out how to keep warm by burning bones in their hearths. The accumulation of fossil evidence, subject to close analysis and dating techniques, is providing an entirely new story of early human habitation in Northwest Europe. Mobility was a major factor - it's almost presumptuous to title this book "Homo Britannicus".

As a founder of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain [AHOB] research project, Chris Stringer is at once one of the driving forces and spokesmen of studies of the distant human past. For a time, it seemed this span reached back half a million years, but a recent underwater find at Pakefield pushed the earliest date back another 200 millennia. Stringer handles such challenges with ease. He's able to convey to the reader immense time leaps, yet apparently not leaving any gaps in the narrative. The information about palaeoclimates, changes in the British - European shoreline are well explained and supported by excellent maps depicting the era under discussion. How long have we known that the Thames was once a tributary of the Rhine? There are photographs - some portentous - about the conditions in Britain over time. One of the photos shows the edge of a village which will soon drop into the sea as a new climatic event - this one human enhanced - brings the sea ever further inland. The message is clear - climate has cleared humans from Britain or encouraged their settlement more than once. What does today's climate change portend for the British Isles - and for the rest of us? [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


58 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Homo Britannicus, A review of hominins in Britain by the Rob Walsh, director of The Lewis Research Unit, 3 Nov 2006
By 
Mr. R. M. Walsh "ROBERT M WALSH" (BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND, U.K.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Homo Britannicus by Prof Chris Stringer, is a thoughtful account of human life in Britain from the earliest evidence at Pakefield, Happisburg and Boxgrove(700 ka - 500 ka) to more modern occupation by the Neaderthals at Swanscombe (300 ka), and early homo sapiens, who arrived circa 12,000 years ago, following the last gacial phase. There is nothing too technical to understand for the lay reader, who knows little of human evolution, yet plenty to satisfy the thirstful knowledge of the more accomplished palaeontological/archaeological reader.

The book combines achaeological evidence, with Chris's own experiences as Britains foremost authority on human evolution, and makes compelling reading, for anyone interested in the history of the British Isles.

I thouroughly recomend Homo Britannicus as a more discerning Christmas present this year.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed and infuriating bag, 23 Jun 2011
This review is from: Homo Britannicus: The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain (Paperback)
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. It is as if the publisher took an original text that comprised a "mash-up" of academic papers, first topped and tailed it with a brief history of the human archaeology at one end (to give it popular appeal), and a rant about climate change at the other (to give it "relevance"), and then had the author edit it to make it more "accessible."

Of the 250-odd pages, only about half cover the topic; the rest comprise the top/tail chapters and over-extensive biographies of the AHOB team (about forty pages in all).

All that said, it's a useful book to start with. Best to get it from the library, skim through it, and then use the index and reading list to follow up the topic in more depth elsewhere.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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 "bookworm" (Malvern, Worcs) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History of Britain way back, 10 Jan 2007
By 
Dr. Gary Bray "blzebub" (Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a super book, well presented interesting and stimulating. A mark of its success is that it makes you want to read more about the origins of the British. It lights the fire to know more!

Its also refreshing to have a book which goes back to our true origins rather than political events of the last 1000 years!

Buy it and you wont be disappointed!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too short, 6 July 2013
By 
Iset (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Homo Britannicus: The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain (Paperback)
My initial thoughts upon completing this book were that it was too short and over all too quickly. So I guess on the positive side it was an easy read and not a slog. But I expected more. There's a prologue in which Stringer summarises the book's aims, an introduction in which he details the work of early antiquarians, a final chapter in which Stringer talks about climate change over the entirety of human history and going into the future, and a final section in which all of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain members talk about what they do. So only pages 35 to 159 actually discuss early human occupation in Britain. Of a 242 page book. That's only 124 pages on the book's actual subject, strictly speaking. Needless to say I feel a little disappointed about that. I was hoping for a really thorough read about Neanderthals, homo erectus, and homo sapiens in Britain in the stone age. It'd be okay if all of these add-ons were small additions to a much larger, meatier main text, but the main text is so short. Stringer discusses climate, flora, fauna, and archaeological work, but I was hoping for more on the actual people. What Stringer does write is clear, accessible, and lucid, and does provide a focus on specifically British material, and one can hardly sniff at Stringer's extensive professional credentials... I just wish there had been more of it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very entertaining read - recommended, 11 Nov 2007
By 
C. Richards (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Homo Britannicus: The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain (Paperback)
Palaeontologist Stringer entertainingly tells the story of Human life in Britan over the past 700,00 years.
It's amazing to learn how us Britons dealt with such severe climate changes, and outstanding to think that hippos once swam in the Thames.
Fancinating read, well written, beautiful photography, with a power underlying message that our occupancy of these islands cannot be guaranteed for ever.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellently written and illustrated account of the AHOB team's work - but with one serious flaw, 28 Feb 2010
By 
I completely back the other reviewers who say this is an excellent account of early human life in the U.K. The extensive illustrations and photos give the reader a chance to get up to speed on the superb work of the AHOB team.

However.. Like much of the work written by Recent-Out-Of-Africa proponents, it incorrectly represents the mtDNA analysis and alternative theories. For example, Page 227 has a headline quote of "mtDNA has been recovered from ten Neanderthal fossils *confirming* that these ancient humans represent separate genetic lineage from everyone alive today". I have great respect for Chris Stringer as a scientist but this conclusion is plain wrong and bad science. It is perfectly possible that both Neanderthals and ROOA Homo (and other e.g. asian erectus) could have contributed to our gene pool and for the recovered mtDNA to now be an extinct haplotype. Stringer also talks about Neanderthals as a separate species. Evolutionary bioligists know that the definition of species breaks down when animals are potentially interfertile - even if there are subspecies / breeds / races that can be destinguished by physical traites. The Most Recent Comment Ancestor of modern human mtDNA is approx 160K years ago. For us vs Neanderthals the figure is approx 400K years ago. Using Stringer's mtDNA / genetic clock analysis as a crude measure for relatidness would also show that the hominids from Israel some 100K years ago (some claimed to be both pure "Neanderthal" while others pure "ROOA Sapien") diverged around 300K years previously (from Homo Heidelbergensis). By extrapolating Stringer's analysis, these Neanderthals were about twice as different from their contemporary sapiens as I am from a San Bushman. This sounds to me like dubious grounds for claiming a separate species with no interbreeding resulting in gene flow between the "species". By comparison, other mammal "species" remain interfertile despite substantial isolation for up to 1M years or more. The mtDNA analysis provides an upper bound (maximum time) to the MRCA. Work by Joseph Chang shows that all modern humans likely share common ancestors within the past few 1000 years - and all ancestors are common around 10,000 years or so before the present. These figures also give an indication of the speed at which favourable genes could spread around the world through difference "races" and thus mix the international gene pool.

Ultimately, Stringer's premise that all hominid ancestors should fit on a radiating tree of ancestry is a bogus starting point in the same way that modern races are not related by a simple tree structure - only individual genes are. We are all tightly bound together as a species by continuous haphazard gene flow between groups yet retain regional racial traits due to local climatic and other regional selection factors. How can we be so sure that the past was so different? The excellent work by Alan Templeton examines the ancestry of multiple haplotypes and indicates it wasn't.

For a better account of this analysis (than Stringer's and mine!) I would strongly recommend people read the first few chapters of Dawkins: The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life. In my opinion, Dawkins has it bang on.

This incorrect starting point (in my opinion) does bias Stringer's interpretation of the archaeological evidence. However, if you can brush over these imperfections, I'd still thoroughly recommend this book for the AHOB team's positive contributions which include pushing back the earliest dates of British occupation by a further 200K years to 700K years ago.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read, 18 Sep 2007
By 
Mr. P. Wells "old bones" (london) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Homo Britannicus: The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain (Paperback)
M. Gillett of Dresden must have been reading a completely different book from me, and his prejudices about global warming have stopped him recognising what a fantastic book this is. It is brilliantly written and illustrated, with a lot of information about our past presented in a very readable way. I agree with all five reviewers of the hardback edition who gave it 5 stars (the text is the same, just a few less illustrations). I think it's the best book about early human history and archaeology that I have ever read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Homo Britannicus: The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain
Homo Britannicus: The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain by Chris Stringer (Paperback - 28 Jun 2007)
£7.19
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews