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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Human Journey
This is a wonderful book, much more informative than the television series and a useful backup to it. While I was reading it, I ordered another copy for my son-in-law when I heard that he and my daughter were fascinated by the TV series. Clever line illustrations by the author Alice Roberts greatly enhance the book, and there are plenty of maps. I am gripped by the...
Published on 3 July 2009 by Leela Attfield

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Acceptable, but Oppenheimer is better
Not having seen the BBC documentary, I was eager to read the book. Having previously read some other books on the subject of human development and expansion, however, I was slightly disappointed with this one.

Let it immediatelay be said though that, as far as I can understand, the facts are immaculate and "correct" considering present scientific knowledge and...
Published on 18 July 2010 by A Reviewer


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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Human Journey, 3 July 2009
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This is a wonderful book, much more informative than the television series and a useful backup to it. While I was reading it, I ordered another copy for my son-in-law when I heard that he and my daughter were fascinated by the TV series. Clever line illustrations by the author Alice Roberts greatly enhance the book, and there are plenty of maps. I am gripped by the central idea that only about 200 families originally emerged out of Africa and between them populated the whole world.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what a lovely book, 22 May 2009
By 
Scoob (Bristol UK) - See all my reviews
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Beautifully written and illustrated, this book goes into a lot more scientific detail than the BBC series but never overwhelms the reader. If you like science writing and travel books then you will love this.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We are all Africans under the skin", 2 May 2010
By 
P. Webster "Phil W." (Lancashire) - See all my reviews
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In this excellent book, which is linked to the BBC TV series of the same name (available on DVD), Alice Roberts follows in the footsteps of our ancestors, who left Africa and ended up populating the whole world.

Roberts shows how the evidence from bones, artefacts and genes tells us that Homo sapiens (modern humans) evolved in Africa between 200,000 and 150,000 years ago and that all non-African humans throughout the world today are descended from one group of Homo sapiens who left Africa between 85,000 and 65,000 years ago.

On her journey Roberts meets people who personify and bring to life many of the debates relating to human evolution. For example, at Pinnacle Point in South Africa she meets one of the archaeologists who have been excavating Blombos Cave. It was here that shell beads and pieces of ochre with carved geometric patterns were found dating back 75,000 years. At the same place other pieces of ochre were found dating back to 164,000 years ago, showing that modern humans were painting by that date. This evidence shot down the theory held by some scientists that art (and therefore modern brains and behaviour) did not appear until about 40,000 years ago in Europe. (For more on this, see my review here on Amazon of Stephen Oppenheimer's book, "Out of Eden".)

Roberts meets some people who still refuse to accept the overwhelming evidence that all humans today are descended from African Homo sapiens. Some still cling to the untenable view that different so-called "races" of people evolved separately in different parts of the world from an earlier Homo species. For example, the Chinese government advocates the view that the people of China are special because they evolved separately from the rest of modern humanity, from Homo erectus in China. This has echoes of the time when Western racists claimed that white Europeans were superior and had come into existence separately from other "races".

But Roberts also meets the Chinese geneticist Jin Li, who "started off wanting to prove the patriotic theory that the modern Chinese had a heritage that stretched back, unbroken, to Homo erectus, a million years ago." To his surprise, Li's research actually proved that this was NOT the case. It showed that the "recent Out of Africa hypothesis" was correct. To his great credit, Li accepts the evidence, and Roberts praises his "open-mindedness and objectivity".

Roberts meets surviving hunter-gatherers and sees their egalitarian way of life. She then looks at the origins, only about 12,000 years ago, of settled societies and agriculture. She shows the contradictory nature of this change. The development of agriculture is usually seen as "progress", and it certainly created the conditions for a massive increase in population by producing a food surplus. This in turn provided the basis for the later growth of cities and "civilisation". But Roberts also shows that farming led to a worse quality and variety of diet and to a "general decline in health". (I would add that farming also paved the way for the development of class divisions, gender inequalities and war.)

Roberts shows that some questions still have to be resolved. For example:
- Were modern humans responsible for the extinction of the Neanderthals?
- Did modern humans interbreed at all with Neanderthals?
- Exactly when and by what route did our ancestors first move into the Americas?
- Did hunting by humans cause the extinction of large animals in various parts of the world?
- Was it natural selection in relation to climate or sexual selection which led to the physical and facial differences between humans from different parts of the world?
- Was it farmERS or farmING which spread across Europe from the Middle East?

Finally, Roberts shows throughout the book how the climate and climate change have had an effect on both the biology and culture of our ancestors. And she ends by warning that global solutions are needed now if we are to avert the dangers that climate change is facing us with today.

Phil Webster.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I believe it! It's amazing but not incredible!, 27 May 2009
This fills in a lot of the gaps in the programmes, and is not quite so sensational (except for the parts of Alice's journey where things almost went wrong!). While not incredible to anyone with a bit of scientific knowledge, it is very interesting, especially as the bits of the DNA history in the human genome start to bear out many of the theories of migration which were developed since Darwin.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Incredible Human Journey, 18 July 2009
By 
Mr. K. (Cheshire, UK) - See all my reviews
Great book, unsurprisingly goes into a lot more detail than the BBC2 series but it's an easy read although a little bit of a scientific background does help in the understanding. Hard to comprehend that as a species we've gone from near extinction to dominate the planet in the blink of an eye in evolutionary timescales - amazing!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book and series, 22 Aug 2010
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This is really a stab in the chest for the American Creationists. This story follows the logical course of our evolution around the World, and explodes the bible bashing pastors of the deep south.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Part travelogue part popular history, but enjoyable, engaging and interesting, 5 Feb 2012
By 
Isis (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Incredible Human Journey (Paperback)
I have to confess, I thoroughly enjoyed the television programme of the same name produced by the BBC and presented by Alice Roberts. It was all fairly basic stuff, but it was also chock full of little titbits here and there, the filmography was gorgeous, and all in all it was a really enjoyable, interesting and engaging programme. So, naturally, I had my eye on this book for a while before I finally got my hands on it over Christmas.

Some scenes from the programme don't appear in the book, but we get many more that didn't make it into the programme. The book is told in episodic format, a series of anecdotes from Alice Roberts that reveal behind-the-scenes moments, illustrate the points that were being made in the series, and a few juicy little stories about encounters with experts in the field that we never got to see on television. There's some science-y stuff, which Alice does her best to make as clear and simplified as possible, but the book is also part travelogue as well, and the use of Alice's own illustrations throughout the text really do give it a diary feel. This might sound wishy-washy, and there's no denying that this is "popular history" rather than a scholarly, academic work, but I found that the episodes neatly illustrated the points Alice was making, and that and the conversational writing style and use of pictures made this a very easy read and rather fun and engaging. In terms of actual information and educational content soaked up, the book barely scratches the surface of the issues at hand, but it provides a taster and whets the appetite for more - after finishing this book, I plunged straight into Stephen Oppenheimer's Out of Eden, which The Incredible Human Journey mentions as an authoritative work on several occasions and whose author Alice meets in the course of her journey.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Incredible Human Journey, 11 Sep 2010
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This review is from: The Incredible Human Journey (Paperback)
This book is an excellent academic and yet very readable and challenging experience.
I am still reading it and have just got to the European Chapter. I loved the opening chapter whbich I found hard going but very rewarding because it provided me with an insight into Archaeology. The definitions of the terminology was clear and memorable.

I can thoroughly recommend the tome toothers who are interested in exploring and roots.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Incredible Human Journey, 28 Dec 2009
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A beautiful, fascinating book, which was bought as an 80th birthday gift to an old friend who is studying anthropology for the sheer enjoyment of it. He was absolutely delighted with it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read, 24 Nov 2009
By 
H Ingram (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
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With this book, Alice Roberts has succeeded in providing the general reader with a clear and accessible introduction to our ancient human ancestry. She visits some of the key sites in the field and examines the evidence first-hand. Current theories are expounded with great lucidity and woven into an entertaining account of her travels. Several journeys are undertaken which require considerable stamina, such as the trek to the Omo findspot in sweltering heat; the long voyage by raft in the Indonesian islands; and the cold and lengthy sleigh-ride in Siberia. But Alice is equally bold in her approach to garnering evidence: she is not afraid to challenge the views held by experts and frequently offers possible alternative explanations.

The book is nicely illustrated with sketches, maps and photos, whilst the text manages to combine erudition with 'the personal touch'. So for anyone wanting to find out more about our human origins, 'The Incredible Human Journey' would make a great starting-point.
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The Incredible Human Journey by Alice Roberts (Paperback - 5 April 2010)
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