Born in Africa: The Quest for the Origins of Human Life Hardcover – 7 Jul 2011
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'An enlightening read.'
--Pride, July Issue
About the Author
Martin Meredith is a journalist, biographer and historian who has written extensively on Africa and its recent history. He is the author of many books including The State of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence; Mugabe: Power, Plunder, and the Struggle for Zimbabwe, and Mandela: A Biography. He lives near Oxford.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is badly in need of line diagrams and tables illustrating the relationship or non relationship of the various fossil species recorded.
For a much better book on this subject read Ann Gibbons book "The First Human".
To explain: this book reads and feels like a history book. It basically starts by explaining that Darwin proposed that the search for human evolution should start in Africa. His reasoning for this was that the main ape populations live there, and as man developed from a common ancestor with apes Africa seemed to be the logical place to start the search. Many scientists at the time disagreed with Darwin and instead argued that the search should start in Asia. Their reasoning was that the Asian orang-utan shared a greater similarity with humans.
The book then goes onto explain that one of the first significant fossils found was found in South Africa. This fossil was the famous Taung Child or Australopithecus Africanus. The book then traces the hunt for the illusive missing link between Australopithecus and Homo. This includes an almost chronological study of the impact and findings made by the Leakey family and Donald Johanson. The book then seems to conclude, in what feels like a rushed fashion, with a small touching on how Homo Spiens appear to have come about - the focus being from Homo Erectus and Neanderthals. The book finally ends in what feels like an abrupt fashion.
Now the scientific evaluation of the above material seems lacking. The book touches on the general discussions which occurred about the fossil's brain sizes, and which fossils showed an ability to walk up right.Read more ›
Nevertheless, Martin Meredith gives a good overview:
Most of our modern day ideas about evolution comes from Darwin, so it is fitting that Martin Meredith starts his book about the quest for the origins of human life, with a Darwin quote! The most likely birthplace of humankind is Africa, since it is the homeland of gorillas and chimpanzees, apes which he deemed to be our closest living relatives. In Darwins ''The Descent of Man'' his precise words are: ''The living mammals are closely related to the extinct species of the same region. It is therefore probable that Africa was formerly inhabited by extinct apes closely allied to the gorilla and the chimpanzee; and as these two species are now man's nearest allies, it is somewhat more probable that our earlier progenitors lived on the African continent than elsewhere.''
That all sounds very logical to the modern reader, but obviously Meredith is right to state that: The implications of Darwins theory were profound, it opened up the possibility of a world without purpose, or direction, or longterm goal. It stripped humankind of its unique status and was seen to undermine Victorian respect for hierarchy and social order.
Sure, it might all be horrible confusion.Read more ›
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