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Born in Africa: The Quest for the Origins of Human Life Hardcover – 7 Jul 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (7 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847372449
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847372444
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 816,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'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.


Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Born in Africa by Martin Meredith covers well-trodden ground but it does so in a highly engaging way. The story of anthropological discoveries over the last century is a fascinating one made all the more so by the author's literary style. Events are explained with a journalistic flair and the story rollicks along. The fallibilities of human behaviour amongst Palaeontologists, Paleoanthropologists, Palaebiologists, and so on, are fully exposed: dirty tricks, spitefulness and bitter hatred are just a few of the charming qualities displayed by some of the pivotal protagonists. Yet much of the new knowledge was down to the work of these mavericks who usually struggled against the intransigence of the established academic community. But in the end new theories were accepted only then to be overturned by yet more new discoveries as our understanding of our own evolution became more complex and a great deal more interesting. Highly recommended for anyone seeking an entertaining, yet informed, account of a fascinating story - and covered in just under 200 pages!

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Format: Hardcover
I was a little wary about buying a book about evolution/archeology not thinking it would be that interesting to me. Wrong. Its a fast paced very interesting book which opened my eyes and peaked my interest in a very important part of the human story. Very well written. Excellent book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an interesting and well written book on the search for the fossils for the first humans with all the chicanery that surrounds the prroject but is badly biased in favour of the Leakeys -Louis, Mary and Richard to the virtual exclusion of all other contenders particularly Brunet and his colleagues who discovered the oldest fossils dated 6-7 million years old.
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".
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Format: Hardcover
If you were to read the front cover of this book you'd form the opinion that this is a book about all the scientific discoveries that have occurred on evolution - with a specific focus being in relation to the discoveries made in Africa. Well, in one respect this book does just that. In another, it doesn't. Confusing I know...

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.
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Format: Hardcover
We all want to know something about our origins! And after reading Martin Merediths book you will certainly be a little wiser. There are many pieces to the puzzle though. And there is no simple path, where evolution turns a crouching ape into a tall, erect human male over the ages. Instead, the path to Homo Sapiens was very indirect. Along the way, our planet witnessed many variations of the human form, multiple migrations out of Africa. etc.

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.
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