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The Incredible Human Journey Hardcover – 5 May 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; First Edition edition (5 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747598398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747598398
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.4 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 324,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Using genetics, archaeology, fossils and climate evidence to construct a portrait of who we are and where we come from, the series promises to be both scientifically meaty and readily digestible.' INDEPENDENT 'Dr Roberts is sunny, clear spoken and breathily enthusiastic ... a star' DAILY TELEGRAPH 'Alice Roberts skilfully tells the story of her Odyssey filming "The Incredible Human Journey" in her own words. She has certainly grasped the subject fully and has a strong sympathy with her informants and their contributions. Her superb drawings are a delight. Do buy it' STEPHEN OPPENHEIMER, OXFORD UNIVERSITY --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Alice Roberts is a qualified medical doctor and lecturer in Anatomy at Bristol University. She is a regular contributor to Channel 4's Time Team and BBC2's Coast series, and the presenter of Don't Die Young on BBC2.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book, by anatomist and television personality, Alice Roberts tells the story of our human journey from our evolutionary origins in east Africa, roughly 200,000 years ago, to our global diversity today. Roberts is unsparing on herself, travelling to a huge variety of actual locations where the various chapters of exploration take place, from the African and Australian bush, to the freezing reindeer territory of Siberia, living with the people she describes, sharing their food and habitation. Her bubbly sense of humour is here on the printed page, much as we find it in her television series. I was particularly impressed with her ability to cover quite complex ideas, ranging from genetics, palaeontology, anthropology, and medicine, all with effortless simplicity and ease. I was also impressed with her ability to bring the story alive, diving into interesting diversions of anecdote, or curious ways of making a living, all the while weaving a fascinating and informative narrative.

The illustrations are beautiful, including maps, colour photographs and - a delightful discovery - pencil drawings by Roberts herself of interesting little observational vignettes. She's quite a decent artist.

I would recommend this book without reservations for any reader who is interested in our human story.
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