Missing Links: In Search of Human Origins

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OUP Oxford, Oct 27, 2011 - Science - 538 pages
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This is the story of the search for human origins - from the Middle Ages, when questions of the earth's antiquity first began to arise, through to the latest genetic discoveries that show the interrelatedness of all living creatures. Central to the story is the part played by fossils - first, in establishing the age of the Earth; then, following Darwin, in the pursuit of possible 'Missing Links' that would establish whether or not humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor. John Reader's passion for this quest - palaeoanthropology - began in the 1960s when he reported for Life Magazine on Richard Leakey's first fossil-hunting expedition to the badlands of East Turkana, in Kenya. Drawing on both historic and recent research, he tells the fascinating story of the science as it has developed from the activities of a few dedicated individuals, into the rigorous multidisciplinary work of today. His arresting photographs give a unique insight into the fossils, the discoverers, and the settings. His vivid narrative reveals both the context in which our ancestors evolved, and also the realities confronting the modern scientist. The story he tells is peopled by eccentrics and enthusiasts, and punctuated by controversy and even fraud. It is a celebration of discoveries - Neanderthal Man in the 1850s, Java Man (1891), Australopithecus (1925), Peking Man (1926), Homo habilis (1964), Lucy (1978), Floresiensis (2004), and Ardipithecus (2009). It is a story of fragmentary shards of evidence, and the competing interpretations built upon them. And it is a tale of scientific breakthroughs - dating technology, genetics, and molecular biology - that have enabled us to set the fossil evidence in the context of human evolution. John Reader's first book on this subject (Missing Links: The Hunt for Earliest Man, 1981) was described in Nature as 'the best popular account of palaeoanthropology I have ever read'. His new book covers the thirty years of discovery that have followed.
 

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Contents

1 Time and Place
1
2 The Meaning of Fossils
25
3 Nothing so Rare
50
4 Neanderthal Man 1857
65
5 Neanderthals and Modern Humans
99
6 Java Man 1891
122
7 Piltdown Man 1912
152
8 Australopithecus africanus 1925
186
12 Tools
284
13 Homo habilis 1964
317
14 1470 1972 and the Oldest Man
333
15 Australopithecus afarensis 1978
373
16 Footprints
398
17 Ardipithecus ramidus 1994 2009
417
NOTES
437
ILLUSTRATION SOURCES
484

9 Peking Man 1926
202
10 Australopithecus substantiated 1936
230
11 Zinjanthropus boisei 1959
256

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About the author (2011)

John Reader is a writer and photographer with more than fifty years of professional experience. His work has included contributions to major international publications, television documentaries and a number of books. He lived for many years in Africa, where an empathy for human ecology and thenatural world inspired extensive coverage of anthropological subjects and environmental issues. This work generated a reputation for original research and well-respected publications, leading to an appointment as Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at University College, London.

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