Cover image for In the footsteps of Eve : the mystery of human origins
In the footsteps of Eve : the mystery of human origins
Berger, Lee R.
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Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : National Geographic Society, 2000.
Physical Description:
325 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
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Material Type
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GN281 .B47 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
GN281 .B47 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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A gripping scientific detective story straight from today's headlines, recounting spectacular discoveries made by a young South African fossil hunter, that challenge his field's orthodoxy and that may provide the key to finally unlocking the mysteries surrounding the dawn of humankind.

Author Notes

Lee R. Berger, Ph.D., is director of the paleoanthropology unit for research and exploration at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Two leading paleoanthropologists probe anew the fossil discoveries and the theories about human origins. Their specialty is engaged in debate. One faction holds that East Africa is the birthplace of humanity. Another, however, inclines to place human origins in South Africa, and its Young Turk is Berger, an American transplanted to the University of Witwatersrand. An enthusiastic and creative guide to his theory, Berger introduces the hominid fossils found in South African caves. These have been less celebrated than those found in the Great Rift Valley, largely because of South Africa's pariah status during the apartheid decades. Consciously challenging his field's orthodoxy and relishing his confrontations with its pooh-bahs, such as Tim White, Berger discusses the anatomy and dating of many of the South African hominid fossils, and he delivers exciting accounts of his personal forays into the field, one of which brought to light human footprints about 120,000 years old. Whether they are Eve's or not, the prints will influence future paleoanthropological debate. Berger's exciting book is to be heavily promoted and should nab all fossil-philes' interest. For clarity, Tattersall has few peers in popular paleoanthropological writing. In collaboration with Schwartz, he solidifies that reputation by explaining why the idea of the one-track, lineal descent of human beings is obsolete and the notion of a "bushy" evolutionary history, like that of other genera, fits the fossil evidence better. Tattersall and Schwartz accent the evidence, and drawings and photographs of critical craniums abound, along with close explanation of anatomical details that distinguish the several recognized hominid groups--Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and our own Homofrom one another. Further distinguishing Homo species are tools, which Tattersall discusses as indicators of the mental life of modern humans' extinct kin. Or were those ancient cousins regarded as enemies and hunted to extinction, as one theory about the Neanderthals runs? Such questions animate this superior overview, a profitable addition to any library. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

Popular books on human evolution abound. Berger, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, enters this competitive field with an engaging volume that discusses the fossils every bit as much as the scientists who discover them and interpret their meanings. Scientifically, Berger stakes out controversial new territory in claiming that the prevalent hypothesis that humans first arose in East Africa is false. Instead, he argues that the evidence points to South Africa as the original birthplace of our species. Furthermore, he asserts that Lucy, the famous fossil long thought to be one of our ancestors, is instead a member of a species on a terminal side branch of the evolutionary tree. While the average reader is in no position to determine whether Berger's views are correct, the information he presents is comprehensive and accessible. Berger also impressively demonstrates how, in the highly competitive field of human origins, large hypotheses based on small pieces of evidence can arise from preconceived biases as much as compelling data. Although his writing is occasionally clumsy and he casts himself in a larger role than his accomplishments warrant to date, Berger offers a great deal of absorbing material in this first-person account; this book is sure to entice those interested in human origins. B&w photos throughout. 6-city author tour. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In 1989, young American scientist Berger (paleoanthropology, Univ. of Witwatersrand, South Africa) discovered the 117,000-year-old fossilized footprints of a female human along the shores of a South African lagoon and conjectured that they might belong to humankind!s missing link. Going against the accepted theory that our ancestors originated in East Africa, Berger, after years of doctoral study and research, here challenges this assumption, using the unusual findings he made regarding hominid fossils found in South Africa. His A. robustus had a larger brain and a more chimp-like torso as compared with East Africa!s A. afarensis, which had a smaller brain and a more modern physique yet was long considered the ancestor to modern humans. Berger contends that the two are, at most, sister species. He deftly explores the evidence that humans originated in Africa but further expounds the belief that those beginnings were in South Africa and not East Africa. This provocative and enthralling book is highly recommended for all academic and larger public library collections."Gloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll., Kansas City, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1. First Stepsp. 16
2. Africa Callsp. 45
3. The Undiscovered Countryp. 68
4. East Side Storyp. 101
5. Fossil Forensicsp. 122
6. Slaughtering Sacred Cowsp. 140
7. Long Arms, Short Legsp. 164
8. Knee-Jerk Reactionp. 188
9. Hominids Alivep. 212
10. Skeletons in the Closetp. 226
11. The Robust Enigmap. 258
12. Footsteps of Evep. 276
13. Final Stepsp. 302
Indexp. 312
Bibliography and Related Readingsp. 320
Acknowledgmentsp. 324