9780316648608 / 0316648604

Java Man


Publisher:Little Brown & Co (T)



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About the book:

One of the most important events in the discovery of human ancestry was the 1892 discovery on the Indonesian island of Java of part of a fossil skull. Found by a Dutch army medic, Eugene Dubois, the part ape-like part human skull cap was dug out from ancient sediments along with fossils of animals that no longer live in Java. Dubois thought his Pithecanthropus erectus was the missing link between apes and humans and showed that humans had evolved in the Far East but hardly anyone believed him. Not until many years later was the importance of his find acknowledged. One of the problems was that it was not possible for Dubois to date his fossil. Java Man tells the story of how it has now become possible to accurately date such fossil remains of our ancient human relatives. Co-written by two American academic experts (Curtis and Swisher) on dating rocks and fossils and Roger Lewin, the author of many highly acclaimed books on human prehistory, we get a firsthand account of modern science in action. Anyone who does not think that scientists are human should read this book, it reveals in fascinating detail the all too familiar frailties of overwheening ambition, back stabbing and name calling which bedevil most human enterprise. And yet out of all the mess comes important evidence and insights into the story of our deep ancestry. In 1996, the American team dated some of the Java fossils at around 27,000 years old and shattered most expert preconceptions about when Java Man died out. If the date is correct then these extinct human relatives overlapped in time with modern humans who arrived in Australia at least 60,000 years ago. A great story, well told and accompanied by illustrations, notes and a useful index.--Douglas Palmer.

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