978-0-8133-3918-4 / 0813339189

Extinct Humans

by Tattersall, Ian

Publisher:Basic Books



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About the book:

It's time for a hominid family reunion, and anthropologists Ian Tattersall and Jeffrey Schwartz have brought the scrapbook. Extinct Humans is both an album of knowledge of our ancestors and closely related species and a theoretical reconsideration of the fossil evidence. Tattersall and Schwartz suggest that many more human species existed than we previously thought, and that many of them existed contemporaneously until about 25,000 years ago. Profusely illustrated, the book makes its case well, showing and discussing the evidence and proposing a family history that pulls all the fossils and theories together into a testable whole. The authors have personally investigated every available hominid specimen, and the depth of their knowledge is staggering at times--but their obsession is enlightening and entertaining.

The introductory history of human taxonomy sets us up for the discussions to follow and reminds us of our tendency to read more into human history than can reasonably be inferred from the evidence. The racist sentiments of 19th-century anthropologists found firm footing in their theories, and we can only wonder what mistakes we're making today. Doing their best to eliminate extraneous details, Tattersall and Schwartz provide a lean, parsimonious theory to guide anthropology into the 21st century, as we try to learn why we're the only ones left. --Rob Lightner

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