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Dragon Bones: The Story of Peking Man

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2000

    Fascinating Story of Linking Humans to Apes

    This is the story of how human perspective shifted from the perspective of a literal reading of the Bible to pursuing the implications of Darwin's work in search of human origins. Darwin speculated that there would be a link between humans and apes. How was that link to be investigated? Before Darwin, fossils were a curiosity rather than a source of scientific study. This wonderful book focuses on the activities that led to locating an important set of fossils (Peking Man) in China. Unlike most such books, the perspective is quite varied. The author talks about how uneducated Chinese perceived fossils, how apothecaries used them to make medicines, what life as a human precursor might have been like in China, the task of finding the fossil sources, convincing scholars that this was significant, and the battle to save the fossils (unsuccessfully). The story-telling style is wonderful, so this reads more like an adventure novel (almost like Indiana Jones) rather than dry scientific history. The photographs are very helpful in expanding the reader's understanding of the subject. The backdrop of a rapidly modernizing China going through foreign interference and civil wars is a powerful context for a fascinating pursuit of human knowledge. Overcome your disbelief stall that scholarship moves quickly and surely to accurate conclusions. The pathway is much more like two steps forward, one step backward, three steps sidewise, and then two steps diagonally. You will also enjoy the perspective of the other key prehuman fossils, their discovery, and what was learned from each. Even if you have no interest in evolution or anthropology, you will find this book a great read.

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