Adventures in the Bone Trade: The Race to Discover Human Ancestors in Ethiopia's Afar Depression / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 93%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (31) from $1.99   
  • New (11) from $3.95   
  • Used (20) from $1.99   


As co-founder of the expedition that discovered Lucy, and leader of most of the first site-surveys in the Afar Depression in Ethiopia, Jon Kalb has years of experience with the region, its politics, and the scientists involved in the excavations. A participant himself in the "bone wars" that accompanied these discoveries, Kalb recounts the cutthroat competition and back stabbing that were often part of the media-highlighted race to find the oldest hominid fossil. He weaves this story in the rich fabric of Ethiopian society and politics, the plight of the regions peoples, and the international maneuverings for control of the fossil finds.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Mark Rose
Beyond the dark side of paleoanthropology, and whatever the merits of Kalb's disputes with Johanson and the NSF, Adventures in the Bone Trade is well-written, often humorous, and definitely worth reading!
Quarterly Review of Biology
History is usually written by the winners. Occasionally, however, others weigh in with an alternative perspective on well-known success stories. . . . Although not as slick as many other popular books on early human evolution, ADVENTURES IN THE BONE TRADE is nonetheless engaging reading as the book portrays very clearly Kalb's own emotions throughout these experiences -- from the thrill of seeing a new expanse of badlands to the agony and frustration of a rejected grant proposal.
Antiquity Magazine
[Kalb's] long, learned but personable account covers both the technicalities of finds and the chances of finding them....Replete with dramatic landscapes and wildlife, Adventures is like those thrillers sold at airports, but worrying.
The Journal of Geoscience Education
Adventures in the Bone Trade is written in several styles to match several interwoven stories or topics. Amazing feats and accomplishments are interspersed with glimpses of macho behavior and colorful characters...Another reader may gloss over the heroics, use maps, and concentrate on the book relating to physical sciences. [The book] rattles off names of site locations and geological formations in almost poetic sounding recitations. Descriptions and definitions are included for novices...History of fossil discoveries, interpretation of morphological changes and creation of dating techniques are especially interesting...Experts and specialists in the sciences may examine Kalb's syntheses with a critical eye and enjoy debating some of his conclusions...This book can be touted as having something for almost every "taste".
Washington Post Book World
What distinguishes Adventures in the Bone Trade is its blend of the >long-dead and the contemporary; alongside the story of the region's >paleohistory and geography, Kalb sets a less pretty tale of the jealousies >and rivalries among the bone hunters he knew and worked with. Moving from >the geological to the geo-political, he also provides the reader with a >field scientist's careful record of the events that deposed Haile Selassie >in 1974 and later led the region into civil war and famine—calamities >that touched Kalb and his work directly and indirectly in many ways.
Dallas Morning News
...recounts the author's first-hand experience with the search for hominid fossils in East Africa in the 1970s complete with geological and historical background on the region, details on the fierce battle between competing scientific egos and descriptions of life in Ethiopia during after the 1974 overthrow of Emperor Haile Sellassie.
Anne Dingus
Like the fossil beds Kalb once explored, Adventures in the Bone Trade is crammed with valuable bits and pieces -- some on the surface, some buried deep below.
Scientific American
Kalb tells the story of his work, the scientific infighting, and the political turmoil in Ethiopia during his years there with verve and thoroughness.
Science News
In this riveting, first person account, Kalb relates how his brash geological expedition paved the way for a series of the most significant discoveries in modern archaeology.... Kalb remained on the front lines of efforts to extract the desolate region's closely guarded keys to the human past. In this gripping memoir he tells the sometimes terrifying tale of that search.
Karl Butzer
Jon Kalb spins a gripping tale of human greed, treachery and arrogance.... Kalb's is a fast-paced book about Africa... a mesmerizing continent that captivates those who pass through. A world unto its own that continues to hold secrets about our shared human history. Kalb unerringly captures the flavor of a tumultuous time and place. He opens a window on landscapes and peoples, on history and a quest for enlightenment, and on human nature and showing its foibles. He is a gifted writer, who has given us a superb read.
—( The Austin American Statesman)
Geologist Kalb tells of his experiences mapping Ethiopia's inhospitable Afar Depression, and describes the many astounding archaeological finds that the region yielded. He discusses the "bone wars" that arose among rival teams of archaeologists driven by money and fame, and looks at the armed conflict that wracked the region in the mid-1970s and its impact on research. The book includes b&w photos. Kalb (University of Texas-Austin) has written numerous papers on Ethiopia's Afar Depression, which he has studied for 30 years. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780387987422
  • Publisher: Springer New York
  • Publication date: 10/27/2000
  • Edition description: 2001
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 389
  • Sales rank: 909,985
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 1.43 (d)

Table of Contents

An Oceanic Desert.- Afar Gold.- The Awash Valley.- Louis and Mary Leakey.- Looking for Leadu Man.- Hadar.- Transition.- Famine and Fame.- Storm Clouds.- Desert Origins.- Dawn of Humanity.- A New Mission.- An Acheulean “City”.- Rebellion.- The Oldowan.- The “First Movie”.- The Miocene.- Crossing the Talalak.- The Central Awash.- Baboons and Pigs.- The Artifact Trail.- Human Origins.- Espionage Science.- Big-Game Feeders.- National Security.- African Cake.- The CIA Lives.- Prehistoric Feast.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2001

    Science Upheld by Unlikly Scaffold

    Adventures in the Bone Trade does the same thing for science that a stint on a church council does for one¿s appreciation of organized religion. Namely, it reveals how our greatest accomplishments all rest on an unlikely scaffolding of both our best and our worst character traits. This book is a curious mixture of Mr. Kalb¿s expertise in geology/paleontology, and his amazing experiences in Ethiopia. But most striking of all is his self-deprecating honesty. He tells his stories by laying out events as matter-of-factly as he can, and then lets the reader make the judgment calls. If one must vicariously experience the drama that occurred in the Afar depression ¿ become a vicarious-experience-parasite in other words - one could do a lot worse than use Mr. Kalb as a host. The best thing about this `science¿ book is getting a first-hand glimpse of scientists and what it is they do in-between those periodic headlines in the daily newspaper. It is one thing to read a scientific textbook filled with facts and theories. It is another thing entirely to watch scientists drink out of a baboon¿s toilet. Ideally, somewhere, paleontologists all work together as brothers and sisters, speaking the international scientific language and cooperatively advancing truth and knowledge¿but not on this planet. Adventures in the Bone Trade reveals some of the dirty tricks that can be used to secure both grant money and prime fossil-rich real estate. Sadly, Mr. Kalb seems none to proficient at underhanded dealing (although one probably wouldn¿t want to lend him one¿s mosquito netting) and ultimately, his dreams must suffer for it. The next time some kook walks up to you and says something like, ¿I successfully initiated cold fusion in this glass of water, but the keepers of the established scientific paradigm are engaged in a vast conspiracy to cover up my discovery.¿ Tell him to piss off. Because after reading Adventures in the Bone Trade, you¿ll realize that the greatest prize in science is finding something new.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2000

    True Life 'Indiana Jones'

    An incredible combination of recent history, personal narrative, and geology. A great adventure tale wrapped in scholarly research.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)