The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution / Edition 2

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Extensively revised and updated, the second edition of The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution offers a colorful history of fossil discoveries and a revealing insider's look at how these finds have been interpreted—and misinterpreted—through time. It covers the dramatic increase in the size and scope of the human fossil record as well as new techniques for analyzing and interpreting that record that have emerged in the thirteen intervening years since the first edition's publication. Author Ian Tattersall, Curator in the Division of Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History, places the researchers and their discoveries within the context of their social and scientific milieus and reveals the many forces that shape our interpretation of fossil findings.

The Fossil Trail provides an up-to-the-minute overview of paleoanthropological thought and discovery and presents our "family tree" as it is portrayed in the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History.
New to the Second Edition

*Revisions throughout bring this edition thoroughly up to date
*New chapters: Chapters 17 and 18 include a discussion of the state of paleoanthropology as the first decade of the 21st century concludes and thoughts on the future of the field
*A new gallery of maps of major fossil sites, in Western Europe, Central Europe, the Caucasus and Near East, East Asia, Northern Africa, and Southern Africa
*Updated opening timeline includes the stratigraphic ranges of twenty-three hominid species
*In addition to over 90 high quality fossil renderings, new photographs illustrate new findings in the field

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Head of Manhattan's American Museum of Natural History's anthropology department, Tattersall here weaves a vigorous historical narrative of paleontologists' attempts to reconstruct human origins from the fossil record. Beginning with the unearthing of Neanderthals and ``Java Man,'' he carefully sifts through a remarkable succession of hominid finds from Africa, Eurasia, China, Indonesia and Israel, including Don Johanson's 1973 discovery in Ethiopia of ``Lucy,'' a 3.4-million-year-old female hominid skeleton, and the Leakey team's 1984 find, ``Turkana Boy,'' a 1.6-million-year-old Homo erectus skeleton uncovered in Kenya. Citing disagreements among scientists over interpretations of radiocarbon dating, comparative anatomy and biochemical techniques, Tattersall unreels a catalogue of paleoanthropological misidentifications, dogmas and misperceptions. He draws a hypothetical evolutionary tree that includes three genera of our hominid ancestors-Homo and Australopithecus (accepted by conventional wisdom) plus a new genus, Paranthropus-altogether embracing a dozen species leading to Homo sapiens. Illustrated. (Feb.)
Library Journal
This informative and highly readable introduction to paleoanthropology by the head of the anthropology department at the American Museum of Natural History surveys the major discoveries in hominid evolution (fossils and artifacts) and examines both past and present principal interpretations of this growing empirical evidence for the complex emergence of humankind. Important fossils from Olduvai and other sites are critically discussed in terms of modern hominid taxonomy within the framework of climatic fluctuations, environmental changes, and morphological variety (species diversity). Throughout this detailed story, Tattersall argues against both human orthogenesis and the one-species hypothesis for explaining hominid evolution. He focuses on australopithecine diversity and behavior, those questions still surrounding Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis, and the recent appearance of our own unique species in Africa. A fascinating and provocative overview of human paleontology that is highly recommended for all anthropology collections.-H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
Tattersall, head of the Anthropology Department at the American Museum of Natural History, presents a sweeping tour of the study of human evolution, offering a fascinating history of fossil discoveries, including some very recent finds, and a revealing look at how these finds have been interpreted--and misinterpreted--throughout history. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195367669
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/19/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 629,315
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Ian Tattersall is Curator of the Division of Anthropology and Co-Curator of the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the First Edition
Site Map of Western Europe
Site Map of Central Europe
Site Map of The Caucusus and the Near East
Site Map of East Asia
Site Map of Northern Africa
Site Map of Southern Africa
Chapter 1: Before Darwin
Time and the Diversity of Life
Enter the Antiquarians
Neanderthal Debut
Chapter 2: Darwin and After
Natural Selection
Early Disquisitions on Neanderthals
Antiquarianism Transforms into Archaeology
Evolving Notions of Early Humans
Chapter 3: Pithecanthropus
Java Man
Changing Views of the Neanderthals
Chapter 4: The Early Twentieth Century
Genetics and Species
The Hominid Fossil Record Grows
Dawson's Dawn Man
The "Neanderthal Phase of Man"
Chapter 5: Out of Africa
Peking Man
Back to Java
Chapter 6: . . . Always Something New
International Aceptance
A Prophet in His Own Country . . .
African Genesis
Olduvai Gorge
Outside Africa
Chapter 7: The Synthesis
A Remarkable Convergence
Population Thinking
Paleoanthropology Capitulates
Radiometric Dating
The Record Expands and Stereotypes Fall
Chapter 8: Olduvai Gorge
"Jonny's Child"
A Dating Revolution
Handy Man
Collegial Mutterings
Chapter 9: Rama's Ape Meets the Mighty Molecule
A New Hominid
A Top-Heavy Edifice
Enter the Molecules
What Is a Hominid?
Chapter 10: Omo and Turkana
Hominid Catastrophism and the Single-Species Hypothesis
The Omo and Ethiopia
Koobi Fora and the Turkana Basin
The Artifactual Record
More From Koobi Fora
Chapter 11: Hadar, Lucy, and Laetoli
Hadar, Lucy, and the First Family
Bodo and Laetoli
One Species or Two?
A Stem Hominid?
Bipeds and Climbers?
Why Bipedality?
Chapter 12: Theory Intrudes
Phyletic Gradualism or Punctuated Equilibria?
Reluctant Acceptance
Reconstructing Phylogeny
Scenarios and Trees
Chapter 13: Eurasia and Africa: The Record Grows
The Chinese Record
Homo heidelbergensis
Complex Lifeways
Archaeological Transition
East and South
Chapter 14: Turkana and Olduvai—Again
The "Turkana Boy"
Back to Olduvai
The Unthinkable Thought
The Black Skull
Graciles and Robusts
Faunal Turnover
Chapter 15: The Caveman Vanishes
Understanding the Caves
Diverse Records
A Complex Picture
Experimental Archaeology
Other Influences
The Neanderthal View of the World
Chapter 16: Candelabras and Continuity
The Multiregional Model
The Diversity Perspective
A Single Origin
The Mighty Mitochondrion
Refinements in Dating
Levantine Coexistence
Chapter 17: Another Fin de Siècle
Diet and Isotopes
Neanderthal Environmental Preferences
The Neanderthal Body
DNA from Neanderthals
Hybrid Red Herrings
High-Tech Morphometry
Atapuerca: A Fossil Cornucopia
Diversity Among Early Europeans
Out of Africa for the First Time
Moving East
"African Homo erectus": More Diversity?
Early Homo sapiens?
A "Human Revolution"?
"Adams" and "Eves"
The Mysterious Hominid of Flores
Chapter 18: Back to the Beginning
A Veritable Menu of Earliest Hominids
Millennium Man
Back to Kenya
More Entrants
Hadar Again
A Tale of Two Skeletons
A New "Robust"
Isotopes Again
New Australopiths from Ethiopia
Homo Revisited
Chapter 19: So, Where Are We?
Systematics—The Key to Understanding the Hominids
Becoming Human

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2013

    Great book for the novice in paleoanthropology.

    Great book for the novice in paleoanthropology.

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