The Wisdom of the Bones: In Search of Human Origins

Overview

"Fascinating. . . .  As engaging an explanation of how scientists study fossil bones as any I have ever read." --John R. Alden, Philadelphia Inquirer

In 1984 a team of paleoanthropologists on a dig in northern Kenya found something extraordinary: a nearly complete skeleton of Homo erectus, a creature that lived 1.5 million years ago and is widely thought to be the missing link between apes and humans. The remains belonged to a tall, rangy adolescent male. The ...

See more details below
Paperback
$13.57
BN.com price
(Save 15%)$16.00 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (22) from $2.95   
  • New (6) from $9.20   
  • Used (16) from $2.95   
Sending request ...

Overview

"Fascinating. . . .  As engaging an explanation of how scientists study fossil bones as any I have ever read." --John R. Alden, Philadelphia Inquirer

In 1984 a team of paleoanthropologists on a dig in northern Kenya found something extraordinary: a nearly complete skeleton of Homo erectus, a creature that lived 1.5 million years ago and is widely thought to be the missing link between apes and humans. The remains belonged to a tall, rangy adolescent male. The researchers called him "Nariokotome boy."

In this immensely lively book, Alan Walker, one of the lead researchers, and his wife and fellow scientist Pat Shipman tell the story of that epochal find and reveal what it tells us about our earliest ancestors. We learn that Nariokotome boy was a highly social predator who walked upright but lacked the capacity for speech. In leading us to these conclusions, The Wisdom of the Bones also offers an engaging chronicle of the hundred-year-long search for a "missing link," a saga of folly, heroic dedication, and inspired science.

"Brilliantly captures [an] intellectual odyssey. . . .  One of the finest examples of a practicing scientist writing for a popular audience."            
--Portland Oregonian
    
"A vivid insider's perspective on the global efforts to document our own ancestry."
--Richard E. Leakey

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1984, paleoanthropologist Walker, together with Richard Leakey and Kamoya Kimeu, discovered the 1.5-million-year-old skeleton of a teenage male Homo erectus in Kenya. Dubbed the Nariokotome Boy after a nearby sand river, this hominid fossil reveals a tall, strong toolmaker, a cooperative, intensely social hunter who, though adapted to the tropics, was not fully human because, according to the authors, he did not possess language or think as we do. In an exciting first-person narrative coauthored with his paleoanthropologist wife, Walker uses the Nariokotome Boy and other finds to buttress his conjecture that our Homo erectus ancestors migrated out of Africa via the Middle East into Eurasia. In his analysis, Homo erectus, a "missing link" between apes and humans, experienced the prolongation of childhood typical of humans and mastered the human evolutionary trick of bearing big-brained babies whose brains continued to grow rapidly during the first year of life. Photos. (Mar.)
John R. Alden
"Fascinating. . . . As engaging an explanation of how scientists study fossil bones as any I have ever read." -- Philadelphia Inquirer
Portland Oregonian
"Brilliantly captures [an] intellectual odyssey. . . . One of the finest examples of a practicing scientist writing for a popular audience."
Kirkus Reviews
"I am striving to see the human animal in the right perspective." So says paleoanthropologist Walker in the first person, although the text of this first-rate exposition was actually penned by Shipman, Walker's wife and colleague in Pennsylvania State University's anthropology department.

The "human animal" in this case is the 1.5-million-year-old Nariokotome boy, unearthed by Walker near a sand river of the same name on the west side of Lake Turkana in Kenya. The discovery of an almost complete skeleton of Homo erectus, the hominid species presumed to have preceded us, was an extraordinary event. The painstaking analysis of the bones that followed involved collaborations with experts in nutrition, neuroscience, language, and behavior. From their findings and the distribution and dating of other erectus fossils, Walker concludes that populations of the species originated in Africa and were the first hominids to spread to other continents; that they were bipedal, social omnivores who could hunt and kill prey. Like us, their babies were born helpless, so that the head could fit through the narrowed pelvic opening needed for stable walking. This meant that infant care was essential and that the brain could continue to expand during the first year—if not much after that, apparently. The big surprise—based on studying the markings that the brain surface leaves on the inside of the skull—was that H. erectus lacked language: Nariokotome boy was a "large, strong, tall youth of 15 . . . with the brain of a toddler." Such a discovery raises a number of pressing questions—and may be challenged in the contentious field of paleoanthropology.

Nevertheless, the care with which Walker and Shipman lay out the evidence and their theories may well win the day. And even if not, readers will be rewarded by a fine telling of the always fascinating story of where we came from.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679747833
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1997
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Pages: 338
  • Sales rank: 556,039
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Customer Reviews

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

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com 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 & Noble.com 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 & Noble.com 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 BN.com 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

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com 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 BN.com. 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 November 5, 2002

    Absolutely fascinating!

    This was a marvelous book that is both extremely readable and intellectually stimulating. I'm not sure whether to give the credit to Walker or Shipman, but the author was a pleasure to know and a joy to learn from. The careful explanations of how the anthropologists reach their conclusions were gripping, amusing and make the joy of science palpable. I am happy to learn about the "Hominid Gang", the searchers who actually do most of the looking and digging, and to learn that Africans are beginning to set a high standard of excellence in anthropology. Recommended to anyone with even the slightest interest in the topic.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 9, 2000

    Amazing Story

    This book was required reading for my archaeology class. I was way behind and didn't start reading the book until two days before the test, but that didn't matter, I couldn't put it down. There is a little bit of jargon to get past, and some parts will seem drab to anyone not familiar with archaeological methods, but it's well worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    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)