From Lucy to Language

From Lucy to Language

Book - 2006
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Baker & Taylor
An authorized analysis of the state of scientific knowledge concerning human origins, updated to include such recent discoveries as the Homo floresiensis and Mary Leakey's Kenyanthropus playtops, explores what physical artifacts can tell the modern world about key questions pertaining to humanity, language, and race. 20,000 first printing.

Blackwell North Amer
Between 6 and 7 million years ago, Earth experienced a global cooling period, which resulted in a drier climate in many areas of the world. In East Africa, what had been heavily wooded forest began to change over to savannah grasslands. Animals that had adapted to the dense forests encountered new challenges and had to adapt to more open environments among them one or more populations of relatively large apes.
Different animals adopted various strategies to survive in this new environment. At least one population of apes did what no other animal had done before (or since, which was to stand up and routinely move about on two legs.
This revolution in behavior will probably never by fully explained. Compared to walking on four legs, bipedal locomotion is slow, clumsy, energetically inefficient, and fraught with opportunities for injury. Yet, being upright endowed these apes with certain advantages, such as enhanced visibility and better thermoregulation. Certainly the ability to habitually walk on two legs freed their hands to carry food and manipulate stones and other objects in the environment, an ability that looms large in the evolution of humans. Whatever the reasons, this unparalleled evolutionary innovation conveyed significant adaptive advantage to these creatures. And with this advantage, succeed these bipedal apes certainly did.
By 2 million years ago they began to surge out of Africa, north into Europe and east into the Near East, China, and beyond into the Indonesian archipelago.
As the archaeological evidence of their technologically advanced tools and luminous cave paintings demonstrates, they brought with them the beginnings of modern human culture - language, art, religion, and science.
Today we are the sole and last representative of that group of apes who, in standing up on two legs for the first time, began the amazing evolutionary journey described in From Lucy to Language. The deepest message of this story, and thus of this book, is that we, like all other creatures large and small, are of this Earth. Yes, we are the most intelligent and most cooperative of all animals that have ever existed but also the most dangerous. We must realize that we are not the final product of evolution on Earth. Our species, like all others, is an evolutionary work in progress. Earth is our birthplace and our home. We must use the great powers with which evolution has endowed us to respect and nurture Earth, for despite our technological hubris, life on Earth will go on with or without us.

& Taylor

Explores what physical artifacts can tell the modern world about key questions pertaining to humanity, language, and race, including such recent discoveries as the Homo floresiensis and Mary Leakey's Kenyanthropus platyops.

Simon and Schuster
In 1974 in a remote region of Ethiopia, Donald Johanson, then one of America's most promising young paleoanthropologists, discovered "Lucy", the oldest, best preserved skeleton of any erect-walking human ever found. This discovery prompted a complete reevaluation of previous evidence for human origins.

In the years since this dramatic discovery Johanson has continued to scour East Africa's Great rift Valley for the earliest evidence of human origins. In 1975 this team unearthed the "First Family", an unparalleled fossil assemblage of 13 individuals dating back to 3.2 million years ago; and in 1986 at the Rift's most famous location, Olduvai Gorge, this same team discovered a 1.8 million-year-old partial adult skeleton that necessitated a reassessment of the earliest members of our own genus Homo.

Johanson's fieldwork continues unabated and recently more fossil members of Lucy's family have been found, including the 1992 discovery of the oldest, most complete skull of her species, with future research now planned for 1996 in the virtually unexplored regions of the most northern extension of the Rift Valley in Eritrea.

From Lucy to Language is a summing up of this remarkable career and a stunning documentary of human life through time on Earth. It is a combination of the vital experience of field work and the intellectual rigor of primary research. It is the fusion of two great writing talents: Johanson and Blake Edgar, an accomplished science writer, editor of the California Academy of Sciences' Pacific Discovery, and co-author of Johanson's last book, Ancestors.

From Lucy to Language is one of the greatest stories ever told, bracketing the timeline between bipedalism and human language. Part I addresses the central issues facing anyone seeking to decipher the mystery of human origins. In this section the authors provide answers to the basics -- "What are our closest living relatives?" -- tackle the controversial -- "What is race?" -- and contemplate the imponderables -- "Why did consciousness evolve?"

From Lucy to Language is an encounter with the evidence. Early human fossils are hunted, discovered, identified, excavated, collected, preserved, labeled, cleaned, reconstructed, drawn, fondled, photographed, cast, compared, measured, revered, pondered, published, and argued over endlessly. Fossils like Lucy have become a talisman of sorts, promising to reveal the deepest secrets of our existence. In Part II the authors profile over fifty of the most significant early human fossils ever found. Each specimen is displayed in color and at actual size, most of them in multiple views. With them the authors present the cultural accoutrements associated with the fossils: stone tools which evidence increasing sophistication over time, the earliest stone, clay, and ivory art objects, and the culminating achievement of the dawn of human consciousness -- the magnificent rock and cave paintings of Europe, Africa, Australia, and the Americas.

In the end From Lucy to Language is a reminder and a challenge. Like no species before us, we now seem poised to control vast parts of the planet and its life. We possess the power to influence, if not govern, evolution. For that reason, we must not forget our link to the natural world and our debt to natural selection. We need to "think deep", to add a dose of geologic time and evolutionary history to our perspective of who we are, where we came from, and where we are headed. This is the most poignant lesson this book has to offer.

Publisher: New York : Simon and Schuster, c2006
Edition: Rev., updated, and expanded
ISBN: 9780743280648
Characteristics: 288 p. : ill. (chiefly col.), col. map ; 31 cm
Additional Contributors: Edgar, Blake

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