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Understanding the evolution of the human race

Understanding Human Evolution

Human life, and how we came to be, is one of the greatest scientific and philosophical questions of our time. This compact and accessible book presents a modern view of human evolution. Written by a leading authority, it lucidly and engagingly explains not only the evolutionary process, but the technologies currently used to unravel the evolutionary past and emergence of Homo sapiens. By separating the history of palaeoanthropology from current interpretation of the human fossil record, it lays numerous misconceptions to rest, and demonstrates that human evolution has been far from the linear struggle from primitiveness to perfection that we’ve been led to believe. It also presents a coherent scenario for how Homo sapiens contrived to cross a formidable cognitive barrier to become an extraordinary and unprecedented thinking creature. Elegantly illustrated, Understanding Human Evolution is for anyone interested in the complex and tangled story of how we came to be.

‘For years, Ian Tattersall has been the go-to source for the latest facts and interpretations of human evolution. Here, in his clear, pithy style, he brings us up to date on the latest discoveries, weaving them skillfully into a coherent outline of hominid history extending back millions of years. It’s all here-from the latest on DNA and radiometric dating of fossils, to the nature and origin of the still-mysterious self-consciousness that is unique to modern humans. A terrific resource and wonderful read!’ Niles Eldredge, Curator Emeritus in the Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History, USA

‘Ian Tattersall provides in this short and engaging book the story of how humans evolved, and, as importantly, how we have come to learn about our evolutionary history and the nature of being human through great discoveries and great scientific debates.’ Robert Foley, Leverhulme Professor of Human Evolution, University of Cambridge, UK

‘Understanding Human Evolution provides a sweeping overview of the field of human evolution, giving equal attention to the history of the discipline as well as current thoughts and ideas about our attainment of the milestones of human evolution-upright posture and bipedal locomotion, the evolution of tool use, the expansion of the brain and human cognition, the development of language, and the spread of humans out of Africa around the globe. All of this is presented in a concise and accessible package by one of the most well-known popularizers of the field today. This is an excellent resource for anyone looking for an introduction to the fossil evidence for human evolution, as well as those who want to catch up on the current state of knowledge in this fast-moving discipline.’ Leslie C. Aiello, FBA, Professor Emerita, University College London, UK

‘An enjoyable, highly informative, and scholarly read. Tattersall is at his best here. Engaging the reader with his inimitable style, he interprets and explains the convoluted evidence for how we became human. Written largely for the non-specialist, there is much here that will inform and even stimulate professional paleoanthropologists.’ Donald Johanson, Founding Director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, USA


Slavery, the origins of race, ancient views of difference, 19th century race science, and more.

      Topic Name Description   Race Timeline – GO DEEPER SHORT SUMMARY – how racial classification has changed over time. Race is a modern idea that evolved out of specific historical circumstances. origins of race, U.S. history, world history The Historical Origins and Development of Racism ARTICLE BY GEORGE FREDRICKSON – a brief overview of the evolution of the race concept in the West. origins of race, slavery, racism, classification, U.S. history Presentation by Historian Barbara J. Fields EDITED TRANSCRIPT – how race was created to justify American slavery and how race, or racism, is inherently non-neutral. origins of race, slavery Africans, Slavery and Race SUMMARY BY JOHN CHENG – Was it inevitable that Africans would be imported to the Americas to become slaves? Did European views about racial inferiority contribute to the fact of New World African slavery? origins of race, slavery, Interview with James O. Horton, historian EDITED TRANSCRIPT – the fluidity of racial identities in early colonial America, the long history of slavery not based on race, how the rationalization of slavery continues to affect us today. racial classification, law, whiteness, early racial identity, U.S. history Interview with Robin D.G. Kelley, historian EDITED TRANSCRIPT – how did early American peoples see themselves? how is race socially constructed? how is racism more than just individual prejudice and fear? origins of race, anthropology, slavery, early ideas Interview with Audrey Smedley, anthropologist

EDITED TRANSCRIPT – how is race a modern concept? why were Africans enslaved? What role did 19th century ethnologists and race scientists play in shaping our understanding of race?