Archive for the 'evolution' Category

01
Aug
13

47 Must Read Books That Explain Human Evolution

homo habilis

Lucy: Her Story of Survival

Here’s a well-rounded list of books that will tell you the basics of mankind’s evolution from primate to modern man. It includes books on the paleoanthropology, archeology, paleo-everything, primate behavior, evolution of those features that characterize our human-ness and more. I’ve read every book on this list, keep most of them in my library. I wish I could read each one again for the first time:

  1. Allen, E.A., The Prehistoric World: or, Vanished Races Central Publishing House 1885
  2. Brown Jr., Tom, Tom Brown’s Field Guide: Wilderness Survival  Berkley Books 1983
  3. Caird, Rod  Apeman:  The Story of Human Evolution  MacMillan  1994
  4. Calvin, William, and Bickerton, Derek  Lingua ex Machina: Reconciling Darwin and Chomsky with the Human BrainMIT Press, 2000
  5. Carss, Bob and Birch, Stewart The SAS Guide to Tracking Lyons Press Guilford Conn. 2000
  6. Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca and Cavalli-Sforza, Francesco  The Great Human Diasporas: The History of Diversity and Evolution   Perseus Press  1995
  7. Conant, Dr. Levi Leonard The Number Concept: Its Origin and Development  Macmillan and Co. Toronto 1931
  8. Diamond, Jared  The Third Chimpanzee   Harper Perennial  1992
  9. Edey, Maitland  Missing Link  Time-Life Books  1972
  10. Erickson, Jon Glacial Geology: How Ice Shapes the Land   Facts on File Inc. 1996
  11. Fleagle, John Primate Adaptation and Evolution  Academic Press 1988 Continue reading ’47 Must Read Books That Explain Human Evolution’
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19
Jun
13

How Did Homo erectus Differ as a Species 800,000 ya?

He seeks out Lucy out of duty to his band

He seeks out Lucy out of duty to his band

Once Homo erectus left Africa and began his journey to the disparate biomes and habitats of the planet, he evolved from the phenotype that populated Africa 1.8 mya. His behavior adapted to  new climates and that begat variations in tool use, food consumed and cultural norms. His group size, home base characteristics, survival techniques started to vary across the planet.

More than that, Homo erectus‘ (variously called Homo erectus, Homo ergaster and Homo antecessor depending upon where they lived) physical characteristics evolved to suit the environ, be it what we consider ancient China, Java, Dmanisi Georgia, Israel or Gran Dolina Spain. I’m sure man’s genotype remained within what would be considered Homo erectus, but culturally and physically, the bands differed greatly.

Let me take a step back for a moment. There is a difference of opinion as to when mankind’s ‘culture’ began. I spent quite a bit of time researching the definition of ‘culture’ as well as its roots without finding a definitive answer. Therefore, I’ll call the lifestyle elements that are based on environmental conditions like geology, geography, climate, ecosystems ‘culture’. From reading the research of the experts, I’ve come to believe our forebears developed ‘culture’ the moment they used their powers of reasoning to adapt their actions to their surroundings.

Why do I care about all this? Primarily, I am curious about my ancestors. Homo erectus is the first species of the genus Homo to portray the wanderlust so important to modern man’s occupation of every corner of the planet. Nothing seemed to stop him. He adapted, invented and survived. This is eerily familiar to modern man.

To better understand how these long-gone individuals lived their lives, I set out to tell their story a decade ago. What were their daily activities? How did Homo erectus survive the unforgiving hand of nature? What led to inventions like fire, clothing and Acheulian tool making (the latter arrived hundreds of thousands of years apart depending upon whether erectus lived in China or Israel. Why?)  To make sense of these questions, I invented characters and dropped them into settings with crises I reasoned they likely would have faced in their world. This gave me the required elements of a paleo-historic novel.

Continue reading ‘How Did Homo erectus Differ as a Species 800,000 ya?’

15
May
13

Book Review: Singing Neanderthals

The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and BodyThe Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body

by Steven Mithen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have avoided this book in the past because my personal interest extends to an earlier time than Neanderthals, but I shouldn’t have. The title is misleading in that he extends to man’s earliest Homo habilis days, not those relatively-modern Homo neanderthalensis times. He explains the importance of music to man’s ability to use symbols, to express ideas without the vast lexicon we currently possess. He shares his definition of music as ‘human sound communication outside the scope of language’ (borrowed from Bruno Nettl) and describes a believable scenario for the co-evolution of music and language. All in all, a well thought-out book with lots of factually-based opinions.

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30
Apr
13

Did You Know: Early Man Was Pretty Smart

mankind“…Homo erectus of 700,000 years ago had a geometrically accurate sense of proportion and could impose this on stone in the external world. In effect, without paper or ruler, mathematical transformations were being performed.” Mental Abilities of Early Man: A L0ok at Some Hard Evidence John A. J. Gowlett 1984, Academic Press, London


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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24
Apr
13

Extinctions are Part of Life

I read this article about the Eastern Cougar, now declared extinct, with sadness. It’s part of being human that we want to protect those in need, those weaker than us. The fact that we hunted this animal to extinction almost 300 years ago–as we did the American buffalo–doesn’t make it any more palatable.

The truth is, this happens all the time. Species are only viable when they can survive and thrive in their environ. When they no longer can, they die. The lifespan of the average species is only about 2 million years. Man tweaked that model by changing his environment, emigrating until we reached every corner of the world. Few species do that. Notably, insects do this with impunity, evolving a new species that fits the changed environment.

Most extinct species, we don’t notice. They were here and then gone and we move on. Some (buffalo, gorillas, apes), we try to stop the inevitable. The most notable to me are the Great Apes. They have been hunted and stalked until they now only survive in limited portions of the the planet, in limited numbers. They are as close to human as we can get without the technologic advances that allowed man to survive against greater odds. Tools, problem-solving skills, specialization. Yes, primates accomplish those traits thought to be unique to man and are evolving to do them better, but will they make it before they, too, become extinct.

Here’s the story on the Eastern Cougar. It’s sad, so don’t read it before you’re making an upbeat presentation.

An eastern cougar pouncing.
By Robert Savannah

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has officially declared the eastern cougar extinct, 79 years after the last one was reported in the wild in the United States.

The eastern cougar is a subspecies of the cougar, which includes the Florida panther and the western cougar. There are multiple subspecies, though exactly how many is debated among biologists. All are called by several names depending on the area, including puma, panther, mountain lion, catamount, cougar and painter.

The eastern cougar’s historic range extended from Maine south to Georgia, west into eastern Missouri and eastern Illinois, and north to Michigan and Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick, Canada.

Continue reading ‘Extinctions are Part of Life’

10
Apr
13

Book Review: Timewalkers

Timewalkers: The Prehistory of Global ColonizationTimewalkers: The Prehistory of Global Colonization

by Clive Gamble

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It’s a difficult question. Why did earliest man leave Africa and migrate to new areas. Mostly, animals evolve suited to their environment and they don’t stray far. They may have several areas they frequent, but they return to each, not leave them entirely.We had already accommodated ourselves to ravel more than 12 kilometers for raw materials, which is less than modern hunter-gatherers, but more than other primates. Continue reading ‘Book Review: Timewalkers’

03
Apr
13

Book Review: The Acheulian Site of Gesher Benot Ya’Aqov, Israel: The Wood Assemblage

The Acheulian Site of Gesher Benot Ya'Aqov, Israel: The Wood Assemblage (Gesher Benot Ya'aqov Monograph Series)The Acheulian Site of Gesher Benot Ya’Aqov, Israel: The Wood Assemblage

by Naama Goren Inbar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A readable monograph, which sounds like an oxymoron but is actually a rarity. Lots of scientific detail. I read it to get better insight into this part of Israel during the middle Pleistocene, the time Homo erectus was emigrating from Africa to the world. Yes, I got some of that, though the author refused to draw conclusions from her collected data. This was my personal disappointment, but gave me respect for the type of scientist Dr. Inbar is. I’ve looked for the other books in the series (this one only covers the wood detritus collected at the site), but they either were never written or are unpublished.

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Continue reading ‘Book Review: The Acheulian Site of Gesher Benot Ya’Aqov, Israel: The Wood Assemblage’




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Discover the sizzle in science. It's not that stuff that's always for the smart kids. It's the need to know. The passion for understanding. The absolute belief that for every problem, there is a solution. The creative mind seeking truth in a world of mystery. The quest for the Holy Grail.

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Great Science Books

Assembling California
Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant
The Forest People
Geology Underfoot in Southern California
The Land's Wild Music: Encounters with Barry Lopez, Peter Matthiessen, Terry Tempest William, and James Galvin
My Life with the Chimpanzees
Naked Earth: The New Geophysics
Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are
The Runaway Brain: The Evolution of Human Uniqueness
Sand Rivers
The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body
The Tree Where Man Was Born
The Wildlife of Southern Africa: A Field Guide to the Animal and Plants of the Region
The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior: An Autobiography


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RSS Fact and Fiction about Early Man

  • Ki'ti's Story, 75,000 BC December 11, 2016
    author: Bonnye Matthews name: Jacqui average rating: 4.27 book published: 2012 rating: 5 read at: 2016/12/11 date added: 2016/12/11 shelves: early-man review: […]
    Bonnye Matthews
  • Meeting Prehistoric Man October 4, 2014
    author: GHR von Koenigswald name: Jacqui average rating: 4.00 book published: 1492 rating: 5 read at: 2014/10/04 date added: 2014/10/04 shelves: early-man review: Meeting Prehistoric Man by GHR Von Koenigswald is a journey throughout the world in discovery of early man as paleoanthropologists understood him during VonKoenigswald's time, circa 1950' […]
    GHR von Koenigswald
  • Letters from the Field, 1925-1975 September 13, 2014
    author: Margaret Mead name: Jacqui average rating: 4.17 book published: 1977 rating: 5 read at: 2014/09/13 date added: 2014/09/13 shelves: early-man review: If you didn't read my last week's post, you may wonder why I am so excited about Margaret Mead's eye-opening book, Letters From the Field. Even if you read me last week, you may wonder--I […]
    Margaret Mead
  • The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention January 12, 2014
    author: Guy Deutscher name: Jacqui average rating: 4.17 book published: 2005 rating: 3 read at: date added: 2014/01/12 shelves: early-man, research review: Dr. Deutscher has done a scholarly, thorough discussion on the roots of language, but I believe he started too late in time. I'm of the persuasion that language involves more than the spoken word. I […]
    Guy Deutscher
  • She Who remembers November 3, 2013
    author: Linda Lay Shuler name: Jacqui average rating: 4.11 book published: 1988 rating: 4 read at: date added: 2013/11/03 shelves: early-man review: […]
    Linda Lay Shuler
  • The Runaway Brain: The Evolution Of Human Uniqueness July 25, 2011
    author: Christopher Wills name: Jacqui average rating: 4.12 book published: 1993 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: science, early-man review: In my lifelong effort to understand what makes us human, I long ago arrived at the lynchpin to that discussion: our brain. Even though bipedalism preceded big brains, and we couldn't be who we are […]
    Christopher Wills
  • The Origin Of Humankind (Science Masters Series) July 25, 2011
    author: Richard E. Leakey name: Jacqui average rating: 3.97 book published: 1981 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, history review: If you're interested in man's roots, there are several authors you must read: Birute Galdikas Dian Fosse Donald Johanson GHR Von Koenigsman Glen Isaacs Jared Diamond Ian Tattersell Lev Vygots […]
    Richard E. Leakey
  • Lucy: the beginnings of humankind July 24, 2011
    author: Donald C. Johanson name: Jacqui average rating: 4.11 book published: 1981 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, science review: I read this book when I was writing a paleo-historic drama of the life of earliest man. My characters were Homo habilines, but they cohabited Africa with Australopithecines, so to understand the co-st […]
    Donald C. Johanson
  • Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe July 24, 2011
    author: Jane Goodall name: Jacqui average rating: 4.25 book published: 1990 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, science review: I have read every book that Jane Goodall wrote. She has an easy-going writing style that shares scientific principals easily with the layman. Probably because when she started, she was little more than a no […]
    Jane Goodall
  • In the Shadow of Man July 24, 2011
    author: Jane Goodall name: Jacqui average rating: 4.33 book published: 1971 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/23 shelves: early-man, science review: I read Jane Goodall's In the Shadow of Man (Houghton Mifflin 1971) years ago as research for a paleo-historic novel I was writing. I needed background on the great apes so I could show them acting appr […]
    Jane Goodall
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