Origins Reconsidered.

By Richard Leakey & Roger Lewin

Printed: 1992

Publisher: Little Brown & Co. London

Dimensions 17 × 24 × 4 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 17 x 24 x 4

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In the original dustsheet. Tan cloth binding with gilt title on the spine.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

Richard Leakey questions the widely accepted idea of a 2 million-year-old ancestry of hunters and gatherers – the men hunting, the women raising children – that is the basis of modern man’s nuclear family, and asks why the first signs of humanity occurred a mere 15,000 years ago in the cave paintings of Lascaux. What was going on in the minds of men before that first recorded expression of art and humanity occurred? Richard Leakey also wrote People of the Lake and The Making of Mankind . Roger Lewin is also the author of the prize-winning Bones of Contention.

Review: Richard Leakey’s role in bringing to light human origins needs no explanation here. His family history, from Louis through Mary to Richard’s strong role in controlling poaching has received extensive media attention. Stll, his long history of work in paleoanthropology remains the most noteworthy aspect of his life. This book, which presents a strong sense of his humanity, hasn’t garnered the attention it deserves.

Leakey’s humanist view ranges from flying an aircraft to his reflections on the art of our ancestors while touring the Lascaux caves. One can only envy his breadth of opportunity and open conveying of his feelings. He’s been challenged for his ‘lack of credentials’, but you’ll look long and hard to find an ‘academician’ who can duplicate his feats or writing skills. Without excuses, he provides plausible scenarios of how our distant ancestors lived, a risky approach in a science ready to challenge such presumption. We might also credit his flexibility and candid approach to his generalist background. Few ‘guild’ members would present such a sincere relation of the impact of molecular research on a ‘bone hunter’. We would all do well to follow his example of a willingness to revise an attitude in confronting newly revealed evidence.

Leakey strongly uses the role of language in our development. Since Raymond Dart’s find of the Taung Child three generations ago, the question of brain development and bipedalism has dominated much of anthropology’s literature. Brain growth and cultural factors have a firm tie, and Leakey examines the issue critically. Relying heavily on Harry Jerison’s work, Leakey sees brain/language [read ‘culture’] to result from a strong feedback loop.

A whiff of the longstanding Leakey/Johanson dispute drifts through this book, but it’s merely a passing trail [those unfamiliar with the issues must read Don Johanson’s LUCY and Lewin’s own BONES OF CONTENTION – both should reside in your library]. Leakey chooses rather to address Johanson’s colleagues Owen Lovejoy and Tim White. Having championed Lovejoy’s superb synopsis of human evolution in LUCY, it’s a bit disturbing to see Leakey attempt to trash his scenario here. Out-of-context quotes can be devastating to readers unfamiliar with the human evolutionary picture.

If this book has a flaw, it’s the lack of a bibliography. Although this may seem contradictory after praising his independence from academia, the people cited are too significant to warrant omission of their work.

That noted, this account remains a superb item to add to any library. Leakey and Lewin’s combined writing skills, illustrations keyed to the important issues, and willingness to speculate keep the reader enthralled throughout. Don’t let the publication date of this book discourage you. New fossil evidence has added to the information here, but not outdated it. Read this book and judge for yourself.

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