THE HOMINID GANG: Behind the Scenes in the Search for Human Origins by Delta Willis

THE HOMINID GANG: Behind the Scenes in the Search for Human Origins

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An excellent look at the personalities and puzzles in the scientific search for human origins. Willis, a science and travel writer, arrows in on the most prominent personalities in the ""hominid gang"" of African fossil-hunters. Her stellar attraction is Richard Leakey, the brash African-born heir to a family of fossil-hunters. Willis devotes much space to sorting out, in a series of vivid set-pieces, Leakey's famed rivalry with American David Johanson (Leakey believes that our ancestors run back in the Homo line for several million years; Johanson believes we sprang from the australopithecines, whose remains include the famous ""Lucy"" fossil). In the Nairobi Museum, Leakey and Stephen Jay Gould argue about whether humans had a single or multiple origin; at the Museum of Natural History in New York, scores of paleontologists pore over a special exhibit of 40 classic hominid fossils; near Lake Turkana in Kenya, Willis follows paleogeographer Frank Brown as he deciphers geological strata. The hominid gang and its allies, as Willis amply demonstrates, incorporates a variety of disciplines: Peter Jones fiddling with ancient tools, Alan Walker reconstructing fossils, Irven Devore speculating on human mating strategies. For all these scientists, Willis shows, research is not the glamorized adventure of Indiana Jones, but rather years of monotonous work in dusty labs and even dustier fields. Without doubt the best you-are-there look at human origins. Darwin himself would have enjoyed this one.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Viking