PEKING MAN by Harry L. Shapiro


Email this review


An unfocused, idiosyncratic perusal of the fossils of Sinanthropus pekinensis: their discovery in 1926; how they brought about an adaptation in evolutionary theory; what they suggest of the body and behavior of this early hominid; their disappearance in World War II; and the intriguing detective tale of the on-going effort to turn them up (they are still lost). Readers of the New York Times will recall recent front-page coverage of outre meetings at the Empire State Building, and searches in obscure museums; that account was almost as complete as this one and more dramatically rendered. Shapiro tries to combine a personal, informal style (praising fellow anthropologists, second-guessing the proper safe-keeping of the bones, jotting down personal notes) with scientific fact and theory (the anatomy, tools, clothes, food of the hominids). Much of this is already known to the general reader (the significance of brain size, the development of erect posture) and a bothersome air of false modesty permeates much of the book (""My own guess is that. . .""; ""my deep professional concern over the fate of the fossils""). Shapiro is a distinguished anthropologist who has been intimately involved with these specimens; it is unfortunate that the book is not what it might have been.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1974
Publisher: Simon & Schuster