ORIGINS by Lewis Dartnell


How Earth's History Shaped Human History
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A thoughtful history of our species as a product of 4 billion years of geology.

According to British astrobiologist Dartnell (Science Communication/Univ. of Westminster; The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch, 2014), “to truly understand our own story we must examine the biography of the earth itself–its landscape features and underlying fabric, atmospheric circulation and climate regions, plate tectonics, and ancient episodes of climate change. In this book we’ll explore what our environment has done to us.” Indeed, the author largely ignores human creations or actions, including war, religion, technology, and government. Readers will encounter plenty of intriguing surprises. The study of plate tectonics, which produces earthquakes and volcanoes, is vital to understanding the rise of early civilizations. The earliest, from the Aztecs to those in Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and India, grew along fault lines that happen to be rich in water and fertile soil. “We are the children of plate tectonics,” writes Dartnell. For 80 to 90 percent of our existence, our planet was hotter than today; then, 50 million years ago, it began cooling. The Antarctic ice cap first appeared 35 million years ago, the Northern ice caps 15-20 million years later. East African jungles retreated, replaced by open grasslands that encouraged the diversity of hominins as well as the large herbivorous mammals they hunted. More than 2.5 million years ago, encouraged by variations in the Earth’s movement, glaciers began spreading south and then retreating in a dozen ice ages. We are currently enjoying a warm period of retreat, but the industrial burning of fossil fuels is leading to an uncertain future of increasing temperatures, acidic oceans, unstable weather, shifting rainfall patterns, and rising sea levels. Despite the inevitable gloomy conclusion, Dartnell is an engaging guide through millions of years of history.

An expert chronicle of the Earth that culminates in human civilization.

Pub Date: May 14th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5416-1790-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2019


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