THE MAKING OF MANKIND by Richard E. Leakey
Kirkus Star


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This handsomely illustrated follow-up to Origins--the companion-piece, also, to a forthcoming TV series--finds the peripatetic paleontologist in a more mellow and personal mood. We learn of a recent kidney transplant (the donor, brother Philip), and we learn what it was like to grow up with Louis and Mary. Richard all-but-swore he'd never dig for fossils; at 16, he dropped out of school and learned to fly a plane. Clearly, the rebellion didn't last long, and now it's Richard and his mother who make the finds and the headlines. The book takes on mankind in serial order--with some side excursions to brush up on Darwin and polemicize against creationists, or to explain fossil-hunting and new high-technology analysis. (E.g., the use of electron microscopy to study wear patterns on fossil teeth as a clue to what foods were eaten.) Leakey plays down the dispute with Donald Johanson as to where Lucy fits into the grand scheme of things, referring casually to Johanson as ""Don"" (and indeed first-naming other contemporaries of note). More fossil evidence is needed, he concludes, taking rather noncommittal stands on other issues--the origins and end of the Neanderthal line, the meaning of cave art, the birth of language, and so on. Some material is new--such as suggestions of earlier dates for the introduction of plant cultivation or animal husbandry--but much we have heard before, in Leakey's and other popularizations. Toward the end, though, he recants his strong feelings on the role of culture and property-accumulation in contributing to mankind's rush-to-arms--illustrating his point with a description of the not-so-nice things that have been happening to the !Kung peoples of South Africa now that they've been urged into farming and away from their hunter-gathering lifestyle. Johanson and Edy have the edge over Leakey in flair, but Leakey's ever-clear, ever-enthusiastic, and now gentler voice carries the reader along in fine style.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1981
Publisher: Dutton