ORIGINS by Richard E. & Roger Lewin Leakey


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Richard, son of Louis and Mary, is well established in the family line of paleontology, having unearthed many important fossils including the oldest complete skull of early man, an advanced hominid who lived some 2(apple) million years ago. He and co-author Lewin, science editor of New Scientist, are responsible for a handsome volume describing man's emergence out of Africa and into modern life. The book is rich in illustrations of sites, fossils, and contemporary primates and hunting-gathering groups. Included, too, are artists' renderings of early man (sexist note: women only appear in the crowd scenes). With such a profusion of illustrations, it is noteworthy that the text is as complete and detailed as it is, quite scholarly for a book aimed at a popular audience. (The pedantic ""we"" intrudes a bit too often.) Leakey and Lewin deliver some firm opinions in areas of scholarly or popular controversy such as the naming of species, the growth of intelligence, and the nature of man. For the authors, co-operation is the keyword to mankind's success, not aggression. They cite as evidence the highly varied behavior of baboons--dominant and territorial under conditions of stress, more relaxed when on easier terrain. The cultural change from hunting and gathering to settled towns and the accumulation of property may account for human aggression and territoriality, not something innate in the brain. There is a cheering suggestion that somehow humans may muddle through if they use their heads--even granting that the species can't stay around forever. It's good to report that a book so richly adorned is an excellent and entertaining source of information.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1977
Publisher: Dutton