The science-adventure story of the team who discovered the 'Ardi' skeleton, a human more than a million years older than the famous Lucy, and their 20-year quest to redefine our understanding of human evolution.
... lively ... Pattison ably combines the adventure yarn with scientific minutiae, tracking the team’s findings, which ultimately refuted the theory that modern apes are close relics of a common human ancestor. Pattison doesn’t neglect the academic backlash against this challenge to conventional wisdom (one professor called them 'so far wrong as to be laughable') and makes vivid characters of the Ardi team. Though Pattison goes deep on the science, the abundance of detail gets to be a bit much. Nevertheless, those interested in human origins should check out this vivid and thorough study.
... a work of staggering depth that brings us into the search for the oldest human ... Pattison deftly weaves strands of science, sociology and political science into a compelling tale that stretches over decades. His discussions of scientific theories and phenomena are sophisticated enough for the expert yet clear and understandable to the novice ... He spent more than five years researching the book, including several trips to the dig sites. The amount of material he juggles is astounding, yet he never loses the thread. His prose is lively and accessible, bringing to life topics that could be insufferably dry and dense in the wrong hands ... Like any good mystery, Pattison’s tale is brimming with scoundrels, heroes, wrong turns and surprising twists. It’s an ambitious work that fully justifies the extraordinary effort that went into it, both by the fossil men and by the writer who chronicled their work.
In Fossil Men, journalist Kermit Pattison recounts intriguing backstories of the Ardi scientists and how they came to challenge popular views of hominid evolution. Many incidents in the book show the courage and grit it took to find and excavate Ardi in Ethiopia’s remote Middle Awash area, where local nomadic groups are prone to shoot at outsiders. Pattison also examines how Ardi’s skeleton makes her a one-of-a-kind find ... The literary flow slows as Pattison probes the ins and outs of Ardi’s skeletal parts. But patient readers are rewarded with a vision of a somewhat apelike, somewhat monkeylike, somewhat humanlike creature, that, its discoverers argue, destroys the influential view that early hominids looked much like chimpanzees after having evolved from a knuckle-walking ancestor. For anyone interested in fossil hunting, evolutionary science and a hominid skeleton like no other, this book delivers.