Meave Leakey's memoir, written with her daughter Samira, encapsulates her distinguished life and career on the front lines of the hunt for our human origins, a quest made all the more notable by her stature as a woman in a highly competitive, male-dominated field.
... masterful ... [Leakey] demonstrates the astonishing amount of knowledge that can be gained, for example, through meticulous examination of something as seemingly unimportant as a prehistoric baby tooth ... Best of all, Meave and her co-writer, her youngest daughter Samira Leakey, write clearly and compellingly about what these discoveries mean. In a fascinating chapter inspired by the birth of her grandchildren, Meave explores the advantages for our species of having parents who live long beyond childbearing years. Other chapters concern the development of our most distinguishing features: walking on two feet, the amazing mobility of our hands and the size of our brains. Some readers may find this all goes too deep into the sands of time, but many more will find it a thrilling account.
... an engaging memoir in which fieldwork adventures appear alongside dense details of Ice Age cycles, ice core technology, fossil anatomy, and geological research. It serves as an invitation to grasp how climate cycles have driven human evolution and how anthropogenic global warming now threatens our species (and a multitude of others) ... In the book’s epilogue, Leakey draws a strange analogy between baboons destroying a vegetable garden and modern humans wrecking our planet, but she places blame for Earth’s most recent climate disruption where it belongs ... The book shines in its descriptions of what it is like to set up base camp in remote, sometimes harsh conditions and to search the landscape relentlessly for small fragments of bone that are all but invisible to the untrained eye, and Leakey writes with a fine sense of humor ... Better yet, she writes with humility. Leakey frequently praises individual members of her team as well as other scientists, with evident admiration for their skills ... These considerable strengths offset the few places where the science takes a wrong turn ... Overall, however, The Sediments of Time is a marvelous account of what it is like for a celebrated scientist to take on some of the most vital and vexing questions regarding human origins and to come up with biocultural answers.
... an exciting and richly informative scientist’s autobiography, covering personal matters briskly, no matter how dramatic, and passionately sharing her driving fascination with our hominin ancestors and their environments. Chronicling with vivid detail the diligence and fortitude fieldwork demands, the exhilaration of major finds, and the controversies these discoveries engendered, Meave elucidates how fossils inform her compelling theories about our ancestors’ ability to outrun prey (thanks to sweat glands), making 'persistence hunting' possible; hominin social bonding and caregiving; and the crucial family role filled by older females. Ultimately, this major work of scientific dedication and original insight illuminates both our distant past and our current, serious, human-caused planetary challenges.