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Fossil Men

The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind

Kermit Pattison



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11 November 2020
Riveting. ... Pattison's uncanny ability [is] to write evocatively about science. ... In this, he is every bit as good as the best scientist writers. -New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice) Brilliant. ... A work of staggering depth. -Minneapolis Star Tribune A decade in the making, Fossil Men is a scientific detective story played out in anatomy and the natural history of the human body: the first full-length account of the discovery of a startlingly unpredicted human ancestor more than a million years older than Lucy It is the ultimate mystery: where do we come from In 1994, a team led by fossil-hunting legend Tim White uncovered a set of ancient bones in Ethiopia's Afar region. Radiometric dating of nearby rocks indicated the resulting skeleton, classified as Ardipithecus ramidus-nicknamed Ardi -was an astounding 4.4 million years old, more than a million years older than the world-famous Lucy. The team spent the next 15 years studying the bones in strict secrecy, all while continuing to rack up landmark fossil discoveries in the field and becoming increasingly ensnared in bitter disputes with scientific peers and Ethiopian bureaucrats. When finally revealed to the public, Ardi stunned scientists around the world and challenged a half-century of orthodoxy about human evolution-how we started walking upright, how we evolved our nimble hands, and, most significantly, whether we were descended from an ancestor that resembled today's chimpanzee. But the discovery of Ardi wasn't just a leap forward in understanding the roots of humanity--it was an attack on scientific convention and the leading authorities of human origins, triggering an epic feud about the oldest family skeleton.

In Fossil Men, acclaimed journalist Kermit Pattison brings us a cast of eccentric, obsessive scientists, including White, an uncompromising perfectionist whose virtuoso skills in the field were matched only by his propensity for making enemies; Gen Suwa, a Japanese savant whose deep expertise about teeth rivaled anyone on Earth; Owen Lovejoy, a onetime creationist-turned-paleoanthropologist with radical insights into human locomotion; Berhane Asfaw, who survived imprisonment and torture to become Ethiopia's most senior paleoanthropologist; Don Johanson, the discoverer of Lucy, who had a rancorous falling out with the Ardi team; and the Leakeys, for decades the most famous family in paleoanthropology.

Based on a half-decade of research in Africa, Europe and North America, Fossil Men is not only a brilliant investigation into the origins of the human lineage, but the oldest of human emotions: curiosity, jealousy, perseverance and wonder.
By:   Kermit Pattison
Imprint:   HARPER360
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 230mm,  Width: 155mm,  Spine: 35mm
Weight:   545g
ISBN:   9780063055476
ISBN 10:   0063055473
Pages:   512
Publication Date:   11 November 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Kermit Pattison is a journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, Fast Company, Runner's World, and Time, among many other publications. He has spent more than five years researching this story, including extensive time in the field with Tim White's team. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Reviews for Fossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind

Fossil Men is a wonderful mix of history, science and politics, full of pathos and insight in equal measure. This book should be required reading for all those who care about how science may help answer the question of who we are as humans. A monumental achievement! --HASOK CHANG, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge Fossil Men is one of those rare books that can be a prism through which to view the world, exposing the fabric of the Earth and illuminating the Tree of Life. At the core of Kermit Pattison's rip-roaring tale is the prickly, obsessive, brilliant American paleonaut, Tim White, who braves revolutions, tribal warfare, and bitter scientific rivals to unearth ancient bones, without which there would be no pre-history, no civilization, no humanity. --PETER NICHOLS, New York Times bestselling author of The Rocks and Evolution's Captain

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