“Lucy is a 3.2-million-year-old skeleton who has become the spokeswoman for human evolution. She is perhaps the best known and most studied fossil hominid of the twentieth century, the benchmark by which other discoveries of human ancestors are judged.”–From Lucy’s Legacy
In his New York Times bestseller, Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind, renowned paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson told the incredible story of his discovery of a partial female skeleton that revolutionized the study of human origins. Lucy literally changed our understanding of our world and who we come from. Since that dramatic find in 1974, there has been heated debate and–most important–more groundbreaking discoveries that have further transformed our understanding of when and how humans evolved.
In Lucy’s Legacy, Johanson takes readers on a fascinating tour of the last three decades of study–the most exciting period of paleoanthropologic investigation thus far. In that time, Johanson and his colleagues have uncovered a total of 363 specimens of Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy’s species, a transitional creature between apes and humans), spanning 400,000 years. As a result, we now have a unique fossil record of one branch of our family tree–that family being humanity–a tree that is believed to date back a staggering 7 million years.
Focusing on dramatic new fossil finds and breakthrough advances in DNA research, Johanson provides the latest answers that post-Lucy paleoanthropologists are finding to questions such as: How did Homo sapiens evolve? When and where did our species originate? What separates hominids from the apes? What was the nature of Neandertal and modern human encounters? What mysteries about human evolution remain to be solved?
Donald Johanson is a passionate guide on an extraordinary journey from the ancient landscape of Hadar, Ethiopia–where Lucy was unearthed and where many other exciting fossil discoveries have since been made–to a seaside cave in South Africa that once sheltered early members of our own species, and many other significant sites. Thirty-five years after Lucy, Johanson continues to enthusiastically probe the origins of our species and what it means to be human.
Johanson (Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind), the paleoanthropologist who in 1974 discovered the famed 3.2-million-year-old hominid named Lucy, and Scientific American editor Wong delve deeply into the significance of Lucy, her probable ancestors and her probable successors, including modern humans. The authors capture the curiosity, passion and excitement that Johanson and his colleagues bring to their research, as well as the mundane, backbreaking aspects of fieldwork. Wong and Johanson are also expert at framing the science that informs judgments about what defines a hominid species, such as brain size, the ability to walk upright and facial structure. They probe the equally important question of what drove human evolution, examining three major approaches: a social model, a dietary model and an environmental model. Johanson is adept at framing the debates within his famously contentious discipline, ranging from fundamental questions about the fossil record to theories of early human migration, the fate of the Neanderthals and the controversy over the highly publicized recent discovery of fossil hobbits on the Indonesian archipelago. The writing is accessible, especially considering the challenging nature of the science that shapes our understanding of human evolution.