A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
New books offer the thrill of discoveries and clash of egos in the quest for our ancestors.
Dipping into the never-ending stream of books about the search for our earliest ancestors, one usually fishes out volumes extolling the latest fossil discovery, which, to believe the book jacket, will change everything we know about human evolution. The current catch, however, is different. In The Man Who Found the Missing Link--about Eugène Dubois, who discovered "Java Man" in the early 1890s--Pat Shipman has given us a readable, authoritative biography of a pioneering paleoanthropologist. Java Man, by Carl Swisher, III, Garniss Curtis, and Roger Lewin, is a chronicle of the recent redating of long-known Javanese fossils of Homo erectus (as the early human Dubois found is now known). It has lively accounts of fieldwork in Java. Well worth reading is Jon Kalb's Adventures in the Bone Trade, a memoir of paleoanthropology in Ethiopia told against a background of internal strife and international politics following the overthrow of Emperor Haile Sellassie in 1974.
Mark Rose is managing editor of ARCHAEOLOGY.