288 pages, illustrations
When Homo sapiens made their entrance 100,000 years ago they were confronted by a wide range of other early humans – Homo erectus, who walked better and used fire; homo habilis who used tools; and of course the Neanderthals, who were brawny and strong. But shortly after their arrival, something happened that vaulted the species forward and made them the indisputable masters of the planet. Masters of the Planet is devoted to revealing just what that difference is. It explores how the physical traits and cognitive ability of Homo sapiens distanced them from the rest of nature. Even more importantly, Masters of the Planet looks at how our early ancestors acquired these superior abilities; it shows that their strange and unprecedented mental facility is not, as most of us were taught, simply a basic competence that was refined over unimaginable eons by natural selection. Instead, it is an emergent capacity that was acquired quite recently and changed the world definitively.
"[...]succinct and masterful [...]Tattersall takes us from 6 million years ago in Africa's Rift Valley to the present day. On the way, he brilliantly describes humanity's cousins and rivals, from apes to the other hominins that competed with H. sapiens as, tens of thousands of years ago, our ancestors made the cognitive leap to symbolic thought[...]"
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Ian Tattersall PhD is a Curator in the Division of Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, USA, where he co-curates the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins. He is the acknowledged leader of the human fossil record, and has won several awards, including the Institute of Human Origins Lifetime Achievement Award. Tattersall has appeared on Charlie Roseand NPR's Science Friday, and has written for "Scientific American" and "Archaeology". He's been widely cited by the media, including The New York Times, the BBC, MSNBC, and National Geographic. Tattersall is the author of Becoming Human, amongst others.