320 pages, illustrations
The Pleistocene is the epoch of geologic time closest to our own. It’s a time of ice ages, global migrations, and mass extinctions – of woolly rhinos, mammoths, giant ground sloths, and not least early species of Homo. It’s the world that created ours.
But outside that environmental story there exists a parallel narrative that describes how our ideas about the Pleistocene have emerged. This story explains the place of the Pleistocene in shaping intellectual culture, and the role of a rapidly evolving culture in creating the idea of the Pleistocene and in establishing its dimensions. This second story addresses how the epoch, its Earth-shaping events, and its creatures, both those that survived and those that disappeared, helped kindle new sciences and a new origins story as the sciences split from the humanities as a way of looking at the past.
Ultimately, it is the story of how the dominant creature to emerge from the frost-and-fire world of the Pleistocene came to understand its place in the scheme of things. A remarkable synthesis of science and history, The Last Lost World describes the world that made our modern one.
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Lydia V. Pyne is a lecturer at Drexel University. She has an MA and PhD in the history and philosophy of science, and an MA degree in anthropology. Her father, Stephen J. Pyne, is a historian in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. He is the award-winning author of Voyager, Year of the Fires, How the Canyon Became Grand and After Preservation.