A leading paleontologist discovers the missing link in human evolution. Originally published in 2019 in German as Wie wir Menschen wurden: Eine kriminalistische Spurensuche nach den Ursprüngen der Menschheit.
Somewhere west of Munich, Madelaine Böhme and her colleagues dig for clues to the origins of humankind. What they discover is beyond anything they imagined: the fossilized bones of Danuvius guggenmosi ignite a global media frenzy. This ancient ancestor defies our knowledge of human history – his nearly twelve-million-year-old bones were not located in Africa – the so-called birthplace of humanity – but in Europe, and his features suggest we evolved much differently than scientists once believed.
In prose that reads like a gripping detective novel, Ancient Bones interweaves the story of the dig that changed everything with the fascinating answer to a previously undecided and now pressing question: How, exactly, did we become human? Placing Böhme's discovery alongside former theories of human evolution, the authors show how this remarkable find (and others in Eurasia) are forcing us to rethink the story we've been told about how we came to be, a story that has been our guiding narrative – until now.
Madelaine Böhme is a scientist, professor at the University of Tübingen, and founding director of the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment. Rüdiger Braun is a journalist who translates cutting-edge science into gripping stories to affect societal change. Florian Breier is a journalist, filmmaker, and writer for various television networks. David R. Begun is a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto and co-author of the 2019 study that broke the story of the newly discovered bones to the world.
– Selected by Alexander McCall-Smith as a Book of the Year for the New Statesmen
"Splendid and important [...] . Scientifically rigorous and written with a clarity and candor that create a gripping tale [...] [Böhme's] account of the history of Europe's lost apes is imbued with the sweat, grime, and triumph that is the lot of the fieldworker, and carries great authority."
– Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books
"[A]ncient mysteries, serendipitous discoveries, feuding experts, and scientific breakthroughs, all unfolding like a richly detailed detective story [...] "
– Booklist, starred review
"In this exciting investigation into the long and ancient path of humans, the authors explore the connections among evolution, climate, and environment [...] An impressive introduction to the burgeoning recalibration of paleoanthropology."
– Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Böhme and her colleagues are wonderful storytellers. They present a complex tale that features a daunting number of moving parts with all the local colour, humour and narrative pace of a well-written mystery novel."
– Vancouver Sun
"An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, and exceptionally thought-provoking read [...] Ancient Bones is expertly written, organized and presented, making it a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library."
– Midwestern Book Review
"Part Sherlock Holmes, part Indiana Jones, Ancient Bones is an entertaining and provocative retelling of the human evolutionary story. Böhme's hypotheses – written with enthusiasm and clarity – will be scientifically scrutinized for decades to come."
– Jeremy DeSilva, author of First Steps: How Upright Walking Made Us Human
"Madelaine Böhme is an iconoclast, and her fossil discoveries have challenged long-standing ideas on the origins of the ancestors of apes and humans. She lays it all out in this readable and thought-provoking book, which goes to show that new fossil clues always have the potential to generate new ideas."
– Steve Brusatte, University of Edinburgh paleontologist and New York Times-bestselling author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs
"In pursuit of an intriguing if controversial theory of distant human origins, Madelaine Böhme and her colleagues very readably unearth some fascinating history and evoke all the excitement that is inherent in modern paleoanthropological research."
– Ian Tattersall, co-author of The Accidental Homo sapiens: Genetics, Behavior, and Free Will
"An enthralling journey through time and around the world to untangle the complexities of ape and human evolution. Prof. Böhme skilfully intertwines scientific description with the history of fossil discovery and investigation to explain the evolution and biology of our closest relatives. Sometimes controversial but always exciting and engaging, this book is essential reading for those who want to explore alternative perspectives on our origins."
– Sarah Elton, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology, Durham University
"This book expresses perfectly the excitement of discovering ancestral lineages in our genus. It is a colorful, personal account of research into one of the most basic interests of our species – our origins and our close extinct relatives."
– Dr. Robert DeSalle, principal investigator, Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics