An expert palaeoarchaeologist reveals how our understanding of the evolution of our species has been transformed by momentous discoveries and technological advancements.
Who are we? How do scientists define Homo sapiens, and how does our species differ from the extinct hominins that came before us? This illuminating book explores how the latest scientific advances, especially in genetics, are revolutionizing our understanding of human evolution. Paul Pettitt reveals the extraordinary story of how our ancestors adapted to unforgiving and relentlessly changing climates, leading to remarkable innovations in art, technology and society that we are only now beginning to comprehend.
Drawing on twenty-five years of experience in the field, Paul Pettitt immerses readers in the caves and rockshelters that provide evidence of our African origins, dispersals to the far reaches of Eurasia, Australasia and ultimately the Americas. Popular accounts of the evolution of Homo sapiens emphasize biomolecular research, notably genetics, but Homo Sapiens Rediscovered also draws from the wealth of information from specific excavations and artefacts, including the author's own investigations into the origins of art and how it evolved over its first 25,000 years. He focuses in particular on behaviour, using archaeological evidence to bring an intimate perspective on lives as they were lived in the almost unimaginably distant past.
1. Skin and Bones
2. The Molecular Frontier
3. When the going gets tough: climate, change, and environment
4. Dispersal: from Africa to Asia
7. Catastrophe: the coming of Homo sapiens in Europe
8. Stress, disease, illness and inbreeding
9. In Mammoth country
12. Hearth and home
13. Let us descend into the sightless world. Palaeolithic cave art
14. Portable landscapes
15. The mind
16. The world of the dead
17. Into the Americas
Paul Pettitt is Professor of Palaeolithic Archaeology at Durham University, specializing in the European Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. He has excavated at sites across Europe – in Spain, France, Italy and Romania – as well as in Borneo.
"An astonishing tale of art and science that goes right to the root of what it means to be human"
– Alice Roberts
"Drawing on his many years of experience with Palaeolithic archaeology, Paul Pettitt's expert account of our origins introduces the reader to the methods used to find out about the remote past and the complexities involved in interpretating this data. What comes across is a powerful message: when looking around you in awe of humanity's cultural and technological achievements, bear in mind that, as the old saying goes, we stand on the shoulders of Ice Age giants"
– João Zilhão, ICREA Research Professor, University of Barcelona