Chris Stringer sets out to answer all the big questions in the debate about our origins. How can we define modern humans, and how can we recognise our beginnings in the fossil and archaeological record? How can we accurately date fossils, including ones beyond the range of radiocarbon dating? What does the genetic data really tell us? Were our origins solely in Africa? Are modern humans a distinct species from ancient people such as the Neanderthals? And what contact did our ancestors have with them? How can we recognise modern humans behaviourally, and were traits such as complex language and art unique to modern humans? What forces shaped the origins of modern humans – were they climatic, dietary, social, or even volcanic? What drove the dispersals of modern humans from Africa, and how did our species spread over the globe? How did regional features evolve, and how significant are they? What exactly was the 'Hobbit' of the island of Flores, and how was it related to us? Has human evolution stopped, or are we still evolving? What can we expect from future research on our origins?
This book will make every reader think about what it means to be human.
Chris Stringer is Britain's foremost expert on human origins and works in the Department of Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum. He also currently directs the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project, aimed at reconstructing the first detailed history of how and when Britain was occupied by early humans. His previous books include African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity, The Complete World of Human Evolution and most recently, Homo Britannicus, which was shortlisted for the Royal Society Science Book of the Year in 2007.
"To follow the dramatic announcements that will be appearing in the media pretty regularly from now on concerning new fossil finds and detailed genetic knowledge on the mutations that distinguish us from Neanderthals, other hominins, and apes, you will need a primer to make sense of the story so far. Here is that book."
– Peter Forbes, The Guardian
"The Origin of Our Species combines anecdote and speculation with crisp explanation of the latest science in the study of the first humans."
– John Hawks, New Scientist
"When it comes to human evolution [Chris Stringer] is as close to the horse's mouth as it gets [...] The Origin of Our Species should be the one-stop source on the subject. Read it now"
– Henry Gee, BBC Focus
"Combining the thrill of a novel with a remarkable depth of perspective, the book offers a panorama of recent developments [...] Stringer's original ideas will open up avenues for those who deal with genes, fossils or artefacts."
– Jean-Jacques, Hublin Nature
"The Origin of Our Species [is] the right book by the right author at the right time. It highlights just how many tantalising discoveries and analytical advances have enriched the field in recent years, and folds them into an appropriately comprehensive, generous and nuanced reflection."
– Marek Kohn, Literary Review
"The Origin of Our Species starts as a clear, perceptive survey. It ends by introducing a new way of defining us and our place in history"
– Mike Pitts, Sunday Times