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Was Darwin wrong when he traced our origins to Africa? The Real Planet of the Apes makes the explosive claim that it was in Europe, not Africa, where apes evolved the most important hallmarks of our human lineage – such as bipedalism, dexterous hands, and larger brains. In this compelling and accessible book, David Begun, one of the world's leading palaeoanthropologists, transports readers to an epoch in the remote past when the Earth was home to many migratory populations of ape species.
Drawing on the latest astonishing discoveries in the fossil record as well as his own experiences conducting field expeditions across Europe and Asia, Begun provides a sweeping evolutionary history of great apes and humans. He tells the story of how one of the earliest members of our evolutionary group – a new kind of primate called Proconsul – evolved from lemur-like monkeys in the primeval forests of Africa. Begun vividly describes how, over the next 10 million years, these hominoids expanded into Europe and Asia and evolved climbing and hanging adaptations, longer maturation times, and larger brains, setting the stage for the emergence of humans. As the climate deteriorated in Europe around 10 million years ago, these apes either died out or migrated south, reinvading the African continent and giving rise to the lineages of the gorilla, chimpanzee, and, ultimately, the human.
Presenting startling new insights about our fossil ape ancestors, The Real Planet of the Apes is a book that fundamentally alters our understanding of human origins.
Chapter 1 The Early Years 27
Chapter 2 Out Of Africa: Afropithecus And Friends 62
Chapter 3 Out In The World: Early Apes Spread In Europe 73
Chapter 4 Home Again: The New Afro-european Apes 97
Chapter 5 The Big East-west Divide 118
Chapter 6 East Side Story: Our Cousins Sivapithecus And The Orangutans 123
Chapter 7 West Side Story: The African Apes Of Europe 147
Chapter 8 The Descendants Of Dryopithecus 162
Chapter 9 Back To Africa Again 187
David R. Begun is professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto. His books include A Companion to Paleoanthropology and The Evolution of Thought: Evolutionary Origins of Great Ape Intelligence. He lives in Toronto.
"[The Real Planet of the Apes] is enthralling, making accessible an absolutely critical period of human evolution and scientific debates surrounding the interpretation of its evidence – including [Begun's] own controversial thesis."
– Steven Mithen, New York Review of Books
"Begun's overarching goal is to promote his hypothesis that the ancestor of the African apes and humans may actually have evolved in Europe instead of Africa. He builds a strong case for this not-yet-mainstream idea while making it abundantly clear that he is open to data that would prove him wrong. Begun's passion is evident in both his writing and his science."
– Publishers Weekly
"The questions of where, when, and how our species evolved are fascinating."
"This provocative, engaging, and beautifully written book is a must-read for anyone interested in how and why apes – including humans – got to be the way they are. Begun not only summarizes with clarity the complex evolutionary history of apes, but also challenges us to think differently about ape and human origins."
– Daniel E. Lieberman, author of The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease and The Evolution of the Human Head
"This is a masterful book by a leading scholar that provides an authoritative and engaging introduction to the evolution of apes – including humans. The Real Planet of the Apes is punctuated with wonderful bits of paleontological history and anecdotes about Begun's own experiences in the field. No other book covers the topic in such a coherent and comprehensive way."
– John G. Fleagle, author of Primate Adaptation and Evolution
"This book tackles what is perhaps the most timely question in paleoanthropology, and also one of the thorniest – our ape origins and what that tells us about ourselves. There is no more knowledgeable, careful, or thorough a scholar of ape evolution than David Begun. This is a story that needs to be told."
– Carol V. Ward, University of Missouri