Unearthing the Underworld reveals the hidden world of rocks – the secret-keepers of past environments, of changing climates and the pulse of life over billions of years. Even the most seemingly ordinary stone can tell us much about the history of this planet, opening vistas of ancient worlds of ice, raging floods, strange, unbreathable atmospheres and prehistoric worlds teeming with life. Remarkably, many types of rock owe their existence to living organisms, from the remains of dead animals to rotting ancient forests, or even the activity of fungi, bacteria and viruses. Anything but dull and uninteresting, rocks are intriguing portals that illuminate the secret underworld upon which we live.
Ken McNamara is an Emeritus Fellow of Downing College, University of Cambridge. He is the author of many books on palaeontology and evolution, including Dragons' Teeth and Thunderstones: The Quest for the Meaning of Fossils (Reaktion, 2020).
"An idiosyncratic and informative celebration of the rocks that underlie our human world, showing how they record the history of the planet and underpin the narrative of life, even though their role is too often unacknowledged. Engrossing field excursions into the wildernesses of Western Australia illuminate the stories McNamara has to tell; he explains the lithic histories embedded in everything from prehistoric monuments to the Stone of Scone. The dramas of the early history of life, extinction, evolution and climate change are all deciphered through the rock record. These wise and entertaining "sermons in stones" pay proper respect to the billions of years of earth history that lie beneath us everywhere."
– Richard Fortey, author of The Earth: An Intimate History
"In Unearthing the Underworld, palaeontologist Ken McNamara finds incredible worlds preserved in stones we tend to ignore as he explores life's rocky roads."
– New Scientist