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Academic & Professional Books  Evolutionary Biology  Human Evolution

What the Bones Tell Us An Anthropologist Examnies the Evidence in an Attempt to Unravel Ancient Mysteries & Modern Crimes

By: Jeffrey H Schwartz(Author)
292 pages
What the Bones Tell Us
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  • What the Bones Tell Us ISBN: 9780816518555 Paperback Dec 1997 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
  • What the Bones Tell Us ISBN: 9780805010565 Hardback Jan 1993 Out of Print #241257
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About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Jeffrey Schwartz, professor of physical anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh and research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, ranges from digs in the Negev Desert through Africa and Europe to the local coroner's office to explain how interpretations of the past are made. What counts is the data and the context in which the evidence is analyzed. Along the way the author constructs a new hominid family tree to take account of recent assessments of human evolution. The author, part of the team that recently unearthed burial urns from the ancient city of Carthage, exposes the inner workings of archaeology and anthropology, illustrating what can be learned from fossils and fragments of ancient cultures and civilizations.

Because every living thing on earth will have had a single, unique history, whether it be the life of an individual, of a civilization, a species, or a diverse evolutionary group, "the discovery", writes the author, "is less a matter of unearthing a fossil or sequencing a species' DNA than it is of interpreting data in an attempt to reconstruct the missing pieces of the puzzle". Bone fragments can be used not only to identify animal species but also to tell us of their past history. Studies of bones can also reveal the land's past capacity to sustain animal life, whether domestic or wild. Frequently the physical evidence overturns sacred historical writings (and occasionally such evidence is suppressed). And when the author misidentifies what turns out to be an incomplete human specimen for the coroner, we come to understand just how easily incomplete data can deceive us.

After reading this fascinating and authoritative work, any reader will be better equipped to evaluate the evidence for various new theories about our origins and evolution. Another value of this pioneering book is its deep insight into scientific infighting and the competing speculations about evolutionary history. Scientists, however worldly, discover little truths – at best useful models of the past (good until some better data come along). Their theories, and the bases for them, must be accessible to others for scrutiny and possible rejection; that's the essence of the scientific method.

Customer Reviews


Jeffrey Schwartz is professor of physical anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh and a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History. He is the author of The Red Ape, What the Bones Tell Us, and Skeleton Keys.

By: Jeffrey H Schwartz(Author)
292 pages
Media reviews

"Scholarly sleuth Schwartz actually helps solve murders while exploring human evolution."
Columbia Magazine

"It demonstrates how the skills of the forensic anthropologist carry over to the study of ancient populations when these are represented by a preserved skeletal series in a mortuary deposit [...] Schwartz ably demonstrates how through such investigations new data can become available on matters about which historical records and other archaeological materials are silent."
– Science

"In a field often ruled by cockiness, Schwartz's reticence to make judgments is refreshing. Related to this, and even more welcome, is his rejection of scientific dogma [...] Schwartz gives us the bare bones and more about the science of osteological analysis."
Kirkus Reviews

"Students of osteology and anatomy will learn much from Mr. Schwartz's book, which is actually several books in one."
– Malcolm W. Browne, New York Times Book Review

"An easily readable, informative, enjoyable, thought-provoking commentary, interspersed with warm, refreshing tales [...] It should interest both general and medical readers, dealing as it does with a subject that is near and dear to our hearts: our bones."
Journal of the American Medical Association

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