viernes, 14 de octubre de 2011

The Fossil Chronicles: How Two Controversial Discoveries Changed Our View of Human Evolution


Book: The Fossil Chronicles: How Two Controversial Discoveries Changed Our View of Human Evolution
Dean Falk (Author)
Hardcover: 280 pages
Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (October 3, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0520266706
ISBN-13: 978-0520266704
Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches

Sometime in the distant past our ancestors' brains grew sophisticated enough to ponder life's big questions. In this book, Dean Falk explains how the study of those ancient brains - or at least, the impressions they left in the skulls they occupied - may help to provide an answer to one of the biggest questions: where did we come from?

Falk was a key member of the team that studied the brain impression of Homo floresiensis, or the "Hobbit", discovered in Indonesia in 2003. She is now central to an ongoing controversy over whether that brain belonged to a distant relation of our species - Falk's preferred conclusion - or a modern human with a developmental disorder.

It's not the first time old brains have caused controversy. The book begins with an account of the discovery of a more ancient hominin, Australopithecus africanus, in 1920s South Africa. Its ape-like brain but human-like limbs were a poor fit for the consensus view at the time: that human evolution began with the brain. Falk laments that it took years to upend that consensus, which largely grew around the big-brained "Piltdown man", found in England in 1912 and later revealed to be a hoax.

The most exciting parts of the book are when Falk describes her role in the Hobbit debate. Though she claims to be disappointed that discussions over arguably the most important human fossil find in decades are largely fixated on whether it is a valid new species, the relish with which she describes the debate suggests she has enjoyed every moment. (Newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab).