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review 2020-11-03 04:42
Dinosaurs Rediscovered by Michael J. Benton
Dinosaurs Rediscovered - Michael J. Benton

TITLE:  Dinosaurs Rediscovered: The Scientific Revolution in Paleontology


AUTHOR:  Michael J. Benton




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780500295533



"Over the past twenty years, the study of dinosaurs has transformed into a true scientific discipline. New technologies have revealed secrets locked in prehistoric bones that no one could have previously predicted. We can now work out the color of dinosaurs, the force of their bite, their top speeds, and even how they cared for their young.

Remarkable new fossil discoveries—giant sauropod dinosaur skeletons in Patagonia, dinosaurs with feathers in China, and a tiny dinosaur tail in Burmese amber—remain the lifeblood of modern paleobiology. Thanks to advances in technologies and methods, however, there has been a recent revolution in the scope of new information gleaned from such fossil finds.

In Dinosaurs Rediscovered, leading paleontologist Michael J. Benton gathers together all of the latest paleontological evidence, tracing the transformation of dinosaur study from its roots in antiquated natural history to an indisputably scientific field. Among other things, this book explores how dinosaur remains are found and excavated, and how paleontologists read the details of dinosaurs’ lives from their fossils—their colors, their growth, and even whether we will ever be able to bring them back to life. Benton’s account shows that, though extinct, dinosaurs are still very much a part of our world.




This isn't just a book filled with dinosaur facts, this is a book that explains how scientists know what they know (or hypothesis) about dinosaurs.  Each fascinating chapter covers a particular theme rather than following a chronological progression as most dinosaur books do.  So we have chapters on how scientists figured out the origin of dinosaurs and their evolutionary tree, a chapter on fossil excavations, chapters on anatomy and physiology, movement, feeding habits and growth, feathers, probability of a Jurassic Park scenario and the extinction event.  Michael J. Benton has a delightful writing style that is clear and easy to understand, with interesting (and short) anecdotes and numerous illustrations, colour plates and diagrams.  This is a lovely, up-to-date book about the science of dinosaurs.


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review 2020-02-05 08:21
The Neanderthals Rediscovered by Dimitra Papagianni & Michael A. Morse
The Neanderthals Rediscovered: How Modern Science Is Rewriting Their Story - Dimitra Papagianni,Michael A. Morse

TITLE:   The Neanderthals Rediscovered: How Modern Science is Rewriting Their Story


AUTHORS:  Dimitra Papagianni & Michael A. Morse


DATE PUBLISHED: 2015 [Revised and updated edition]


FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780500292044




"In recent years, the common perception of the Neanderthals has been transformed, thanks to new discoveries and paradigm-shattering scientific innovations. It turns out that the Neanderthals’ behavior was surprisingly modern: they buried the dead, cared for the sick, hunted large animals in their prime, harvested seafood, and communicated with spoken language. Meanwhile, advances in DNA technologies are compelling us to reassess the Neanderthals’ place in our own past.

For hundreds of thousands of years, Neanderthals evolved in Europe parallel to Homo sapiens evolving in Africa, and, when both species made their first forays into Asia, the Neanderthals may even have had the upper hand. In this important volume, Dimitra Papagianni and Michael A. Morse compile the first full chronological narrative of the Neanderthals’ dramatic existence—from their evolution in Europe to their expansion to Siberia, their subsequent extinction, and ultimately their revival in popular novels, cartoons, cult movies, and television commercials.




This might be a (mostly) up to date book about neanderthals, but it focuses on the archaeological record (bones, sites, stone tools, dating of everything vaguely hominid) and relegates all the interesting stuff about Neanderthals (their life-style, diet, burial rituals, social interactions, technology, use of fire, clothing, anything related to DNA) to one superficial chapter at the end of the book.  Half the book focuses on the parallel evolution of homo sapiens and neanderthals, issues with fossil sites and dating, and telling the reader who dug up what and what they and everyone else thought about it.  While the book covers a variety of hypotheses about neanderthals and why they went extinct, it also leaves out the more interesting hypotheses (e.g. diseases, humans with hunting dogs).  The writing was dull and plodding,  a bit disorganized and too repetitive.    I didn't learn anything new about neanderthals that I hadn't already picked up from a variety of random internet articles.  In short, if you want to know about neanderthals, read the Wikipedia article and skip this book. 



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review 2020-01-27 11:26
Man the Hunted by Donna Hart &Robert W. Sussman
Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution, Expanded Edition - Robert W. Sussman,Donna Hart,Ian Tattersall

TITLE:  Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution


AUTHOR:  Donna Hart, Robert W. Sussman


PUBLICATION DATE:  2008 (Expanded Edition)


FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780813344034




"Man the Hunted argues that primates, including the earliest members of the human family, have evolved as the prey of any number of predators, including wild cats and dogs, hyenas, snakes, crocodiles, and even birds. The authors’ studies of predators on monkeys and apes are supplemented here with the observations of naturalists in the field and revealing interpretations of the fossil record. Eyewitness accounts of the “man the hunted” drama being played out even now give vivid evidence of its prehistoric significance.This provocative view of human evolution suggests that countless adaptations that have allowed our species to survive—from larger brains to speech—stem from a considerably more vulnerable position on the food chain than we might like to imagine. The myth of early humans as fearless hunters dominating the earth obscures our origins as just one of many species that had to be cautious, depend on other group members, communicate danger, and come to terms with being merely one cog in the complex cycle of life.

The expanded edition includes a new chapter that describes the ever-increasing evidence of predation on humans and other primates and claims that the earliest humans were neither hunters nor even the accomplished scavengers that many authorities have claimed."




Man the Hunted is an anthropology book written in a plain and easy to read manner.  The authors make use of the fossil record and studies on modern day primate predation on primates (including humans), to argue that man as prey rather man as predator drove human evolution.  The majority of the book takes a look at the variety of past and present predators that ate/eat primates, including large cats, wolves, hyenas, raptors, snakes, crocodiles etc.  An interesting and informative read.



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review 2020-01-17 12:22
The Waterside Ape by Peter H. Rhys-Evans
The Waterside Ape: An Alternative Account of Human Evolution - Peter H Rhys Evans

TITLE:   The Waterside Ape: An Alternative Account of Human Evolution


AUTHOR:  Peter H. Rhys-Evans




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780367145484



"Why are humans so fond of water?

Why is our skin colour so variable?

Why aren't we hairy like our close ape relatives?

A savannah scenario of human evolution has been widely accepted primarily due to fossil evidence; and fossils do not offer insight into these questions. Other alternative evolutionary scenarios might, but these models have been rejected. This book explores a controversial idea - that human evolution was intimately associated with watery habitats as much or more than typical savannahs. Written from a medical point of view, the author presents evidence supporting a credible alternative explanation for how humans diverged from our primate ancestors. Anatomical and physiological evidence offer insight into hairlessness, different coloured skin, subcutaneous fat, large brains, a marine-type kidney, a unique heat regulation system and speech. This evidence suggests that humans may well have evolved, not just as savannah mammals, as is generally believed, but with more affinity for aquatic habitats - rivers, streams, lakes and coasts.

Key Features:

Presents the evidence for a close association between riparian habitats and the origin of humans Reviews the "savannah ape" hypothesis for human origins Describes various anatomical adaptations that are associated with hypotheses of human evolution Explores characteristics from the head and neck such as skull and sinus structures, the larynx and ear structures and functions

Corroborates a novel scenario for the origin of human kind

'... a counterpoint to the textbooks or other books which deal with human evolution. I think readers will see it as a clearly written, well-supported discussion of an alternativeperspective on human origins'. --Kathlyn Stewart, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

'There is a pressing need to expand discussions of human evolution to includenon-anthropocentric narratives that use comparative data. Dr Rhys-Evans' specific expertise and experience with the human head, neck, ears, throat, mouth and sinuses, provides him with a distinct perspective from which to approach the subject of human evolution. Moreover, his understanding of non-anthropocentric views of human evolution (water-based models), allow him to apply a biological approach to the subject, missing in more traditional (savannah-based) models'. --Stephen Munro, National Museum of Australia





Rhys-Evans provides an up-to-date account of all the paleontological, environmental and medical evidence for the aquatic ape hypothesis.  The information is interesting, makes use of well-referenced scientific articles, and applies logic where gaps need to be filled in.  A variety of human "attributes" are compared with similar attributes in terrestrial, semi-aquatic and aquatic animals.  Any speculation on the author's part is noted as such.  This is not a popular science book as such, since there are no interviews, anecdotal or fashion commentaries (thank you!).  The information is presented in a straight-forward manner, with the use of the correct technical terms for anatomical organs/structures, which may require some effort on the part of non-medical readers.  Illustrations are provided where relevant. My only issues are with the some-what erratic organization of the sections;  a failure on the author's part to fully explain why something mentioned is relevant (sometimes it is obvious, sometimes not); and the lack of flow and cohesion between sections.  This book really could have used an editor to make the narrative flow more smoothly.  Regardless of its faults, the information contained in this book is fascinating and really should be read by anyone even vaguely interested in human evolution.



NOTE:  This book has absolutely nothing to do with mermaids.


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review 2019-12-02 06:41
Ice Maiden by Johan Reinhard
Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes - Johan Reinhard

TITLE:  Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes


AUTHOR:  Johan Reinhard




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9780792268383



"Half a millennium ago, a party of Inca priests and a young virgin climbed more than 20,000 feet to the summit of the  Andean peaks of Ampato.  At the climax of their ceremony, the girl was sacrificed and buried along with sacred offerings of textiles, food, and figurines of silver and gold; there the Inca Ice Maiden would remain undisturbed for 500 years, until Johan Reinhard found her in 1995.  It was a stunning discovery that made headlines all over the world - but it was just the beginning of this fascinating tale of adventure, high-altitude archaeology, and ground-breaking scientific accomplishment.


In his first-hand account, Reinhard, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, chronicles more than two decades of challenging research that led him on over 200 climbs of some fo the world's highest mountains, and culminated in two seasons of unprecedented finds - first the ice maiden on Ampato, and four years later on Llullaillaco, where three Inca children lay frozen in a state of near-perfect preservation.  Dead for centuries yet still alive in their startling humanity, they are mute yet eloquent witnesses to ancient Inca civilization and custom, yielding everything from statuary and ceremonial clothing to DNA samples - each a new piece in the cultural puzzle that is Reinhard's life work.


A mesmerizing blend of mountaineering adventure and archaeological quest, The Ice Maiden boasts everything from live volcanoes and deadly lightning storms to grave robbers and fierce academic rivalries that threatened Reinhard's team as they raced time and the weather to compelte their demanding task.  Every reader will feel their tense mix of excitement and anxiety, and share their exhilarioation as they unearth long-buried treasures that exceed even their most hopeful dreams.


This extraordinarily vivid eyewitness account documents two of the most important discoveries in the history of South American archaeology.  A riveting tale that takes the long forgotten and makes it unforgettable, it represents at once a momentous scientific achievement and a pricelss contribution to the cultural heritage of the Incas' descendatns in Peru and Argentina."




This book describes Johan Reinhard's personal experiences in climbing various Andes mountain peaks; leading archaeological expeditions to find Inca mummies and artifacts; all the "fun" interpersonal/ inter-university/ inter-organisational politcs that preserving and studying important archaeological artifacts entails, and the importance of these discoveries (especially when considering looters' habits of theft and dynamite usage).  Reinhard provides the reader with a  fascinating look at how the Ice Maiden (and other ice mummies) were found, the difficulties encountered on expeditions to extreme (and sometimes not so extreme) locations, as well as organising (and finding funding) for special permanent storage containers and facilities for these ice mummies. The author provides a brief description of Inca culture, with an emphasis on their high altitude (as far up the mountain as they could possible go) child sacrifices and their beliefs in Mountain gods.  I found there was a bit too much about the author and not enough about the Incas in general and the finds specifically.  However, this book was well-written with numerous black & white photographs, as well as a section of colour plates. 








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