Lucy is amillion year old skeleton who has become the spokeswoman for human evolution She is perhaps the best known and most studied fossil hominid of the twentieth century, the benchmark by which other discoveries of human ancestors are judgedFrom Lucy s LegacyIn his New York Times bestseller, Lucy The Beginnings of Humankind, renowned paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson told the incredible story of his discovery of a partial female skeleton that revolutionized the study of human origins Lucy literally changed our understanding of our world and who we come from Since that dramatic find in , there has been heated debate and most important groundbreaking discoveries that have further transformed our understanding of when and how humans evolved In Lucy s Legacy, Johanson takes readers on a fascinating tour of the last three decades of study the most exciting period of paleoanthropologic investigation thus far In that time, Johanson and his colleagues have uncovered a total ofspecimens of Australopithecus afarensis Lucy s species, a transitional creature between apes and humans , spanning , years As a result, we now have a unique fossil record of one branch of our family tree that family being humanity a tree that is believed to date back a staggeringmillion yearsFocusing on dramatic new fossil finds and breakthrough advances in DNA research, Johanson provides the latest answers that post Lucy paleoanthropologists are finding to questions such as How did Homo sapiens evolve When and where did our species originate What separates hominids from the apes What was the nature of Neandertal and modern human encounters What mysteries about human evolution remain to be solved Donald Johanson is a passionate guide on an extraordinary journey from the ancient landscape of Hadar, Ethiopia where Lucy was unearthed and where many other exciting fossil discoveries have since been made to a seaside cave in South Africa that once sheltered early members of our own species, and many other significant sites Thirty five years after Lucy, Johanson continues to enthusiastically probe the origins of our species and what it means to be human From the Hardcover edition


10 thoughts on “Lucy's Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins

  1. Ross Ross says:

    I enjoyed this book, but with a definite problem The first 3 pages are a first person description by the author of how he discovered the fossil remains of Lucy, perhaps the most famous fossil in the world The next 100 pages are then autobiographical about the author s background and training and reads like my excellent adventure in Africa This material had almost nothing to do with the science of paleoanthropology, which was my only reason for reading the book.So I was skimming this persona I enjoyed this book, but with a definite problem The first 3 pages are a first person description by the author of how he discovered the fossil remains of Lucy, perhaps the most famous fossil in the world The next 100 pages are then autobiographical about the author s background and training and reads like my excellent adventure in Africa This material had almost nothing to do with the science of paleoanthropology, which was my only reason for reading the book.So I was skimming this personal history and travel story stuff at high speed and just about to give up on the whole thing, when suddenly at page 100 we got into the science Things were fine after that.I try to read a new book on our evolutionary descent about every 10 15 years to find out what new has been learned I have been doing this for the last 60 years Here we have a book 7 years old in which the author brings the reader up to date on the fossils and general understanding of how we evolved in Africa and migrated out to the rest of the world Interestingly he mentions the beginning of efforts to extract DNA from Neanderthals and bets it will be found that they did not interbreed with our species How wrong he was You may know that it has since been found that we did interbreed with the Neanderthals before they died out, and they were us


  2. Alex Telander Alex Telander says:

    While the Leakeys are know in the anthropological world for their great work at Olduvai Gorge, another important name to remember is Donald C Johanson Apart from being the author of Lucy The Beginnings of Humankind, winner of the American Book Award, and founder of the Institute of Human Origins, he is also the guy who while walking back to his car in 1974, along a barren stretch of Ethiopia, spotted something bone like in the ground With further excavation, he would be named as the discover While the Leakeys are know in the anthropological world for their great work at Olduvai Gorge, another important name to remember is Donald C Johanson Apart from being the author of Lucy The Beginnings of Humankind, winner of the American Book Award, and founder of the Institute of Human Origins, he is also the guy who while walking back to his car in 1974, along a barren stretch of Ethiopia, spotted something bone like in the ground With further excavation, he would be named as the discoverer of one of the most famous skeletons in history Lucy, better known as Australopithecus afarensis, dated at between 3 3.7 million years old.In Lucy s Legacy, Johanson continues telling the story from where he left off with Lucy, discussing some of the 363 specimens that were discovered over the succeeding decades The book is divided into parts the first part, Lucy, covers his work since the 1974 discovery In Lucy s Ancestors, Johanson takes readers on a journey and discussion of the different hominid lines from the primeval ape up to Australopithecus afarensis, supplying readers with the latest evidence and ideas, as well as offering some of his own opinions In Lucy s Descendants, he talks about the various hominid lines after Lucy, with Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, and most importantly, Homo sapiens Johanson even reserves a chapter for the important Homo floresiensis, better known as the hobbit, discovered not too long ago Mystery still enshrouds this particular Homo line, but the author supplies all the details and ideas, leaving it up to the reader to decide whether the hobbit really was a separate hominid line, or just an individual anomaly To help readers along, the inside cover of the book features a clearly laid out Hominid Family Tree, creating an easy to follow map as Johanson takes you through the millions of years of anthropological history Lucy s Legacy is a fascinating new book with important updates on the ancestry of humanity that will answer any questions readers might have about where we all came from.Forbook reviews and exclusive author interviews, go to BookBanter


  3. Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym) Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym) says:

    I am a big fan of Don Johanson s, and of his books Lucy and Lucy s Child However, this one is very uneven The first third, with its detailed descriptions of the difficulties of doing fieldwork in Ethiopia, seems like it was written for wholly political reasons that are largely irrelevant to the subject matter advances in paleoanthropology over the last 35 years I understand that Dr Johanson has to maintain a strong relationship with the Ethiopian gov t in order to continue his work, but I I am a big fan of Don Johanson s, and of his books Lucy and Lucy s Child However, this one is very uneven The first third, with its detailed descriptions of the difficulties of doing fieldwork in Ethiopia, seems like it was written for wholly political reasons that are largely irrelevant to the subject matter advances in paleoanthropology over the last 35 years I understand that Dr Johanson has to maintain a strong relationship with the Ethiopian gov t in order to continue his work, but I wish he could have found a way to do so and still keep the book light, swift moving, and mass market appropriate I blame the ghost writer for that one I did, however, get a kick out of all his descriptions of what he ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner obviously going back to his field notes for inspiration here The summaries of the in fighting amongst paleoanthropologists, and the summations of various published papers contradicting one another s findings, are also pretty dry for the recreational reader just trying to catch up on the broad strokes But maybe it s just the era we live in now dueling academic papers is nowhere near as exciting as dueling cosmologies as Maitland Edey helps to describe them in the first Lucy book.The good stuff comes in the last third of the book, when a few select competing theories are proposed and examined, and long standing unsolved mysteries are explored The chapter on Neanderthal is great, raising all the right questions Were Neanderthals smarter than we think Why did they die out Did they interact with modern Homo sapiens And possibly interbreed The answer probably not But it s fun knowing that scientists can t really say for sure Another standout chapter the one on the Flores hobbit I defy anyone to read this and not let their imagination run amok, picturing a 12 inch tall pygmy human hunting giant komodo dragons According to the book, it s not impossible ethnographic and folkloric evidence, including some collected by Darwin, points to the possibility that modern Homo sapiens could have overlapped in time with teeny tiny people lending some credence to the possibility of trolls.Bottom line the book isn t as skillfully assembled as the first two, but it s still a good overview of the latest discoveries on the Homo family tree


  4. Lance Grabmiller Lance Grabmiller says:

    A survey of paleoanthropology centering around, but not limited to, Johanson s discovery of Lucy in the 1970s Covers the long history of our understanding of human origins, emphasizing fieldwork, collaboration and cooperation Covers milestones and controversies throughout that history up until the end of the 2000s Some of it may be a bit dry to those not into the subject, but I found it all pretty fascinating Presented competing interpretations of certain finds quite fairly.


  5. Sarah - All The Book Blog Names Are Taken Sarah - All The Book Blog Names Are Taken says:

    Definitely want to readof his work to get a better feel for his writing style Something was kind of off but I still enjoyed the information Will think on it for a bit Full review to come.


  6. Last Ranger Last Ranger says:

    Trimming the Family Tree Where did we come from How did we get here Where are we going in the future The are the questions that Paleoanthropologist hope to answer by studying the fossil remains of ancient Hominids and the plants and animals that shared their world for thousands, if not millions, of years In 1974 co author Donald C Johanson made an astounding find in the badlands of Ethiopia a fossil Hominid that showed some human characteristics and wasancient than all previous finds Trimming the Family Tree Where did we come from How did we get here Where are we going in the future The are the questions that Paleoanthropologist hope to answer by studying the fossil remains of ancient Hominids and the plants and animals that shared their world for thousands, if not millions, of years In 1974 co author Donald C Johanson made an astounding find in the badlands of Ethiopia a fossil Hominid that showed some human characteristics and wasancient than all previous finds In Lucy s Legacy Dr Johanson and co author Kate Wong explore the implications of this paradigm changing fossil In Part 1 Johanson reminiscences about finding Lucy and the problems he faced working in a foreign country, both political, personal, and environmental Over several seasons Johanson and his team scoured Ethiopia s arid highlands for additional fossils but, though they were successful on that front, Lucy would remain their most important find Beyond the field work comes the fossil preparation and intense research that can take years to complete In addition to the hominids they found, the team would find numerous fossils of plants and animals that lived in the same time period Those fossils would give the researchers an indication of Lucy s natural environment and competition The authors finish out Part 1 by going over the research and their conclusions They also speculate, based on their research, on how Lucy and her kin may have lived and what her homeland may have been like The remainder of the book brings the reader up to speed on the current as of 2009 theories of Human Origins Paleoanthropology has always been fast changing field, filled with conflicting theories and clashing personalities Convention has it that Africa is the birth place of Humanity but there are some specialists who think that Asia may be our homeland, and they have found some fossil evidence to support that idea Who were Lucy s ancestors and when did the Australopithecines arise are two of the questions addressed Also reviewed is the origin of Homo, when and why they left Africa and by what route Especially interesting for me were the sections on the first Humans in Europe, Neanderthal and Cro Magnon The mystery of The Hobbits of Flores is covered in detail But with each new revelation comes new questions that require additional research and the ever going search for additional fossils What does the future hold for practitioners of Paleoanthropology According to Johanson and Wong it s a good time for students to be going into the field, there sto learn and fossils yet to be found Lucy s Legacy is a fascinating, well written book aimed primarily at the layman reader but appealing to other scientists as well The book is illustrated with a Color Plate section, an African map of Key Hominid Sites and a chart of The Hominid Family Tree as understood in 2009 All in all this was an excellent read and one that I will be referring back to from time to time.Last Ranger


  7. Elaine Elaine says:

    Johanson and Wong bring us up to date on the finds of Australopithecus fossils and associated artifacts Johsnson does have an agenda, however Since, in his first publications about Lucy, he claimed she was a predecessor to Homo sapiens, he proseletyzes that relationship here although he admits that others make a case for Homo habilis and erectus being of another branch to which Australopithecus is not ancestral Aside from his plunking for an Australopithecus past for hominins, this is a very Johanson and Wong bring us up to date on the finds of Australopithecus fossils and associated artifacts Johsnson does have an agenda, however Since, in his first publications about Lucy, he claimed she was a predecessor to Homo sapiens, he proseletyzes that relationship here although he admits that others make a case for Homo habilis and erectus being of another branch to which Australopithecus is not ancestral Aside from his plunking for an Australopithecus past for hominins, this is a very interesting update Australopithecus was definitely bipedal, not arboreal In fact, a 3,200,000 year old fossiil metatarsal bone has been found, clear proof of bipedalism Metatarsals hinder tree climbing but eenhance walking Also, Austrslopithecus seems to have used very primitive tools


  8. Leslie Stein Leslie Stein says:

    Very slow start with lots of examples of the difficulty working in Ethipia The last couple of sections adressing current controversies surrounding homo sapiens origins areinteresting I may try another of his earlier books The subject interests me but this was a slow go.


  9. Campbell Scollo Campbell Scollo says:

    I enjoyed reading this book, the story of finding Lucy and all the hard work that went into it made this a thrilling read Getting to know the progress that goes on behind the scenes of great discoveries like Lucy is exciting.


  10. Ed Ed says:

    TheI understand Evolution theit makes intelligent design irrelevant.