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A Pocket History of Human Evolution: How We Became Sapiens

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Why aren’t we more like other apes? How did we win the evolutionary race? Find out how “wise” Homo sapiens really are. Prehistory has never been more exciting: New discoveries are overturning long-held theories left and right. Stone tools in Australia date back 65,000 years—a time when, we once thought, the first Sapiens had barely left Africa. DNA sequencing has unearthed Why aren’t we more like other apes? How did we win the evolutionary race? Find out how “wise” Homo sapiens really are. Prehistory has never been more exciting: New discoveries are overturning long-held theories left and right. Stone tools in Australia date back 65,000 years—a time when, we once thought, the first Sapiens had barely left Africa. DNA sequencing has unearthed a new hominid group—the Denisovans—and confirmed that crossbreeding with them (and Neanderthals) made Homo sapiens who we are today. A Pocket History of Human Evolution brings us up-to-date on the exploits of all our ancient relatives. Paleoanthropologist Silvana Condemi and science journalist François Savatier consider what accelerated our evolution: Was it tools, our “large” brains, language, empathy, or something else entirely? And why are we the sole surviviors among many early bipedal humans? Their conclusions reveal the various ways ancient humans live on today—from gossip as modern “grooming” to our gendered division of labor—and what the future might hold for our strange and unique species.


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Why aren’t we more like other apes? How did we win the evolutionary race? Find out how “wise” Homo sapiens really are. Prehistory has never been more exciting: New discoveries are overturning long-held theories left and right. Stone tools in Australia date back 65,000 years—a time when, we once thought, the first Sapiens had barely left Africa. DNA sequencing has unearthed Why aren’t we more like other apes? How did we win the evolutionary race? Find out how “wise” Homo sapiens really are. Prehistory has never been more exciting: New discoveries are overturning long-held theories left and right. Stone tools in Australia date back 65,000 years—a time when, we once thought, the first Sapiens had barely left Africa. DNA sequencing has unearthed a new hominid group—the Denisovans—and confirmed that crossbreeding with them (and Neanderthals) made Homo sapiens who we are today. A Pocket History of Human Evolution brings us up-to-date on the exploits of all our ancient relatives. Paleoanthropologist Silvana Condemi and science journalist François Savatier consider what accelerated our evolution: Was it tools, our “large” brains, language, empathy, or something else entirely? And why are we the sole surviviors among many early bipedal humans? Their conclusions reveal the various ways ancient humans live on today—from gossip as modern “grooming” to our gendered division of labor—and what the future might hold for our strange and unique species.

29 review for A Pocket History of Human Evolution: How We Became Sapiens

  1. 5 out of 5

    Evelina | AvalinahsBooks

    How I read this: Free ebook copy received through NetGalley This is a short, but incredibly informative book about the evolution and history of man. It was very good, easily readable and incredibly interesting. I absolutely loved it. The book starts with how primates slowly turned into humans and what were the stepping stones - which behaviors pushed us to turn into what we are now, and finishes with the migration and dispersion of Sapiens throughout the world, as well as the direction we are How I read this: Free ebook copy received through NetGalley This is a short, but incredibly informative book about the evolution and history of man. It was very good, easily readable and incredibly interesting. I absolutely loved it. The book starts with how primates slowly turned into humans and what were the stepping stones - which behaviors pushed us to turn into what we are now, and finishes with the migration and dispersion of Sapiens throughout the world, as well as the direction we are moving now (biological vs social and cultural evolution). It talks in short about all the human subspecies before us and what was different about them. The book contains a lot of very interesting facts - such as why humans are born so relatively helpless - our brains and skulls are much too huge to be able to pass through the birth canal as complete as those of other animals, so human babies have to finish maturing after they're born instead of before. There are many such seemingly little details that made us who we are in the span of millions of years. This book really gives you the feeling of respect for the human body - because it explains how many things had to change and adapt to enable us to survive. We are often taught that the human is nothing compared to an animal - we're frail, puny, weak. But it's not quite like that - we're also economical energetically, cunning and able to form a social structure that nurtures us like no other species in the world. I was particularly happy to read about how important the domestication of the wolf (dog) has been to us as a species. The dog had so many jobs to do in human society, and not just early society - jobs that dogs still do in our society even now (rescuers, guides, hunting partners, finders, peace keepers and more). The love for dogs is programmed deep into the minds of a lot of us. I also really loved the charts in this book - there are many. Some have timelines, branches of species and there are even brain size charts for some of the subspecies. I was most fascinated with the charts that detailed how Sapiens (essentially, us) mixed with Neanderthals and other human species to make us who we are right now. I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion. Book Blog | Bookstagram | Bookish Twitter

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mauro

    Dopo il successo di Mio caro Neandertal, libro che ha ben meritato il Grand Prix du Livre d’Archéologie 2017, Condeni e Savatier continuano la loro ricerca sull’evoluzione umana, esponendo con questo ultimo lavoro, Noi siamo Sapiens, un resoconto che vuole essere sì aggiornato, ma al tempo stesso il più condensato possible, pur non trascurando nessun dettaglio. E devo dire che riescono pienamente nell’intento. Come ha commentato Ian Tattersall, paleoantropologo di fama internazionale, curatore Dopo il successo di Mio caro Neandertal, libro che ha ben meritato il Grand Prix du Livre d’Archéologie 2017, Condeni e Savatier continuano la loro ricerca sull’evoluzione umana, esponendo con questo ultimo lavoro, Noi siamo Sapiens, un resoconto che vuole essere sì aggiornato, ma al tempo stesso il più condensato possible, pur non trascurando nessun dettaglio. E devo dire che riescono pienamente nell’intento. Come ha commentato Ian Tattersall, paleoantropologo di fama internazionale, curatore emerito della diivisione di Antropologia all’American Museum of Natural History di New York: «È davvero difficile tenere il passo con la marea di novità che vengono continuamente pubblicate sulle nostre origini. È dunque un piccolo miracolo che Silvana Condemi e François Savatier siano riusciti a riassumere in maniera tanto elegante e autorevole le scoperte più recenti in un libro così breve e leggibile». Noi siamo Sapiens è stato nuovamente selezionato per la ultima edizione (2019) del Grand Prix du Livre d’Archéologie.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Maxine

    A Pocket History of Human Evolution: How We Became Sapiens by Silvana Condemi and Francois Savatier is a short but very interesting and informative book about human evolution from our beginnings stepping down from the trees to the development of the state and the role war played in it. It concludes with a discussion of the effect of overpopulation on the planet and how the internet - 'a sort of global nervous system' - is changing humanity. For anyone interested in our evolution, how we became A Pocket History of Human Evolution: How We Became Sapiens by Silvana Condemi and Francois Savatier is a short but very interesting and informative book about human evolution from our beginnings stepping down from the trees to the development of the state and the role war played in it. It concludes with a discussion of the effect of overpopulation on the planet and how the internet - 'a sort of global nervous system' - is changing humanity. For anyone interested in our evolution, how we became us and how we are still evolving, this is a fascinating book. It is well-written and well-researched, cogent, and most important, written in language that makes it accessible to people who have little or no knowledge of human evolution. Despite their discussion of the Anthropocene, the "human era", and the growing devastation if population continues to increase at an alarming rate, they end the book on a surprisingly optimistic note: Even though it might not seem very obvious, Sapiens remains sapiens, which is say, "wise". And we'd wager that, over time, we will become even wiser. A definite high recommendation for anyone with an interest in our story from our earliest beginnings right up to the present. Thanks to Netgalley and The Experiment for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review

  4. 4 out of 5

    Zulfiya

    'Tis was a short but intellectually sweet read with so much to digest and consume intellectually. We are all familiar with the cornerstones of human evolution, but high school textbooks mostly provide a sketchy representation in a couple of simple steps. This book, albeit short, offers a detailed view of human evolution step by step - walking, running, tribal coordination, language development, and even communal dwelling as a step to building villages and later cities. Some insights were quite 'Tis was a short but intellectually sweet read with so much to digest and consume intellectually. We are all familiar with the cornerstones of human evolution, but high school textbooks mostly provide a sketchy representation in a couple of simple steps. This book, albeit short, offers a detailed view of human evolution step by step - walking, running, tribal coordination, language development, and even communal dwelling as a step to building villages and later cities. Some insights were quite fascinating, and some were slightly tedious, but overall, it was an enjoyable little book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ioanna

    Where has the human kind come from? How does evolution work? And what does culture have to do with that? These are some of the questions A Pocket History of Human Evolution answers. Accompanied by graphs, maps and informative sketches, this book lays the basics in plain English for anyone who wants to know more about our species, its birth and its evolution. Fully researched and detailed exactly us much as it should without becoming confusing or tiring, A Pocket History of Human Evolution gives us Where has the human kind come from? How does evolution work? And what does culture have to do with that? These are some of the questions A Pocket History of Human Evolution answers. Accompanied by graphs, maps and informative sketches, this book lays the basics in plain English for anyone who wants to know more about our species, its birth and its evolution. Fully researched and detailed exactly us much as it should without becoming confusing or tiring, A Pocket History of Human Evolution gives us information on many aspects of our species evolution, while at the same time laying out a timeline for it. This is a recommended read for anyone interested in the topic of human evolution.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Álvaro Athayde

    A LER Em termos científicos não é novidoso. Em termos pedagógicos é excepcional. Contem uma mensagem que, em minha opinião é, hoje mais que nunca, fundamental gritar: Não é a raça, estúpidos! É a cultura!!! A diferença está na cultura, não na cor da pele ou no formato do crânio. P.S. Li uma edição portuguesa, publicada pela Temas & Debates.

  7. 5 out of 5

    James Davisson

    An excellent book that combines lucid writing and graphics for a clear presentation of a rich and complex topic. The visual design of the book is striking, with two-tone illustrations in shades of black and orange, with lovely orange section headings throughout to match. It’s also blessedly brief (just 130 pages of prose!) for such a weight of material. You’d think such a short length would make it hard to be really explanatory, but each chapter comes with an abstract at the beginning that helps An excellent book that combines lucid writing and graphics for a clear presentation of a rich and complex topic. The visual design of the book is striking, with two-tone illustrations in shades of black and orange, with lovely orange section headings throughout to match. It’s also blessedly brief (just 130 pages of prose!) for such a weight of material. You’d think such a short length would make it hard to be really explanatory, but each chapter comes with an abstract at the beginning that helps readers like me absorb what we’re about to read, since, in a sense, we’ve already read it. I don’t know about you, but this is the topic that never really got touched on at length in any of my education. It always seemed to be in the parts of the biology textbook (or history, maybe) that we didn’t get to. But human evolution is fascinating and vital material, and I loved getting an up-to-date picture of what we (think we) know, and what we’re still learning and arguing about. Again, I was surprised there was room for both in this book, but the authors do a great job of presenting well-established things quickly, and interjecting short asides when a topic is still in debate.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gwen S.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Man’s Big Brain is His Downfall! 4.55***** The information was extremely interesting with a plethora of archeological data, as the narrator( did not like her clinical voice) explained hominid‘s /Man’s evolution in, then out from Africa outwards to Europe, Asia, Australia and Americas. Forming hybrids with other hominids along the way, so they can adapt to their varied, non-tropical environments/ climates. Best quoted line, “immigrants did not need passports”, that had me chuckling at our present Man’s Big Brain is His Downfall! 4.55***** The information was extremely interesting with a plethora of archeological data, as the narrator( did not like her clinical voice) explained hominid‘s /Man’s evolution in, then out from Africa outwards to Europe, Asia, Australia and Americas. Forming hybrids with other hominids along the way, so they can adapt to their varied, non-tropical environments/ climates. Best quoted line, “immigrants did not need passports”, that had me chuckling at our present day, global immigration issues, caused by our “big brains”. I would like to rebutt their claim that ’we’ are ‘wise’, yet we reckless are willing to expand and plunge this beautiful planet and its species into another mass extinction as we over-consume our natural resources, especially our water and land. Their scientific proof showed that we are truly one ‘human’ race, and all these social/ cultural, man-made constructs will be our inevitable downfall. A Must-Listen-To!! My first audiobook/ novel for 2020!!! 12/23/19-01/01/20

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alicia Bayer

    This is a well illustrated little scientific book telling you everything you want to know about human evolution and then some. There's lots of modern research included and charts and illustrations to help with the subject matter. I was hoping this would be helpful for my older kids, but it's definitely better suited for an adult. This was perhaps a lot more information than I really wanted even though I find the subject interesting. Parts of it were really, really interesting. I had a hard time This is a well illustrated little scientific book telling you everything you want to know about human evolution and then some. There's lots of modern research included and charts and illustrations to help with the subject matter. I was hoping this would be helpful for my older kids, but it's definitely better suited for an adult. This was perhaps a lot more information than I really wanted even though I find the subject interesting. Parts of it were really, really interesting. I had a hard time sticking with it, but if you're interested in finally understanding evolution really well as a lay person then this is your book. I read a temporary digital ARC of this book for review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Crisp overview of human evolution I enjoyed this book. There are a lot of good books out there that go into a lot of detail about human evolution, but what’s nice about this book is that it is reads crisply and it’s written in a conversational tone. As a pocket guide, it can’t go into all the details, but it gives a great overview and has many clarifying illustrations. Kudos to Thomas Haessig for the illustrations. The translation of the book was seamless, so kudos to Emma Ramadan. I strongly Crisp overview of human evolution I enjoyed this book. There are a lot of good books out there that go into a lot of detail about human evolution, but what’s nice about this book is that it is reads crisply and it’s written in a conversational tone. As a pocket guide, it can’t go into all the details, but it gives a great overview and has many clarifying illustrations. Kudos to Thomas Haessig for the illustrations. The translation of the book was seamless, so kudos to Emma Ramadan. I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in human evolution. Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley for review purposes.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dolf van der Haven

    Good, up-to-date account of the origins of Homo sapiens. A bit too "pocket" here and there, where conclusions drawn are unclear. There is also a fair amount of jargon that is not explained what is the difference between a "hominid" and a "hominin"?). Lastly, there is a case of confusion between India and Indonesia... It calls for an expanded edition for the uninitiated in paleontology.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael Coblenz

    Excellent overview of human evolution. It discusses the role of other sapiens, which was interesting. The most enlightening element was the discussion of how early human society influenced our evolution, including our physical evolution. This is a short, easy to read summary of the latest evidence of the evolution of homo sapiens.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paleoanthro

    An in-depth, highly researched, up-to-date, and compact update of human origins and evolution. Extremely well written, this account will capture your attention and expand your knowledge in an amazingly short number of pages. Despite it small size, this book is not lacking in stature nor insight. Highly recommended reading.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Teri

    A Pocket History of Human Evolution is a quick update on history and new discoveries in anthropology. This well written and easily accessible book took me back to my undergraduate anthropology class. This was an accessible read that I thoroughly enjoyed. **I received an ARC from NetGalley for a fair and unbiased review of this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Armen

    Evolution is more than that drawing of an ape slowly walking into the future to become a woman or man. It is a caldron of genes and environment and inter-breeding. This is an excellent short survey of current thinking on evolution.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cristie Underwood

    This was a great book filled with useful charts and illustrations. I found that there was a lot of information that I hadn't learned in classes.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amit Verma

    There are many secrets that lie in our history. Studying our roots is definitive way to trace from where we came and to guess where we are going. This is a small book which tries to convey our evolution, moulding, selection and impact. Book has simple and little technical language and guiding pictures to show in time lapse what sapiens did. It focuses on main events and changes which fartured simple monkey to the top of the food chain. How we migrated, developed tools, tribes, communication, killed There are many secrets that lie in our history. Studying our roots is definitive way to trace from where we came and to guess where we are going. This is a small book which tries to convey our evolution, moulding, selection and impact. Book has simple and little technical language and guiding pictures to show in time lapse what sapiens did. It focuses on main events and changes which fartured simple monkey to the top of the food chain. How we migrated, developed tools, tribes, communication, killed so many, developed arts and how we reached here. Everything is explained based on scientific research and archaeology and genetics. It is information filled, entertaining book which helps reader to gain insights into complexity of life which is being rapidly disrupted by man. It is amazing to read about interesting fossils and to see them on Google. A very immersive way to read and discover while reading. Last chapter focuses on ecological disruption by humans and it is the most important lesson to be learned from this true story. Afterall we didn't adapt, evolve and struggle; to destroy our own adobe at last. Thanks netgalley and publisher for the review copy.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Heather Bennett

    A Pocket History of Human Evolution is a short and informative book. It gives a nice refresher of information of human evolution.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jean-denis Crouhy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Janni Mikkelsen

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marica

  22. 5 out of 5

    Miguel Baptista

  23. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey Struble

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  25. 5 out of 5

    John Lydick

  26. 4 out of 5

    John Corcoran

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael Daudier

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brian Haderspock

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen

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