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Mapping Human Origins
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Richard E. Leakey and Roger Lewin
Origins (London:  Macdonald and Jane's, 1979.  264p. Followup Volume 1993.)

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This book shares the history of many history books in my library which were bought in the 1980s.  I collected a set of books on various kinds of science and have kept them over the years, gradually reading them.  I mostly read sections in each, to sample them.

From 2003 till about 2006, I systematically went through them all, plus others that I had added in the course of this reading plan.  Thus Leaky and Lewin sat in almost new condition on my bookcase for many years till I absorbed the whole thing finally in 2005.

One reason I bought this book is because of my acquaintance with Richard Leakey.  We never had an extensive relationship but I met him early in my experience as a young man in Africa.  I met Richard in 1972 in Nairobi, when my wife and I were members of the Kenya Museum Society.  While living in Kenya for about 25 years, we followed Richard's career in paleoanthropology, conservation and politics in the precarious rough and tumble of Kenya's volatile tribal atmosphere.

I appreciated Leakey's stand on moral and scientific standards.  He resisted the pressures of political expediency and the pragmatism of a party trying to stay in power.  The situation made it difficult for him to conduct some of the public duties even while he was the Director of the Kenya Museums.

Species Revision
Edith and I heard Richard's first lecture, presented to the intimate group of Society members one evening, on the change in theory of human pre-history arising out of his discoveries.  In this book Roger Lewin assists Leakey to present a scenario of pre-history, reconstructed from fossil findings and surmises of archaeologists.

A key theme is that Neanderthals and other humanoid beings were NOT direct ancestor species of the modern human, homo sapiens sapiens.  This has been proven definitively now by DNA research.  DNA also proves Leakey's theory that the human race had one common beginning, in Africa.  This book is very informative.

Origins reads like a novel, which it basically is.  There is a dramatic motif spinning out how it must have been, filling in from imagination the details to bridge the great gaps between the relatively few bones of various kinds from which a humanoid evolutionary history has been reconstructed.

The stories attempt to paint a picture of daily life and interaction with their environment.  This novelesque approach helps bring to life these beings as real living individuals.  There is extensive cultural information, however, on various human cultures.

Leakey and Lewin make important connections from various disciplines of science to explain aspects of human culture and suggest possible ways these practices and social structures arose in human history.

Related Articles and Reviews
[Review] The Amhara of Ethiopia
[TXT] Italians and Race
[TXT] Genetics and Ethnicity (Italians, Etruscans and Greeks)
[Review] Our Genetic Journey
[TXT] Race and Ethnicity

See also on the Internet:
Prehistoric humanoid DNA - raises more questions than it answers
Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland by Bryan Sykes (UK Title: Blood of the Isles)
Stephen Oppenheimer:  Out of Africa's Eden (US Title: The Real Eve:  Modern Man's Journey Out of Africa)
Tidy Neanderthals? - World Science

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First reading notes written 3 September 2005
Review finalized and posted on Thoughts and Resources 5 November 2007
Last edited 12 November 2008
Reviewed on Amazon 10 December 2013

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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