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Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  813 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
A leading researcher on human evolution proposes a new and controversial theory of how our species came to be

In this groundbreaking and engaging work of science, world-renowned paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer sets out a new theory of humanity's origin, challenging both the multiregionalists (who hold that modern humans developed from ancient ancestors in different part
Hardcover, 1st edition, 336 pages
Published March 13th 2012 by Times Books, Henry Holt and Company (first published 2011)
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Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Chris Stringer's Lone Survivors: How We Came to be the Only Humans on Earth comes along some seventeen years after his ground-breaking book African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity (Henry Holt, 1996). Stringer is one of the principal architects and proponents of the "Out-of-Africa" (OOA) hypothesis associated with the origin and dispersal of anatomically modern humans, i.e., Homo sapiens. According to Stringer and the OOA hypothesis, anatomically modern humans evolved in Africa nearly 200, ...more
My mind finds it so hard to deal with the colossal timescales involved in palaeontology – even more so in the case of books like this, where the story being pieced together on this Brobdingnagian canvas is so crucial and so awe-inspiring. You're considering vast, Cthulhu-like stretches of time in which human societies grew up, discovered modernity in the form of complex tools and ritualised behaviour, held out for a while against the environment, and then disappeared. One after another, flashes ...more
May 05, 2012 Elaine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebooks
Without polemics, Chris Stringer shows how humans evolved. For those who believe evolution is bunk--although he doesn't mention them ever--he shows how one species, over millions or thousands of years becomes another. There are no missing links. What happens--and is happening-- is that when a fetus is created, it may have mutations in one of its genes. If that mutation allows it to cope with living conditions better than those who don't have it, that gene will be passed onto its offspring, gradu ...more
Alison Dellit
Mar 29, 2013 Alison Dellit rated it it was amazing
I want to be a palaeoanthropologist.

Or at least, I did for a good half-hour after finishing this book, before I remembered that I have trouble identifying differences between bones in diagrams, even with little pointing arrows added, so my chances of being useful with the real thing are pretty thin. But Chris Stringer's book was just so good, it left me wanting to plunge further into this world of evidence and ambiguity, of scientific collaboration and debate, of furthering our understanding abo
Feb 10, 2013 rmn rated it did not like it
Poorly organized, dry, and not as easy as it should be to piece together.....and that was just the fossils (rim shot please).

The book tries to lay out current theories of early man and neanderthal man which should be fascinating material yet I found it painful trying to slog through it. The timelines of prehistoric man were not well structured and the book needed to be more streamlined (perhaps a neanderthal served as the editor).

Often the author would start describing a fossil, stop, and then
Lis Carey
Sep 25, 2014 Lis Carey rated it really liked it
Where does our species come from? Who were our ancestors?

These are enduring human questions, and we are piecing the answers together out of bits of bone and stone tools and recovered DNA. Chris Stringer is one of the world's leading paleoanthropologists, and one of the leading proponents of the "Out of Africa" theory, proposing a recent African origin for Homo sapiens in eastern or southern Africa, who then expanded out of Africa, replacing the archaic humans, including Neanderthals, in the rest
Sep 15, 2013 Janice rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This wasn't as good as I thought it would be. I saw the author, Chris Stringer, on the Colbert Report. He was personable and engaging. It made me think this book would be very accessible to the layman. It isn't. It is very dry. I think the author thinks he has dumbed this down for the general populace but no. The only reason I got a good bit out of it was I knew something about all those early hominids, and how scientists had connected them in the past.

Stringer kept throwing around abbreviation
Steve Van Slyke
Apr 17, 2012 Steve Van Slyke rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Paleoanthropology fans
Shelves: science, kindle, evolution
I have read a handful of books on paleoanthropology over the years, and of the sciences that I enjoy following, this one seems to have the most volatility in terms of controversies, debates and new discoveries, which makes it fun to track. One of the oft-made comments about paleoanthropologists is that there are more of them than there are of the bones and skulls they study.

As the book's title suggests, the author, Chris Stringer, focuses on the latter stages of human evolution, picking up the s
Apr 06, 2012 Anne rated it liked it
I was watching a documentary on human evolution recently and realized the state of my knowledge on the topic was in dire need of updating. When I saw a review for this book, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to dive on in. But basically, I'm just dabbling here in paleontology, archaeology, and evolution.

As for the book itself, for the most part everything was written clearly so even I, as a dabbler, could grasp most of what was being covered. But I found the organization horrible! I suspec
Nov 21, 2015 David rated it really liked it
I was motivated to read this book after listening to a recent RadioWest interview with world renowned paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer Stringer lays out the evidence that Homo Sapiens originated in Africa and that there were not just one population of Homo Sapiens but several different populations that coexisted with other species of Homo Sapiens (such as Homo erectus). Eventually, homo sapiens replaced all other human species. The reasons that Homo sa ...more
Jun 21, 2014 Nicholas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The author has somehow produced an almost indecently readable book from the interpretation of data emerging from many advanced dating techniques.In fact his writing is some of the best I've come across in popular science.He manages to circumvent in-depth technical explanations and keeps matters as simple as possible.
However the nature of the subject is such that in many areas no precise conclusions can be made,as certain finds cast doubt on previous theories and start to construct a picture of
Richard Reese
Oct 29, 2015 Richard Reese rated it it was amazing
A million years ago, our Homo erectus ancestors consisted of maybe 20,000 breeding individuals, according to wizards who speculate on the hidden secrets of DNA. This is similar to the current population of chimpanzees or gorillas. The ancestors lived in scattered pockets of Africa, at a time when Earth was a paradise of abundant life. From these ancient roots, a number of hominid species evolved, but only Homo sapiens still survives, at seven-point-something billion and growing. The chimps and g ...more
Jan 03, 2015 L is currently reading it
Stringer tells the story of research into human evolution as a scientific adventure, with competing theories, new dating techniques turning "firm" knowledge on it's head, and more. One of my favorite lines so far is in the second chapter, in a discussion of the impact of new techniques on two competing theories--"We were both wrong!" Instead of the usual academic self-justification along the lines of "based on the best methods at the time . . ., blah blah blah" Stringer shares with the reader th ...more
Apr 06, 2013 Steven rated it liked it
I've seen the author on any number documentary programs about Neanderthals and the origins of humankind. He really does know his stuff and does an admirable job of outlining competing theories about human origins, and the new tools and techniques that paleoanthropologists are using to learn more.

I got a bit lost a few times -- more my fault than his. I do wish there had been more discussion of other outlying branches such as the Denisovians and the recently unearthed "Hobbits" from the island of
Chris Demer
Although this book has some very interesting aspects, there are some downsides. One: In places it is quite technical and the author assumes familiarity with the field that most non-scientists do not have and, two: the author seems to skip around a lot- from place to place and through time, sometimes leading to bewilderment!
That being said, I gleaned some new information. While it is true that for long periods of time more than one human species existed - probably side by side at times, only H. s
May 26, 2013 Lynley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Chris Stringer certainly knows his stuff. He almost knows too much, and it seemed he didn't quite know the right place to start with writing a book about everything he's learned over a career. Like many expert authors of non-fiction books, he first went into overview mode, including different was of classifying fossils, disclaimers that we're not really sure about this and that, in blocks of information that I wished had been in bullet-point/diagrammatic form rather than solid walls of text.

May 06, 2012 Doug rated it liked it
Lone Survivors traces mankind's journey from our primative roots to the present day and even takes a brief look into our future. I feel certain that Chris Stringer is one of the true bright lights of paleoanthropology and has been for some time. This is not a book for the casual reader. Stringer's writing style is very pithy ( no, I do not have a lisp) and consequently the is a huge amount of information crammed into 280 pages, some of it pretty technical. He tries to be user friendly in the beg ...more
Nancy McKinley
May 15, 2014 Nancy McKinley rated it really liked it
The writer of this concise book has been involved in many of the newest and most exciting breakthroughs and discoveries in the study of early man and his take on the subject is enlightening.
We are brought up to date on what we know so far. It mentions through example how sometimes even the experts can be fooled and much of what we know still lingers in theory.
I enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to any other person who is crazy enough to adore anthropology as much I do. (A basic workin
Bill Leach
Jan 19, 2015 Bill Leach rated it really liked it
An excellent book presenting the current knowledge of the development of Homo sapiens. The author covers fossil evidence but also covers issues such as lifestyle. In all cases, he discusses the breadth of opinion on any issue in addition to his current thinking.

In Chapter 1, The Big Questions, the author describes earlier ideas of human evolution, then talks of Recent African Origin (RAO). He prefers RAO to "Out of Africa" as it is becoming clearer that there were earlier dispersals from Africa
Jul 23, 2014 Cary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Low 4/high 3.

In contrast to Brian Fagan's Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations this is considerably more focused. It's also a more recent creation and, in the rapidly advancing field of human evolution and archaeology, this is critical.

My one big complaint about this is that it's not very well organized. Stringer seems unable to keep focused, instead he constantly make references to things he'll cover in other chapters. This is NOT an issue with the subject matter, as Jared Diamond avoi
AdultNonFiction Teton County Library
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Madeleine - 3 stars
This book's a great gleaning of archeological sciences from its beginnings to now. My one big complaint is that the author is obviously determined that the researchers get full credit. Every single one of them. So EVERY theory in paleoarcheology gets introduced with all the relevant researchers' names. The sentences become convoluted to the lay reader. It was exhausting to wallow through all the credits that should have been in footnotes.
Aug 26, 2012 Jafar rated it liked it
An update on where evolutionary anthropology and archeology stand on the evolution of humans, and a summary of the developments over the past few decades in this filed. We may be able to learn a lot from fossils and DNA sequencing about our ancient biology, but when it comes to individual and social behaviors of our ancestors, it seems to me that we’re doing a lot of over-interpretation of scants bits of evidence here and there. A fascinating account, nonetheless.
This book jumps around a lot and doesn't really have follow a coherent path. Paragraphs don't follow on from one paragraph to another, never mind chapters. The book is also rather limited in that it discusses modern people and neanderthals in rather vague terms. The book wasn't overly technical but it presented information in such a vague and disassociated manner that it made things rather confusing. Too much speculation, not enough facts.

I got the impression that the author's pet theory was the
Lasse Laitinen
Jun 08, 2014 Lasse Laitinen rated it it was ok
This book holds important information, but is poorly structured. It seems as if Stringer didn't even try to carry the reader through the narrative, as conclusions are often missing and as the author dwells on specific fossil finds. He should instead start from the bigger picture or bigger questions, which certain finds may offer insights into. The bones found in Nigeria, dated just 13,000 years old, are a positive example in this text.

Furthermore, as "Lone Survivors" is meant for the wider publ
Peter Blom
Erg interessant.
Stringer verhaald de huidige stand van zaken wat betreft onze oorsprong. Hebben moderne mensen en neanderthalers elkaar ooit ontmoet? Stroomt er neanderthalerbloed door onze aderen?
Waren onze voorouders kannibalen ? Waren ze kunstliefhebbers ?
Zijn we het resultaat van Out-of-africa-2 ?
Enz. enz. Het verleden ontleed ahv fossielen, gedrag, dna. Echt de nieuwste inzichten.
Piers Haslam
Sep 24, 2015 Piers Haslam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book that sets out an up to date look at the current theories surrounding humanity's origins, and the history of their development. I liked how much this book showed the profound abundance of questions that are still to be answered.
A little advice: in my opinion this book doesn't set the reader a very good timeline of events, in order to get one's bearings. So I recommend doing that on Wikipedia if you're an utter beginner.
I am very much a beginner in prehistory and palaeoanthropology, so
Jan 22, 2013 Laurie rated it really liked it
I loved this book. I found it so fascinating to read about our ancestors the early humans and neanderthals. This book, while quite scientific, was so interesting.
Leo Schoonmade
Heel verhelderend geschreven. Een absolute aanrader. En ik heb een door de auteur gesigneerd exemplaar: Lucky me.
Barbara Gregorich
Aug 25, 2014 Barbara Gregorich rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I enjoyed reading the information in this book, about how homo sapiens came to be the only surviving human spices on earth. I especially enjoyed reading about how having enough food to enable group members to live longer resulted in longer-living grandparents, which in return resulted in group members who could pass on vital cultural information (which foods to eat, how to prepare them, how to sew, make weapons, etc.).

In places the narrative didn't feel as strong as it should, and sometimes I ne
Sep 28, 2014 Monique rated it liked it
Lone Survivor stretched the limits of my vocabulary and my understanding. It's probably one of the most technical science-related books I've read to date. If not for my fascination on the subject of human origins, I think I might have struggled to finish the book.

Chris Stringer has a wealth of information to bestow on his reader. He writes as a man deeply familiar with the in's and out's of the subject. It's a fascinating read. The discoveries that have been made are astounding. Discoveries in
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Professor Christopher Brian Stringer, Fellow of the Royal Society currently works at the National History Museum, London, as research leader in human origins.
More about Chris Stringer...

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“So we have to recognize that species concepts are humanly produced categories which may or may not always work when compared with the reality of nature.” 0 likes
“They were fortunate as I had a couple of unusual mutations in my mtDNA, which makes it very recognizable, but it was still somewhat shocking to find that my DNA had left a contaminating trail across the museums of Europe! As Alan Cooper is jokily fond of accusing paleoanthropologists, in terms of the contamination of fossils he has tried to study, “You are all very dirty people!” 0 likes
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