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The Skull in the Rock: How a Scientist, a Boy, and Google Earth Opened a New Window on Human Origins

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  121 ratings  ·  46 reviews
"A fascinating account of an Indiana Jones–style fossil hunter and how his discoveries have changed the way we see human evolution." —Kirkus Reviews

In 2008, Professor Lee Berger--with the help of his curious 9-year-old son--discovered two remarkably well preserved, two-million-year-old fossils of an adult female and young male, known as Australopithecus sediba; a previous
Hardcover, 64 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by National Geographic Children's Books (first published September 11th 2012)
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Richie Partington
Richie’s Picks: THE SKULL IN THE ROCK: HOW A SCIENTIST, A BOY, AND GOOGLE EARTH OPENED A NEW WINDOW ON HUMAN ORIGINS by Lee R. Berger & Marc Aronson, National Geographic, October 2012, 64p., ISBN: 978-1-4263-1010-2

“How is it we are here, on this path we walk
In this world of pointless fear filled with empty talk
Descended from the apes as scientist-priests all think
Will they save us in the end, we’re trembling on the brink”
-- Mike Pinder, “How Is It” (1970)

“Lee estimates that the odds of findi
Jim Erekson
I don't feel like I've said this in forever, but the best thing about this book is Marc Aronson's writing. (I remembered his name from Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science, also an excellent book.)

This is a great example of a book with thick patches of text that beg to be read. Because the book was published by National Geographic, it fits the style we know from the magazine. Engaging visuals, paired with clear captions, and relevant text nearby. As a
In 2008 scientist Lee Berger and his young son Matthew discovered the remains of a new species, Australopithecus sediba, not far from Johannesburg, South Africa. In his inimitable trademark writing style, Aronson joins Berg in telling the story of this remarkable find that may change what we know about the origin of today's humans. Background material about Berg's formative years, his early research success, and then his years without finding anything valuable are juxtaposed against chapters tha ...more
Kate Hastings
Grades 4-8. This is a citizen scientist story-- a man who pursued his interest in archaeology by traveling several times (on grants) to explore the human cradle in Africa. When a paper was published claiming that most dig sites had been exhausted, funding dried up. Lee Berger thought there might be sites hiding right before our eyes. While using Google Earth, he figured out that satellite images might show patches of trees where small cave entrances had collapsed-- great placed to find ancient h ...more
Lee Berger has spent his entire life looking for the next big adventure and that quest paid off in 2008 when he discovered a cave in South Africa's Cradle of Humankind. The cave, Malapa, contained bones from an ancient species of hominids, perhaps the oldest ever found. The Australopithecus Sediba bones of five beings were found in the cave, some nearly complete. The bones tell the story of a species that contained both human and ape characteristics and changed the way scientists think about evo ...more
Alicia Halbach
“How a scientist, a boy, and Google earth opened a new window on human origins” The world famous scientist Lee Rogers Berger and the author Marc Aronson, wrote the fascinating and compelling book The Skull in the Rock. This book is very informative and conveys the reader a lot of information. Three of the most interesting facts that it teaches is how to find a fossil, how the Taung child died, and how Google earth helps Lee Berger find a two-million-year-old fossil. The first interesting fact re ...more
Nov 09, 2014 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: middle grade readers
This book shows how the scientific community learns more and more about the evolution of hominins and how one young man was able to make an important discovery while accompanying his father on an expedition.

The narrative is a bit long, but we read the book over the course of several nights so we didn't get overwhelmed by the details. The text is accompanied by big, colorful photographs and they really helped in understanding the topic.

Overall, we thought this was a very informative and inspira
Excellent and fascinating! It helped me as an adult have a much clearer understanding of the current thinking on our origins too. Aronson continues his theme of science being an open door with so much yet to be discovered - something that gives his books a sense of enormous enthusiasm and encouragement. The clarity of his explanations of the scientific process and theory was outstanding.
Melissa Mcavoy
Age Range: Grades 4-6

Speaking directly to the child-reader Aronson traces the career of a dynamic paleoanthropologist: Lee Berger, and captures the excitement of scientific discovery as Berger uncovers some of the oldest and most astonishingly complete human ancestors ever found.

The Skull in the Rock is part biography, part fossil discovery story and part exhortation to kids to develop observational skills and make discoveries. It tells an exciting tale of exploration fueled by theories and ins
Not Aronson's strongest book. For some reason, I thought this would be more about the "boy" - the son of the scientist who found the fossil. Despite the boy being part of the title (and on the back page - "This is the story of how a boy, a dog, a scientist, and Google Earth found a nealy two-million year old fossil..." and in the book description on Amazon, etc.), there was very, very little about 9 year old Matthew beyond the first page. This felt like a Lee Berger-centric book (the father of M ...more
Kristi Bernard
Imagine being a nine-year-old who gets to hunt for fossils in Africa. Most kids would think that would be the coolest thing on the planet. Matthew Berger is the lucky kid who gets to hang out with his dad and scientist Professor Lee Berger. Matthew and his dad were in Johannesburg, South Africa. The area they look for fossils is known as the Cradle of Humankind because important fossils have been found in the past in this area. Matthew discovered a clavicle, a bone that is part of the shoulder. ...more
Because of the new Common Core, I feel I need to read more non-fiction. This actually could be a good way to learn about a variety of subjects because YA non-fiction is usually short and written so it is easy to understand. This book was perfect for this purpose and actually got me excited about the possibility of finding fossils. It is about a scientist, Professor Lee Berger and his 9-year-old son, Matthew, who discovered two two-million-year-old fossils. One was of an adult female and the othe ...more
I wish I could get a class set of these to use with my students. This book addresses a number of topics about archaeology and prehistory that we discuss in class and it's a short enough book that we could read it in class.
An adventure in archaeology regarding human origins. The 9 year old son of a scientist finds a fossil (a clavicle bone) that opens a new door to the story of human evolution. The book builds on this explosive opening by reviewing what is known about evolution and discusses Lucy, an ancestor from over 3.2 million years ago. Full of photos taken at dig sites and labeled diagrams this book ends with an encouraging note to keep up on the latest information regarding this discovery by reading the upd ...more
A good book, an interesting book, but lacking detailed content. I realize they're still examining sediba, but why not just wait until we know more information before writing a book? It mostly describes the finding of the sediba skeletons (a kid found them, which is cool), Lee Berger (the kid's dad) himself, info on the Taung child, a little archaeological science, and some speculation about how the skeletons got down in the cave. I was really disappointed when I realized there wasn't going to be ...more
I love reading about anthropology and new discoveries. This book had a nice blend of luck, technology, and expertise with a good story to go with it.
LG Buschmann
Grade 4 and up. The Skull in the Rock is fascinating! It provides an remarkable look at how technology is helping with the world of archeology. The reader is able to comprehend how hard work, knowledge of archeological history, and luck can play a part in discovering our ancient human past. Skull includes many photographs that enable the reader to truly understand how “Karabo’s” fossilized remains were uncovered and how scientists analyze bone fragments to date and create a picture of ancient ma ...more
An interesting book about the quest for discovery about the origins of humans. In August, 2008, 9 year old Matthew Berger found a fossil of a bone sticking out of a rock. It was the first find of a new species, Australopithecus sediba, a human ancestor from about 1.98 million years ago. The book introduces Matthew's dad, Professor Lee Berger, a scientist who studies the story of humankind. The book shows how Berger got involved in paleoanthropology, and what it takes to find a site like Malapa, ...more
Tj Reads
Mrs. Bohny's rating: 4 out of 5 stars
What a great example of non fiction for children, from the layout, to the graphics, it's all good. But what else do you expect from Marc Aronson? Watch the fossil hands change at the onset of each chapter, great attention to detail. I just attended a workshop on Google Earth and was fascinated how Berger used it to find potential fossil deposits in an area thought to be completely studied. Easy to read, great find for the students on the dinosaur shelf.
I was hoping for a more exciting narrative, but it was mostly how Marc Aronson began his career and his findings leading up to when his son discovered an important fossil. I would have liked more hard science tying why this finding was important and what it means for us as humans. I will still recommend this to students because of the great photographs and the little bit of info about archaeology and human origins that it does contain.
This book is fantastic! I specialized in human osteology and paleontology for my undergrad degree, and this book is very clear and precise in terms of the science. There is even a mention of lumpers and splitters (I'm a lumper). My only complaint is that it would be helpful to readers to have a chart comparing the different species of australopithecenes to compare and contrast.
Another fantastic book by Marc Aronson. As in his other works, he brings the discovery process back to kids. How to be poised to seize opportunities for new discoveries and interpretations of past events. He also speaks to the research process by showing how he prepared for working on the project. This could be a great nonfiction read aloud as an informational text per the CCCS.
Charlotte Osborn-bensaada
Books like this one are the plus side of the emphasis on non-fiction by the Common Core. Great book in the citizen scientist genre. What works here is the discussion of how science is not just what you know now, but the questions, observations and connections you make between scientific disciplines.
Ms. Patterson
This will probably only interest those wanting to know more about the origins of man. I did find the beginning of the book fascinating, which tells of how the scientist and his son found the first fossil. But, I found some of the other sections in the book boring.
Wonderful pictures, great description and a fascinating story. This almost inspired me to start looking on Google Earth for "anomalies." I really enjoyed this book and would recommend to all middle school students.

Informational nonfiction
Narrative nonfiction
Elizabeth Meadows
Wow! What a great blend of old and new! This is written specifically for children, but I couldn't put it down. I learned all sorts of new sites for collaborative science and loved the layout, photos and graphics. Highly recommended for young and old.
SHCS Library
Mrs. Erwin met The author and had him autograph the school's copy. This is an incredible story of how one small find can completely revolutionize the current ideas in any area. Even cooler that a 9 year old made the find. Excellent (and quick) read.
I thought this was very informative for the age group it was aimed at. I would have liked a diagram showing different characteristics of the diffent finds, along with a map showing where they were found in relationship to each other.
Excellent for young people who are interested in science and discovery. The topic isn't something I personally crave to read about, but it is well written and even has ways for readers to follow-up if interested.
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Aronson has won many awards for his books for young readers and has a doctorate in American history. His lectures cover educational topics such as mysteries and controversies in American history, teenagers and their reading, the literary passions of boys, and always leave audiences asking for more.
More about Marc Aronson...
Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials Trapped Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies If Stones Could Speak: Unlocking the Secrets of Stonehenge

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