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4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  2,156 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
"How our oldest human ancestor was discovered--and who she was"--Cover.
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 15th 1981 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 1981)
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Apr 18, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it

I saw "Lucy" at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana a while ago. It was great to actually see this world famous skeleton of an Australopithecus Afarensis. Lucy is about 3.5 million years old and stood about three feet tall. So tiny!!
Jun 23, 2009 Jacqui rated it it was amazing
Shelves: early-man, science
I read this book when I was writing a paleo-historic drama of the life of earliest man. My characters were Homo habilines, but they cohabited Africa with Australopithecines, so to understand the co-stars of my story, I turned to the man who has become the guru of earliest man: Donald Johanson and his amazing find, Lucy.

In his book, Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind (Touchstone Simon & Schuster 1990) Johanson and his co-author, Maitland Edey tell the fascinating tale of how they found Lucy, t
Sep 25, 2011 Kmorgenstern rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Others have presented a good summery of what it is about, so I won't repeat it here. What I liked about this book was the very personal insight into the techniques and methods employed by paleontologists and the 'greater picture' of the evolution of that science with regards to its historical context and biases that have shaped it. Lucy is not the end of the line in that evolution and Johanson is well aware of it. More fossils have been found since and more theories h ...more
Jul 25, 2009 Presley rated it liked it
Shelves: 11th-grade
This book revolves around the discovery of the fossil of the Australopithecus Afarensis, Lucy. It is told in the perspective of the man who discovered her, Donald Johanson. Along with the discovery of the oldest hominid fossil, the book also tells about other important archeological finds that contributed to the theory of evolution, such as the Homo Habilis finds at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania and Homo Neanderthalensis remains in Shanidar Cave in Iraq and the famed Taung Baby. The book talked abo ...more
May 18, 2016 Philip rated it really liked it
Someone, somewhere must be working on a computer program that can measure and process the thousands of minute variations between hundreds of bones and fossils and conclude what the connections and links are between them. Such a program will save future paleoanthropologists thousands of hours of painstaking work that the author went through while deciding whether or not Lucy was our ancestor, only to be challenged publicly by a famous anthropologist and then having to write this exhaustively thor ...more
Feb 18, 2017 Mariah rated it really liked it
In it's provision of such detailed, sequential paleoanthropologic evidence of hominid evolution, this book stimulates an intellectual questioning of religion; if a pre-human (afarensis) existed 3.5 million years ago, how does this align with a christian timeline?

The Findings of Four Notable Fossils: Timeline
- Neanderthal Man: 1856, Fuhlrott, Germany
- Java Ape-Man: 1891, Dubois, Java (first known Homo Erectus)
- Paranthropus: 1938, Robert Broom, South Africa (Robust Australopithecine)
- Taung Baby:
Apr 04, 2013 hamptonenglish10 rated it liked it
Tyler Jankowski
Emmett English

Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind is the story behind the discovery of the oldest humanoid skeleton. This book was not written by the man who discovered Lucy, but a man who loved the skeleton and the history of how it was discovered. This book is a collection of the journal entries, quotes and actual information of the expedition. After The discovery of Lucy, the book begins to talk about the evolution of man. The book begins to tell where famous skeletons an
Aug 23, 2010 Q-Rai rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed, educational
Originally, I started reading this to force myself to deal with anthropology - it was part of my Human Biology class and I needed to know about it for the exam. However, I didn't like the topic during the lecture - all those monkeys and humanoids were simply boring.
However, when I started reading this book, I could actually feel a lot of Johanson's excitement for his discoveries. The first few chapters are the most interesting ones and the exam is long written (and passed - partly thanks to this
Jan 15, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: don-t-have-yet
Donald Johanson made me a believer. Reading his description of the hunt for hominids, I wanted to get out there and discover the bones with him. He makes a very good case for his Lucy- who was the first of a new species of hominid- Australopithecus afarensis. The book looks at Don's turbulent relationship with the Leakeys, as well as the troubles he had is getting funding and other troubles with governments etc. He gets into the science of how they dated Lucy, which is told in a way that the lay ...more
Gwen Veazey
Jan 13, 2014 Gwen Veazey rated it it was amazing
Loved this vivid and very readable account of fossil hunting in Ethiopia and the science and history of hominids. How intriguing that over 3 million years ago a 3 1/2 foot tall Australopithecus afarensis with such a small brain had some characteristics almost the same as modern humans - such as feet and teeth. She was dubbed Lucy because the paleoanthropologists in the field, notably author Donald Johanson, a Beatles fan, celebrated finding her singing "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" around thei ...more
Jul 09, 2007 Mark rated it liked it
Not a bad peek into the life and times of Don Johanson, the late 70s early 80s Don Johanson, discoverer of Lucy, sparrer with Leakey, namer of Australopithecus afarensis. The most wild and down-right ridiculous part of this book is when Johanson admits to grave-robbing the local cemetery (home to some of the relatives of his native guides) to acquire human leg bones in order to make comparisons between them and some recently found fossils
And after reading Johanson's case for Ramapithecus, could
Riccardo Cavaliere
Quasi un romanzo, a tratti. Eppure rende bene l'idea di come la scienza proceda attraverso tesi poi confutate e riscritte in continuazione. Inoltre l'antropologia è strettamente collegata ad altre scienze che permettono l'analisi dei fossili da più punti di vista e la loro datazione prende in considerazione una serie di parametri molto differenti. Lettura interessante ma decisamente troppo lunga anche perché alcuni capitoli sono ormai troppo datati.
Emily Decobert
Nov 08, 2012 Emily Decobert rated it really liked it
This book was a great enjoyment. As a history major I loved the look into prehistoric humanity, but it is interesting enough for anyone who wants to know about the famous Lucy. Part historical lesson and part treasure hunt, the only problem I saw was I got lost a few times and had to read again for clarity. That may be more my fault than the book's! Also, it was written in the early 1980's and the field has made great advancments, so it's a good idea to read more modern books as well.
Sep 05, 2016 Shannon rated it liked it
Some bits of not-so-interesting details (conflict between researchers & an explanation of radiocarbon dating complete with chemical equations come to mind) but worth it for excellent stories of the discovery of Lucy & in-the-field fossil hunting & paleoanthropology, and an explanation of the related social mechanisms that might have preceded bipedalism.

I wish this was in e-book format because the margins in the paper book were huge & the text was cramped making it difficult to r
Jul 03, 2012 Jamest. rated it it was amazing
An insightful, compeling telling of the dicovery of one of our human ancestors from the dawn of humankind. This fast-paced, well-written tale reads more like a detective story than a dry work of science. Donald Johanson's crisp storytelling style makes this an incredibly interesting and enjoyable read for both the expert and novice alike. Edjucational, informative, and fun this book will be enjoyed by anyone who has ever asked; "Where do we come from?".
May 13, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
A great read. I was surprised both by how clearly he was able to explain the science to non-scientists and how much it read like a story. I was really in suspense wondering if Lucy was a hominid and why she walked on two legs. I'd like to read more by Johanson, though I see his other books have different co-authors, so they might read very differently.
Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
An oldie but a goody. One of the most influential books on my life, ever, was the followup to this book, Lucy's Child, which I read at 16 or 17. After reading that book, Tim White and Don J. were my idols. I wish I'd kept that clear vision throughout my undergrad years. This remains the most exciting academic field I can think of.
Randy Rose
Dec 15, 2012 Randy Rose rated it it was ok
I might be the only physical anthro guy who really did not like this book. Johanson spends the first half of the book dissing everyone he has ever worked with. It was an unprofessional bitch session not befitting a respected scientist.

If you're going to read this, I suggest skipping to Chapter 7 (or Ch. 4 for the very patient).
Sep 19, 2011 Karen rated it really liked it
I first read this book when it first came out in the early 1980s. It's what got me hooked on paleonathropology. I didn't realize at the time how the field of study was just getting started. Thirty years later, the book stands up well, though naturally some of the science has been updated by recent discoveries.
Feb 26, 2007 Joe rated it it was amazing
This is perhaps my all-time favorite book. It is a fascinating story about human evolution and the most important anthropological discovery of the last century - the first upright walking pre-human skeleton. It gives a fascinating account of the discoveries, politics, and scientific fallout that shook the small and isolated scientific community of human archeologists.
Nov 11, 2012 Alyssa rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was really well written. It made learning a bunch of science facts entertaining and easy to understand. I also though that the chapters were designed so that if you only wanted to read that one chapter for some reason, you wouldn't be at a loss for understanding.
Apr 18, 2010 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book for the frustrated archaeologist/paleoanthropologist. I read this when it was first published and re read it last year. Still very pertinent even though it is over 30 years ago; especially in light of new findings in South Africa.
Mar 18, 2014 Dylan rated it really liked it
I had to read this for my biological anthropology course (which I recommend taking if you can) and I think that it was fairly enjoyable all things considered. There were some nice pictures and useful information. If you're interested in the subject this would be a good book to read.
Mar 31, 2012 J.R. rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A little dated now in light of new discoveries, but still an excellent overview up to Johanson's 1974 discovery of the tiny lady known as Lucy. I originally read it when the book first came out and wanted a refresher on some points.
Read this in high school and changed this course of my life for a few years. Lived in New Mexico and studied Archaeology. Fascinating book. Must be very dated by now, though. Quite amazing at the time.
Oct 20, 2012 Sudenly rated it it was amazing
Puedo decir que es uno de los libros más fascinantes que he leído, y no sólo por la temática sino la forma de abordarla. Está maravillosamente escrito y explicado, no es necesario tener un conocimiento previo muy profundo sobre la temática, cosa que le agrega puntos a favor. Excepcional.
Chris Curtis
Jan 24, 2008 Chris Curtis rated it really liked it
Among younger working mathematicians and scientists there is generally disdain for popular accounts of science. This is not without good reason. However, this book is fabulous, and I have been wishing I majored in anthropology ever since I read it. Excellent.
S.L. Hawke
Jan 13, 2013 S.L. Hawke rated it it was amazing
Made the live of a physical anthropologist sound like fun and inspired me to pursue education in said major.
It also captured the rivalry of the field once dominated by the Leakey Family and caught the unforgiving landscape of the site with dry humourous clarity.
Jun 29, 2015 Ami rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It was really fascinating to learn the history ( so far) of paleoanthropology, as well as the discovery and study of Lucy. I highly recommend this book for any fans of human origins and history.
Aug 21, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"...This book talks about the famous discovery of the Australipthicus Aferensis, Lucy. Most of you would find this book to be boring, but I was an Archaeology major so i'm a big excavation nerd.
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Donald Carl Johanson is an American paleoanthropologist. He is known for discovering the fossil of a female hominin australopithecine known as "Lucy" in the Afar Triangle region of Hadar, Ethiopia.
More about Donald C. Johanson...

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