Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind
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Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  1,330 ratings  ·  44 reviews
"How our oldest human ancestor was discovered--and who she was"--Cover.
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 15th 1990 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 1981)
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Kmorgenstern
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
kambiz
The real genius of Darwin is really in every line of book. He bases his theory on facts and evidence and even tells in what case it could be annihilated. Real genius.
hamptonenglish10
Tyler Jankowski
Emmett English
4/4/2012

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...more
Jacqui
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...more
Presley
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
Q-Rai
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...more
Karen
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.
Gwen Veazey
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
Dylan
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.
Susan
Read this 30 years ago, but still remember it was a wonderful book about the discovery of australopithecus. Anyone interested in physical anthropology will enjoy it.
Ian
Feb 13, 2014 Ian rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: science
Read this book a long time ago, when I was young. A great read, well written, and informative.
Mark
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...more
Nick Tredger
As exciting as any murder mystery and a revelation. Fascinating!
Sarah
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
Sarahandus
Absolutely fantastic! Reads like a mystery, you just can't put it down.
Emily Decobert
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.
Jamest.
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?".
Joe
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.
Kristen
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
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).
Karen
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.
Mark
Apr 18, 2013 Mark marked it as to-read

I recently saw "Lucy" at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. It was great to actually see this world famous skeleton of an Australopithecus Afarensis , considered by many to be the "missing link" between lower orders of primates and man. So Lucy is about 3.3 million years old and stood about three feet tall.
Sudenly
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.
Alyssa
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.
Sangye Hawke
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.
Chris Curtis
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.
Steven
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.
J.R.
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.
Chris
"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.
Sharla
I purchased this book a long time ago, back in Berkeley as a grad student. I finally read it cover to cover. It was great fun and took me back to my life long, long ago.
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