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The Making of Mankind

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A comprehensive survey of the fields that deal with human prehistory explains the techniques used in the study of the life, appearance, and evolution of human and prehuman ancestors

256 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1981

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About the author

Richard E. Leakey

38 books65 followers
Richard Erskine Frere Leakey was a paleoanthropologist and conservationist. He was the second born of three sons of the archaeologists Louis Leakey and Mary Leakey, and was the younger brother of Colin Leakey.

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5 stars
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46 (46%)
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Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews
12 reviews
February 16, 2013
Any tour involving the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater inevitably includes a visit to Olduvai Gorge. This sometimes sparks an interest in archaeology and anthropology followed by some research back home. To paraphrase Leaky – where do we come from? The need to understand ourselves, to discover the truth about our past, is a basic human characteristic. The book covers many sites throughout Africa and is quite technical in places, it provides interesting information on excavations at Olduvai and reading before travel will bring an exciting insight and depth to your journey when you visit The Cradle of Mankind.
Profile Image for Marco Valois.
5 reviews3 followers
August 17, 2010
From my readings of this his book came me too many questions. Not of them yet being answered. I appreciated so much Leakey's field researches as well as his brilliant discoveries since comparing to the evolution of the species. The African and the world bioma came to be as important as the reading rushed to my knowledgements. Therefore, the ideas and hipothesis which came from my readings helped me to formulate and to well understand, not just the living beings, but the earth environment by itself. To Richard leakey's family and colleagues findings also came out insights to know how the shaping of the earth should also be compared to other planets, satellites, moons and the formation of stars in a non totally conclusive studies that surely may bring too much understand about the Universe in the world God gave us. This book also presents important photos of Leakey's research findings, which in some of them lay no doubts. I modestly suggest The Making of Mankind as a good weekend reading like to attenuating situations or to bring new ideas and inventions.
Profile Image for Shalini.
1 review
August 12, 2013
I must have read this book at least six times. Some find it very texty, but really, if you are interested in what someone is saying, you wouldn't call it that.

I like the way the sequence of human evolution is presented with accompanying illustrations, explanations and theories. I'm in no way a scientifically-minded person but I found that it was very readable. Jargon is at a minimum, and in fact the impression I had throughout my reading is that I was being taught by a patient and organized teacher.

Personally, I prefer the book to the TV series it is meant to accompany. There is so much more detail, and more importantly, the passion for his work really comes through the words in the books. Every time I finish this book, I feel awed by how far human beings have come and the miracle of our existence.
Profile Image for Charles.
Author 40 books262 followers
November 17, 2008
A bit outdated now but very interesting reading. Lots of great information, although there is a lot of speculation.
Profile Image for Erin.
11 reviews7 followers
March 20, 2017
Leakey's storytelling style makes this an enjoyable as well as an informative read about the development of 'homo sapiens sapiens.'
Profile Image for William Kilner.
7 reviews1 follower
September 29, 2020
A book about the archeology / anthropology of early humans that ends with a chapter on human aggression and the final line 'The choice is ours' - that's worth four stars to me.
I liked how the author talks about human aggression - it's not some innate aspect of 'human nature'. He argues against the 'killer-ape' view of human nature, based on an interpretation of archeological evidence - remains of early hominids thought to have died from wounds inflicted by members of the same species.
He looks at a differing view of the evidence, that the damage to the remains is simply the result of natural processes - such as bones being damaged by scavenging hyenas, or being subject to pressure as a result of soil deposits built up over time.
He takes the view that aggression is more a product of culture. Large scale military development arose from the Agricultural Revolution and the growth of cities. Based on that fact, in the last couple of chapters he makes a 'culture is malleable' type argument and concludes that humans have the unique ability to shape and change culture as they see fit.
Although this topic could clearly be delved into in much more complexity, Leakey's 'take-away' from the study of our development is nicely simple and humanistic - basically 'un-dumb'.
Leakey comes from a prominent archeological family, and he makes reference to the important digs and findings he and members of his family have been involved in throughout the book - some of which provides the evidence he looks at.
The book was published in 1981. Although I'm not an expert, I'd guess that the interpretations of the evidence he looks at remain current, even if they may have evolved somewhat along with new findings.
Profile Image for Neil Aplin.
83 reviews
December 8, 2019
Wow - just brilliant! Of course it is out of date, but then all textbooks on paleoanthropology are out of date by the time they are published as this field of research is so dynamic, with new discoveries being made every week, that usually these new discoveries have a significant impact across the discipline. This makes the study of human ancestry so exciting, and such a great area of research to go into, as we are learning new things about our ancient ancestors all the time.

Richard Leakey is of course central to this research as his family have been at the forefront of research for decades. So he has a unique perspective and knowledge of the subject from first hand experience.

But as a general text on the subject it is written engagingly, and passionately. Leakey tells the stories of discoveries and scientific development in this field in an interesting and narrative form.

Makes for great reading.
Profile Image for Warren.
109 reviews7 followers
March 6, 2019
After near forty years this book cannot help but be a little outdated, yet it comes from a time when the rigours of modern scientific enquiry and the discoveries by then made had laid down the fundamental theories and ideas about human evolution that still stand today. Allowing, therefore, that you may afterwards wish to catch up on the latest developments, this book provides an excellent introduction to the subject. Clear, lucid, and intelligently presented to a general audience, and well supported by photographs, maps and drawings.
Profile Image for Shareen MacNeil.
33 reviews1 follower
January 4, 2022
Compulsory reading in one of my anthropology classes.
Loved it.

Some found it too technical, academic, wordy. But How can a science book not be ? I was enthralled with Leakey’s work. This book is so full of interesting field work and hands on analysis of actual fossil evidence and records. Not to mention Richard Leakey’s brilliant analysis of the fossil records which I believe was revolutionary in the field.
23 reviews1 follower
May 30, 2022
As good as Origins, although the ending was slightly more positive. Definitely interesting to see how science slowly progressed through the late 20th century.
Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews

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