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The Origin Of Humankind

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“The name Leakey is synonymous with the study of human origins,” wrote The New York Times. The renowned family of paleontologists—Louis Leakey, Mary Leakey, and their son Richard Leakey—has vastly expanded our understanding of human evolution. The Origin of Humankind is Richard Leakey’s personal view of the development of Homo Sapiens. At the heart of his new picture of evolution is the introduction of a heretical notion: once the first apes walked upright, the evolution of modern humans became possible and perhaps inevitable. From this one evolutionary step comes all the other evolutionary refinements and distinctions that set the human race apart from the apes. In fascinating sections on how and why modern humans developed a social organization, culture, and personal behavior, Leakey has much of interest to say about the development of art, language, and human consciousness.

190 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1981

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About the author

Richard E. Leakey

37 books64 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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275 (28%)
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411 (42%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 77 reviews
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,216 followers
March 10, 2022
Am aflat chiar astăzi că paleoantropolgul Richard E. Leakey a murit la începutul lunii ianuarie 2022. Avea 77 de ani. Ca și părinții săi iluștri, el a inițiat și finanțat o serie de expediții arheologice în zona lacului Turkana din Kenya. A avut noroc. În 1984, unul dintre membrii echipei sale, Kamoya Kimeu, a descoperit faimosul „Turkana boy” (vechi de 1, 5 milioane de ani), singurul schelet fosil aproape complet al unui homo ergaster (homo erectus africanus).

Richard E. Leakey a scris o serie de articole despre descoperirea echipei sale, a participal la polemici, și a redactat printre alte lucrări și această Origine a omului. Sigur, timpul a trecut și o parte dintre ipotezele sale - formulate în prima parte a cărții - au fost infirmate. Totuși, Leakey a surprins cu acuratețe etapele evoluției genului Homo. Unii antropologi au pretins că homo sapiens este rezultatul unui salt neașteptat și al unei evoluții foarte rapide. Richard Leakey s-a îndoit de această ipoteză și a subliniat că saltul nu marchează neapărat o fractură în devenirea omului. Legea care pretinde că „natura nu face salturi” rămîne valabilă. Creierul uman nu se deosebește structural de cel al cimpanzeului (p.174).

Originea omului a presupus cîțiva pași decisivi: mersul biped (tocmai asta presupune denumirea de „homo erectus”), o hrană bogată în proteine (doar în acest chip a fost posibilă creșterea în volum a creierului), vînătoarea de animale mari etc. (p.85). Autorul cărții pare să accepte faptul că cimpanzeii au „conștiință”. Un anume grad de inteligență au, neîndoielnic, chiar dacă e aproape imposibil să estimezi inteligența cimpanzeilor, orice ar susține Frans de Waal în cunoscuta lui carte (pp.178-186). Dar conștiință de sine, „ochiul interior” al minții umane (p.178)? Greu de spus...

Deocamdată, nu s-a putu dovedi că sporirea inteligenței cognitive conduce în mod necesar la apariția conștiinței.
Profile Image for Jacqui.
Author 63 books182 followers
July 25, 2011
If you're interested in man's roots, there are several authors you must read:

Birute Galdikas
Dian Fosse
Donald Johanson
GHR Von Koenigsman
Glen Isaacs
Jared Diamond
Ian Tattersell
Lev Vygotsky
Margaret Meade
Noam Chomsky
Richard Leakey
Shawna Vogel
Sue Savage-Rumsbaugh

...but the man who started it all with his Margaret Meade-like charisma and down-to-earth writing style was Richard Leakey. His work in Olduvai Gorge caught the publics imagination like nothing before.

If you want to meet Richard Leakey, you must read his short little summative book, The Origin of Humankind (Perseus Books 1984). In this manuscript, he explains in plain English so all of us non-doctoral candidates can understand what he has concluded after a lifetime of research it is that differentiates you and I from other animals. Much has been made of the human-ness of our close cousins, the Great Apes. Between chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, even orangutans, we see a lot of ourselves in their actions, decisions, parenting, culture. These blur the line between what really makes us human and them not. Heck, genetically, there is only 1.2% difference in our DNA--how different could we really be?

There have been tests to answer that very question. Those tests are what drove Jane Goodall into the field to see how exactly chimps were animals while she was human. Every test she ran them through, they passed. What happened when she returned from the field to show this to her scientific colleagues? They changed the tests--moved the goal posts.

At one time, the hurdle was that the animal species must be able to use tools. That fell to Goodall's first fieldwork research in Tanzania. Then it was they must be able to use tools to make tools. That fell, too--I believe again to Goodall's research. Then it was they must be able to identify themselves (Sue Savage-Rumbaugh crushed that one?), problem solve, visual thinking--what about symbolic thinking? I come away shaking my head, trying to clear out the multiplying requirements.If we are all part of the same human bush, I want to know. You should want to know, too.

Richard Leakey tackled that complicated problem in this 170-page book. He starts by discussing human evolution, how we differ from other primates in unique ways. He then discusses several areas that anthropologists have a difficult time finding in other species--art, language, ethical judgments, and mental skills. Yes, anthropologists do find them in other species, but not consistently and not the way man uses these. You'll find the discussion fascinating.

He does skip one trait I think has never been refuted: Man is the only species I know that chooses to think rather than sleep or eat. Most animals spend their days hunting or resting up to hunt. The great apes throw play into the mix, but are there any species that choose to think about their future, problems, create solutions, explore for the sake of adventure in the way we do?

You can read this book in a weekend. It'll change your thinking for a lifetime. Don't miss it.
January 3, 2022
Origin of Mind

Update Jan 3rd 2022- Rest In Peace Richard Leakey

This book nearly convinced me to become a paleoanthropologist, so not bad for a second hand purchase from a charity book store! So interesting and varied is the work presented in these pages, that I found myself wanting to look into more detail beyond the brief introduction Richard Leakey provides here.

The first half of the book can easily be described as laying out what is known of our species origins and it's trajectory to present day, based on what has been discovered via ancient bones, and ancient campsites. It's quite a standard run through, but fascinating non the less. I would advise caution due to this being a few years old now, however I don't believe this to be highly out-dated at the time of this review. Its also worth noting how little evidence there is for this area, even by some scientific standards. So it's not hard to see how experts have drawn large conclusions with little evidence.

The second half is where things get really interesting. Language, it's implications, (potential) shamanistic wallpaintings, our inclusinvess or seperation from the rest of nature, consciousness and it's origins, animals and their ability of self awareness, all are brought to the table for discussion. It's makes for a fascinating and enjoyable read, especially knowing that if any of these questions were answered, it would change how we perceive ourselves forever. What could be more incredible than that!

It's in all our interest to understand this area of work, we're all the same species after all!
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,227 reviews1,029 followers
March 9, 2023
The Leakey family are a huge name in palaeoanthropology.

Louis Leakey was a Kenyan-British palaeoanthropologist and archaeologist, whose work was important in demonstrating that humans evolved in Africa. His wife Mary Leakey was also a British palaeoanthropologist. She made many discoveries uncovering fossils of the earliest hominids, as well as the stone tools produced by them. The couple worked at the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, eastern Africa. The Olduvai Gorge is one of the most important palaeoanthropological localities in the world. Many sites have been exposed by the Gorge, which have proved invaluable in furthering understanding of early human evolution.

Louis Leakey also fostered field research of primates in their natural habitats, which he saw as key to understanding human evolution. He personally focused on three female researchers, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birutė Galdikas, jokily calling them “The Trimates”. Each then went on to become an important scholar in the field of primatology, respectively of chimpanzees, mountain gorillas and orangutans.

Several members of the Leakey family became prominent scholars themselves, including their son Richard Leakey, the author of this book Human Origins. In it he describes much of his parents’ work, as well as that of other leading palaeontologists and anthropologists, from the early studies of evolution by Charles Darwin onwards. Like his parents Richard Leakey worked from biological evidence such as petrified skeletal remains, bone fragments and footprints as well as cultural evidence such as stone tools, artefacts, and settlement localities. In this book he also looked at current animal behaviour, including modern humans, especially communities in remote areas.

The book is targeted to young adults, and has 10 chapters whose titles make their contents sound deceptively simple:

1. Special animals called humans
2. The secrets of the rocks
3. In the beginning
4. The man-apes of Africa
5. The earliest people
6. The big-game hunter
7. The people go north
8. Neanderthal man
9. The first artists
10. The hunter settles down

It is an attractive large format book from 1982, containing many drawings, photographs, diagrams and maps. It provides an excellent overview of the subject for a general reader or perhaps for an older teenager who is interested in studying this subject at university. It is the sort of book which proves to be an absorbing read, although the text is quite scholarly.

Richard Leakey also married a British palaeoanthropologist, Maeve. Maeve Leakey now works in New York, but the couple did field work for many years at Lake Turkana, Kenya. Many of their discoveries post-date this book. For instance, in 1984, just two years after this book was published, the nearly complete skeleton of a “Homo ergaster” was discovered by Kamoya Kimeu, a member of the Leakeys’ team. “Turkana Boy” as it was named died 1.6 million years ago at between age 9–12 years of age. Richard Leakey was to move away from palaeontology in 1989, but his wife Maeve Leakey and daughter Louise Leakey continue to conduct palaeontological research in Northern Kenya, at the Turkana Basin Institute.

In 1989 Richard Leakey was appointed the head of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Department (WMCD) by President Daniel Arap Moi, in response to the international outcry over the poaching of elephants, and the impact it was having on the wildlife of Kenya. The poaching menace was dramatically reduced due to his measures as chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service. He campaigned on behalf of wildlife for many years, heading many world-wide organisations and receiving many awards. However, increasingly this offended many local politicians. In 1993, a small propeller-driven plane piloted by Richard Leakey crashed, crushing his lower legs, both of which were later amputated. Sabotage was suspected but never proved, and Richard Leakey tirelessly continued with his work. He died earlier this year, in January 2022.

Richard Leakey’s many books include:

“Origins” (with Roger Lewin), 1977
“People of the Lake: Mankind and its Beginnings” (with Roger Lewin), 1978
“The Illustrated Origin of Species” (after Charles Darwin), 1979
“Making of Mankind”, 1981
“Origins Reconsidered” (with Roger Lewin), 1992
*“The Origin of Humankind”, 1994
“The Sixth Extinction (with Roger Lewin), 1995
“Wildlife Wars: My Fight to Save Africa’s Natural Treasures” (with Virginia Morell), 2001

*also on kindle

Although much work has been done subsequent to this book, it remains a good grounding and summary of human origins, and was republished in 1995.
Profile Image for Nisa Rahmah.
Author 3 books96 followers
January 25, 2020
Kalau boleh jujur, dari sekian banyaknya buku sains KPG yang beredar di pasaran, tema buku ini sebenarnya bukan menjadi incaran saya dan tidak termasuk jangkauan radar saya. Jadi, jika dikatakan apakah saya berniat mengoleksinya? Jawabannya adalah tentu saja, tetapi setelah buku-buku bertema fisika dan biologi saya miliki semuanya. Namun, suatu sore saat adik saya terlambat jemput di Gramedia membuat segalanya berubah. Dengan iseng saya membuka buku ini sambil menunggu jemputan, dan ternyata secara mengejutkan saya jatuh cinta dengan narasi si penulis dalam menceritakan buku ini. Cara bertutur (dan ini tentu saja juga berkat penerjemahan yang baik) tentang dunia antropologi dalam hal ini tentang asal-usul manusia membuat saya seketika kepincut dengan isi bukunya. Dari yang semula saya membaca sambil berdiri, tidak lama kemudian jongkok, sampai pada akhirnya duduk di antara rak-rak buku Gramedia, saya menghabiskan 34 halaman. (Which is good, untuk ukuran buku nonfiksi sepengalaman saya membaca.) Akhirnya, saya pun memutuskan untuk melanjutkan baca di rumah alias membeli bukunya.

Melalui buku ini, saya dikejutkan dengan bagaimana kompleksitasnya suatu ilmu pengetahuan (dalam hal ini antropologi) dipelajari dan diamati. Bahwa sekecil apa pun penemuan yang menghubungkan kita ke masa lalu ratusan ribu tahun ke belakang, akan berdampak sedemikan besarnya terhadap proses menemukan bagaimana manusia bisa hadir di muka bumi. Apalagi menyadari bahwa tidak hanya ilmu antropologi saja yang berperan di sini, tetapi juga ilmu anatomi, pengetahuan tentang DNA, bahkan ke psikologi manusia pun memiliki kaitan dalam rangka merekonstruksi kehidupan manusia purba. Bahwa, ketika menyadari sekecil apa pun perubahan—misalnya dalam kaitan menemukan cara membuat batu runcing, bisa mengubah peradaban secara keseluruhan. Belum lagi jika dikaitkan dengan struktur otak, konstruksi tubuh manusia purba secara keseluruhan, bagaimana interaksi dan bayangan seperti apa kehidupan mereka berlangsung pada masa itu, benar-benar memberikan pengalaman membaca yang seru bagi saya.

Buku ini memiliki beberapa poin pembahasan, yakni mengenal sosok kera bipedal, lalu bagaimana manusia purba menjalani hidupnya dalam memperoleh makanan (berburu—atau memulung?—dan meramu), proses beradaptasi dengan kelompok hingga membentuk komuni dan bahkan peradaban, lalu sampai di tahap kapan atau bagaimana volume otak mereka berkembang hingga menjadi manusia modern yang dikaruniai akal budi. Pengembaraan itu menghasilkan ilmu pengetahuan baru bagi saya yang awam terhadap dunia antropologi, dan memberikan pemahaman baru tentangnya. Yah, padahal dulu waktu sekolah, pelajaran tentang manusia prasejarah juga pernah diberikan ya, kan? Andai saja pembahasan di buku pelajaran semenyenangkan isi buku ini, atau cara guru mengajarkannya sama asyiknya seperti saat menyimak Richard Leakey membahasnya 😂

Mengutip kata pengantar dari buku ini: "Kita ingin tahu—perlu tahu—bagaimana kita menjadi seperti sekarang dan bagaimana masa depan kita. Fosil-fosil yang kita temukan menghubungkan kita secara ragawi ke masa lalu dan menantang kita untuk menafsirkan petunjuk-petunjuk yang terkandung di dalamnya sebagai cara memahami sifat dan jalur sejarah evolusi kita." Hal itu pada akhirnya cukup menjawab pertanyaan saya, "Kenapa harus baca buku ini?" Dan jawaban yang diberikan buku ini sangat memuaskan dahaga saya terhadap bidang yang baru ini.

Dari buku ini juga saya akhirnya menemukan satu keluarga hebat, Richard Leakey yang orangtuanya adalah seorang antropologis, dan dia pernah mati-matian tidak mau terjerumus dalam dunia ini tapi toh pada akhirnya tidak bisa menolak takdirnya untuk terjerumus dalam pencarian fosil-fosil selama hidupnya 😂 Diceritakan juga kalau dia bertemu istrinya dalam suatu ekspedisi menemukan fosil di daerah Afrika. Dan setelah stalking, rupanya anak Leakey juga mengikuti jejak ayahnya 😄
Profile Image for Steve Van Slyke.
Author 1 book39 followers
October 23, 2016
I bought and read this book when it came out in 1994. An upcoming trip to Africa in 2017 caused me to pull it from the shelf and read it again. I've upgraded my original rating from 4 to 5 stars primarily because of how prescient Leakey was and how measured and thoughtful he was regarding competing theories of human origins.

For example, when the book was written, the Mitochondrial Eve theory that all humans came from a single female in Africa, and that there was no subsequent mixing with other species as modern humans entered Eurasia was almost considered a settled debate. Leakey states he doubted this and that he could only assume that the state of molecular biology hadn't quite reached the stage needed to get the full picture. He was convinced that there had to have been some mixing, interbreeding with other human species as the first homo sapiens entered Eurasia.

Developments in DNA technology and new discoveries have proved him right. We now know that today all of us of European origins have somewhere between 2 to 4% Neanderthal DNA and some southeast Asians have a similar amount of Denisovan DNA.

This book is not all that dated and still a very worthwhile read, especially for those who want to understand the fast-moving history of the science of paleoanthropology.
Profile Image for Jimmy.
Author 6 books203 followers
March 14, 2021
A classic on the topic. I read it many years ago. One more time before giving my book away hoping it will lead someone to science.

I did come up with a new idea for a horror story called "The Therianthrope." That is one of those cave drawings of an animal with a human drawn over it.
Profile Image for Aurélien Thomas.
Author 9 books102 followers
November 3, 2021
Richard Leakey offers here the perfect introduction to human evolution. Paleoanthropologist famous for having discovered 'Turkana Boy' (one of the most ancient hominid we know of, having lived about 1,5 million years ago) he gives us to see our own evolution through a vast panorama stretching from when we became bipeds (about 7 million years ago) to the apparition of culture during the Upper Paleolithic.

Tossing aside the (more often than not) too simplistic views of our origins, he tries to focus on our history from a purely physical perspective (e.g. the discoveries and importance of various fossils). He also tries to define what make us singularly human, distinguishing us from other apes (art, language, self-consciousness...). About, the dialogues between paleoanthropologists, biologists and linguists are fascinating; they show how the topics addressed remain highly debated and controversial!

Short, this book is nevertheless so full of instructive information it's enthralling at every page! Here's a highly recommended introduction to a fascinating topic.
Profile Image for Ayu Dipta.
Author 2 books
March 5, 2011
gara-gara buku ini, kuliah paleoantro saya jadi dapet B setelah nilai E sebelumnya...superrrr
Profile Image for Emma Gerts.
291 reviews24 followers
November 24, 2019
I was putting this off a little, because sometimes I can find non-fiction a bit of a slog if it's too dense, but this was actually deeply enjoyable! With the caveat that it's now a little out of date, having been published in 1994 - I've loosely followed along with the development of anthropology out of casual interest and some of the questions Leakey poses in this book have since been if not answered, then at least the prevailing theories updated with the addition of new information. This is particularly noticable in some of the discussions around the development of language and the mind, as evolutionary psychology and neuroscience have come on quite a bit in the past 25 years.

With that said, however, I found this a delightful and fascinating read. Leakey does a good job of presenting alternate theories of human development while acknowledging that with the fossil record being as patchy as it is, it's at times difficult to come up with a concrete answer about how humans evolved. I find this a fascinating area of science, because there is no doubt that the human animal is a unique creature in our world. Language, culture, science - whatever you think about humanity as a whole and what we've done to the planet, there's no denying that we're a uniquely successful species who have fundamentally changed what it means to exist. And to think that somewhere along the line, a creature that was little more than an ape that learned to walk bipedally started off an evolutionary lineage that would result in the only creature on the planet that has the mental capacity to wonder where it came from.

The evolution of humanity is something I find endlessly fascinating - how exactly did we come to be where we are? What prompted us to start using tools? And what changed to allow us to use those tools more effectively and consistently, rather than remaining where modern apes are, using tools briefly and opportunistically before discarding them? At what point, and why, did our brains triple in size, and what did that mean for our cognitive capacity? Did we develop language because we developed social groups, or did we develop social groups because we developed language? What evolutionary advantage did the ability to recognise ourselves endow upon us? And what was it about modern man, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, that meant we were the species to survive, when so many other hominids didn't? Anthropology is a deeply interesting field, and I think Leakey does a really good job in this book of nudging the mind along the different paths of enquiry and driving us to wonder - why us? And what happened to make us happen?
Profile Image for Arif Abdurahman.
Author 1 book64 followers
January 3, 2018
Sambil nunggu Sapiens yg dibeli pas harbolnas yg entah kapan sampainya, baca seri sains KPG yg rada jadul. Leakey menerangkan sejarah mula yang menjadikan manusia manusiawi dan berbagai pertentangan ilmiah dalam penelitian soalnya. Dari kera yang berjalan dua kaki, asal usul calon manusia yg berawal di Afrika, sampai spesies Homo sapiens punya bahasa, kesadaran, daya cipta dan kecakapan teknologi.
Profile Image for Aleisha  Zolman.
490 reviews9 followers
August 3, 2011
This book was so easy to read. Don't confuse the word read with understand...the evolutionary theory and understanding of anthropology is incredible. I could tell my understanding was expanded by reading this book but that i could tell there was stuff that was going over my head in understanding of how the specifics of head size, or brain size or bipedalism may or may not indicatae language development...and ultimately the evolution of homo sapiens as we know them. although i can generally grasp the idea of evolution of humankind....the language evolution or being able to speak to each other from mere nothing is beyond my comprehension. okay. i loved this book.
Profile Image for Stephen.
170 reviews5 followers
March 12, 2012
This is a classic on human evolution in a similar way that "A Brief History of Time" is a classic in Physics. Short and concise, yet deeply insightful, and written by a scientist who happens to write well and not a "Scientific Writer" (see Matt Ridley, Thomas Friedman). The only thing missing from it is some of the more recent research on Genetics/DNA and evolution that was done after the time of publication. Evolution is a fascinating topic. How things evolve over time is endlessly interesting. How something like the human brain developed is one of the great puzzles of evolution. Human evolutionary history makes for great reading.
Profile Image for Bianca Ichim.
23 reviews9 followers
November 15, 2016
It was so nice to read a book that tries to explain abstract things without considering the possibility of "miracles". I also liked how the author inferred that humans should not be seen as noble creatures that have nothing to do with animals, because that's what we actually are, with a couple of improvements over the millennia.
430 reviews1 follower
July 15, 2009
While this is a subject I find interesting, I found this book to talk in circles. There were a few instances that I found very interesting and understandable,but many more that were just confusing. That is why I gave this book a lower rating than I otherwise would.
Profile Image for Robert Koslowsky.
83 reviews2 followers
July 20, 2017
Richard Leakey’s The Origin of Humankind, is the third in Basic Book’s Science Masters series. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I did reading two other books in the series, one by Paul Davies (The Last Three Minutes) and another by John Barrow (The Origin of the Universe). All three entries are short, easy-to-read books on cutting-edge science that boost the reader’s scientific literacy.

In Leakey’s brief summary of the evolution of humankind, I came to appreciate the theories behind the appearance of Homo sapiens on Earth. The fossil record and genetic evidence have shaped researchers’ views on how humanity appeared with our sense of self and a consciousness not readily found in other animals. As Leakey writes, “The emergence of fully modern language and fully modern consciousness were no doubt linked, each feeding the other. Modern humans became modern when they spoke like us and experienced the self as we do.”

As a technologist by training and trade, I understood how innovation and the rise of a diverse set of technologies could lead to the rise of language. Leakey reports, “Only when the Upper Paleolithic cultures burst onto the scene 35,000 years ago did innovation and arbitrary order become pervasive. Not only were new and finer tool types produced but the tool types that characterized Upper Paleolithic assemblages changed on a time scale of millennia rather than hundreds of millennia. [Glynn] Isaac interpreted this pattern of technological diversity and change as implying the gradual emergence of some form of spoken language.”

And to achieve a spoken language, humanity’s biological evolution cooperated. Homo sapiens’ physical structure, specifically in the throat area, produced an expanded pharynx, a large sound chamber located above the vocal cords, which was the key to producing fully articulate speech . . . Also, “the low position of the larynx allows humans to produce a greater range of sounds, [but it] means that we cannot drink and breathe simultaneously. We exhibit the dubious liability for choking.”

Language differentiates us from other animals. According to University of Hawaii linguist Derrick Bickerton, “Only language could have broken through the prison of immediate experience in which every other creature is locked, releasing us into infinite freedoms of space and time.”

Enjoy your freedoms and read this book some time.
Profile Image for Reiza.
142 reviews5 followers
April 23, 2022
Sempat terkendala baca buku ini, tapi mulai semangat lagi sejak saya main game berjudul Ancestors: The Humankind Oddysey yang berkisah tentang proses evolusi dari leluhur manusia.

Terjemahannya cukup oke, meski tetap ada part yang bikin "hah?" Tapi overall, readability nya cukup lumayan.

Ada beberapa part yang menggugah untuk diikuti dengan antusias, ada juga yang....biasa aja. Bagian yang biasa menurutku banyak di part awal, ketika penulis menjabarkan tentang leluhur pertama kita berikut perdebatan yang menyertainya. Part yang menurutku menggugah, itu ada di part ketika membahas tentang seni ala manusia purba.

Walaupun begitu, menarik melihat perbedaan pandangan dari para peneliti yang dipaparkan di buku ini. Yang menarik, ada para peneliti yang bersikukuh kalau manusia memang ditakdirkan menjadi makhluk yang spesial, yang memang sudah didesain untuk menjadi makhluk Apex. Bagi mereka yang berpendapat seperti ini, semacam memberikan harapan bahwa ada semacam takdir dari penciptaan manusia. Bahwa hadirnya kita adalah andil dari tangan Sang Pencipta (Greater Being).

Ada juga yang berpendapat kalau kehadiran kita hanyalah suatu upaya yang panjang dan lama dari jatuh bangunnya evolusi. Bahwa kehadiran kita hanyalah contoh sukses dari upaya percobaan yang telah berlangsung jutaan tahun lamanya, dan hanyalah sebagai upaya kita bereaksi terhadap kondisi lingkungan. Dengan kata lain, kehadiran kita adalah respon natural yang kemudian menghasilkan makhluk yang semakin cerdas seiring waktu.

Selalu menarik memang membayangkan leluhur kita. Pencarian akan asal-usul berarti turut menebak apakah kehadiran kita di sini memiliki misi dan makna (destined by the Greater Being) ataukah tidak lebih dari organisme hidup yang berusaha untuk terus menjalankan fungsi biologisnya.
Profile Image for Surya Ds.
39 reviews5 followers
December 26, 2020
Sebenarnya, secara harfiah buku ini tak ingin menjelaskan tentang "Asal Usul Manusia" seperti judulnya. Namun, fokusnya lebih kepada menjawab pertanyaan: apa yang menjadikan manusia manusiawi?

Di sini lah kecerdasan Richard Leakey dalam menarasikan buku ini. Leakey menyajikan berbagai perdebatan antara antropolog sampai ahli biologis dalam menjawab pertanyaan itu. Apakah kemampuan nenek moyang kita dalam berjalan dengan dua kaki yang membuat mereka manusiawi? Atau kemampuan membuat perkakas? Atau malah karena kapasitas otak yang lebih besar? Atau karena kemampuan berseni, berbahasa, dan berakalbudi?

Tak lupa Leakey sebagai ahli dalam bidang ini juga menawarkan pandangan pribadi yang seringkali dijadikan sebagai pelerai antara perdebatan yang ia sajikan.

Melalui perdebatan-perdebatan itu sendiri, asal-usul manusia terjawab secara tak langsung.

Hebatnya Leakey tak berkutat dalam bahasa teknis dalam menjelaskan segala perdebatan. Jadi, bagi awam (seperti saya) tak perlu takut bacanya~

Rasanya pas sekali saya baca buku ini setelah menyelesaikan buku Evolusi karya Ernst Mayr (yang juga terbitan KPG). Kebetulan di bab akhir buku itu memang menjelaskan sejarah singkat evolusi manusia. Di buku inilah penjelasan lengkapnya. Menarik!
Profile Image for Stephen Hoffman.
403 reviews
August 20, 2022
(3.5 stars rounded up to 4)

This was a relatively interesting, though sometimes dry. At times the scientific jargon went over the head of this layman, but there was enough in this book to hold my attention and pique my interest.

Leakey clearly has a love of his subject, the origins and development of humankind. This is no surprise given he dedicated his life to it and clearly knows his stuff. In the best chapters his love of inquiry and the science of unlocking humankind enthusiastically flows and dances off the page in a way you can't help being drawn in to reading and learning more.

The book is well researched, as are the debates between various scientists on the various topics pertaining to the origins of humankind. However, Leakey far too often for my liking sits on the fence in the debate, rather than giving his own opinion. Also too often the debates are written in a way you feel its scientific naval gazing and its assumed you understand the science.

A couple of the chapters were excellent, the others good or average. There is a short conclusion of a couple of pages, but for me this would have been better over a chapter.

A relatively interesting and mildly enjoyable book, but not without its faults.
February 5, 2022
Buku ini mencoba menjelaskan Siapa asal-usul manusia pertama, kerabat terdekat, manusia jenis lain, seni bahasa, dan akal budi.

Buku ini sangat menarik dimana penulis memaparkan penemuan-penemuan dari para peneliti dan membandingkan hasil temuan satu sama lain sehingga menampilkan debat ilmiah yang sangat menarik.

Dimulai dengan siapa manusia pertama, disini disertakan penemuan-penemuan, hasil analisis dan hipotesa dari peneliti yang mengatakan bahwa manusia ini merupakan yang pertama. Disemua bab penulis juga memaparkan hal yang sama. Dimulai dari hipotesa Ramapithecus sebagai manusia pertama. Pada bab selanjutnya mencoba menganalisa keluarga besar yaitu Australopithecus. Lalu dilanjut dengan bahasan mengenai kapan bahasa mulai muncul, kapan bahasa mulai dipergunakan. Bahasa bukanlah seperti tulang yang bisa memfosil, peneliti menyusun hipotesa bahwa dengan mulai rumitnya perkakas yang dibuat bahasa mulai muncul bersamaan. Dan akal budi sifatnya seperti bahasa, tidak memfosil. Tanda-tanda mulai mengenal akal budi adalah ketika muncul upacara penguburan, dimana manusia sadar bahwa kehidupan ini fana.
Profile Image for Paul.
82 reviews
February 22, 2018
Well, I should have read this 24 years ago when it was new. Even so, Leakey's approach, giving us various theories of human origin -- art, language, mind -- and telling us which he leans towards, while giving the others their due, contrasts with the much more up to date Tattersall book (Masters of the Planet) which I recently read where everything seems much more settled. I'm glad I read them both.
1 review
October 3, 2018
I would recommend this book to people who are getting interested in the beginning of human history. It is very informational and covers a variety of topic spanning from the eve gene, beginnings of art, to the difference in the structural anatomy, to the structural evolution that allows humans to make a variety of sounds that allow humans to speak a language, and becoming self-aware. He also makes theories easier to understand so he goes back and references other things that he has mentioned earlier, which helps you to understand the whole idea and context. He also tells the readers hypothesis that has problems with them to help show the different ideas they have had on the meanings of different types of things and the flaws the idea had. An example of this is on page 110 where he states, ”An obvious problem with the hunting-magic hypothesis was that the images depicted very often did not, a noted, reflect the diet of the Upper Paleolithic painters”.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Stuart Lutzenhiser.
485 reviews4 followers
March 19, 2021
Well written and presented. Probably would have been better if I had read it 25 years ago when it was published as I fear some of it might be out of date by now, particularly all the generic research that has been done over two or three decades. Still a well crafted and interesting read on what can be a complicated subject.
Profile Image for Rudy Herrera.
51 reviews1 follower
March 1, 2022
A great introduction to anthropology. While sometimes it feels a bit shallow it sites and demands further study throughout, which makes it a great generalization book. Often in summary-books, there isn’t enough of a call to action for further exploration, after this one I felt invigorated to read further into the field.
Profile Image for Willy Akhdes.
Author 1 book11 followers
July 18, 2019
Buku tipis tentang sejarah manusia. Meski lumayan jadul, terbit pertama kali 30an tahun yang lalu, penjelasan Richard Leakey di buku ini tentang evolusi Homo Sapiens masih sesuai dengan temuan-temuan terkini. Ringkas, ringan dan padat.
Profile Image for Steve Mayberry.
84 reviews1 follower
October 19, 2019
Dated, but still ... interesting/encouraging to read about scientists drawing conclusions in the face of limitless uncertainty. Less encouraging, but still interesting, to read about how much religious dogma to this day actively opposes scientific discovery
Profile Image for Teo.
1 review
June 28, 2022
before i started reading, i thought that this book would bore me, but leaky's way of writing says otherwise. his book was made for non-anthropologists to easily understand human evolution with minimal jargons. worth the read for those interested in this field.
10 reviews
July 28, 2022
Brief overview of the most pivotal moments in the exploration of human origins, intended as an introductory text for the general public, (as was the overall objective of the Science Masters Series). Quick and entertaining read, which, by it's very nature, aged quite quickly!
Profile Image for Rose.
1,128 reviews
July 30, 2022
Given that I have read very little on the subject, I can't say how this rates as a book on prehistoric man - how accurate it is e.t.c. are unknown to me. It's inspired me to read more (and more up to date) texts on the subject though, so as an introduction to the area it's encouraging.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 77 reviews

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