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Almost Human

The Astonishing Tale of Homo Naledi and the Discovery That Changed Our Human Story
Narrated by: Donald Corren
Length: 6 hrs and 34 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Biology
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

A story of defiance and determination by a controversial scientist, this is Lee Berger's own take on finding Homo naledi, an all-new species on the human family tree and one of the greatest discoveries of the 21st century.

In 2013, Lee Berger, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, heard of a cache of bones in a hard-to-reach underground cave in South Africa. He put out a call around the world for petite collaborators - men and women small and adventurous enough to be able to squeeze through eight-inch tunnels to reach a sunless cave forty feet underground. With this team, Berger made the discovery of a lifetime: hundreds of prehistoric bones, including entire skeletons of at least 15 individuals, all perhaps two million years old. Their features combined those of known prehominids like Lucy, the famous Australopithecus, with those more human than anything ever before seen in prehistoric remains. Berger's team had discovered an all new species, and they called it Homo naledi.

The cave quickly proved to be the richest prehominid site ever discovered, full of implications that shake the very foundation of how we define what makes us human. Did this species come before, during, or after the emergence of Homo sapiens on our evolutionary tree? How did the cave come to contain nothing but the remains of these individuals? Did they bury their dead? If so, they must have had a level of self-knowledge, including an awareness of death. And yet those are the very characteristics used to define what makes us human. Did an equally advanced species inhabit Earth with us, or before us? Berger does not hesitate to address all these questions.

Some colleagues question Berger's interpretation of this and other finds. Here, this charismatic and visionary paleontologist counters their arguments and tells his personal story: a rich narrative about science, exploration, and what it means to be human.

©2017 Lee Berger (P)2018 Blackstone Publishing

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  • Peter Matthews
  • 14-01-2019

A deep story on the rocky trail to human origins

As a former student of anthropology, archaeology and human evolution I found this story to be gripping. The author's path to human origins research began with childhood experiences that were similar to my own in many ways, though my own research area is very different. The story is well told and well read. We are introduced to the history of human fossil research, different kinds of human, and the scientific process... including the ways that results are debated, interpreted and disseminated.

The author's lifelong study of other kinds of human may actually parallel his suggestion that our ancestors also learned from other kinds human - as well as mixing with them (going to bed with them, so to speak).

As a scientist, I'm inspired by this book to think about how I might present my own work to wider audiences. But the book is not just for scientists, it is for all of us who are curious about those fingers typing on the keyboard in front of us.

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  • Miss J. Davidson
  • 06-09-2019

great book but poor pronunciation

it's a great book with wonderful information and as an archaeology student the story is fascinating but unfortunately the narrator is very American and didn't bother to learn the pronunciation of the South African words which definitely detracted from the whole experience. for example he says Wits but it is actually pronounced Vits. Otherwise good.

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  • AReader
  • 11-05-2019

Very interesting

Lee Berger describes in great detail the methods by which he discovered and explored a cave in South Africa full of bones of a previously unknown hominid. If anthropology interests you, it is a good story and raises important questions about scientific method before we even get on to the questions about the bones themselves. For instance, in 2019 does it not seem appropriate to publish computer generated images of/information about the bones among scientists worldwide? Previously it seems scientists would sometimes jealously guard bones to themselves for decades without letting anybody else even look at them.This surely cannot be the most effective way of developing ideas. Berger remarks that many of the new generation of anthropologists are female. I wonder if this might change typical methods of research.
As for the question of human evolution, no doubt there is much debate about the place of this creature and I am not in a position to comment. However, what with finding the Neanderthal DNA, discovering the Denisovans and now the Naledi, it seems we may be learning a lot more about the family tree of homo sapiens.

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  • Mrs J H Kingdon
  • 03-03-2019

really interesting and a good adventure story

a fascinating insite into the hint for our ancestors and the conflicting views of academics on the approach