The Wisdom of the Bones (thoughts)
Hello Darlings! It turned out my fibro wasn’t quite done; a stomach bug brought it right back. I’m finally feeling better, but that means that I am so behind on stuff to do I can’t even think about it without wanting to cry a little. I’m sure I’ll get through it, and the best part is that I’ll be home on Thursday night, when I can get back to blogging regularly (and get those reading lists up and running for the World Citizen Challenge!).
All of that being said, I’m going to do a quick review of Alan Walker’s The Wisdom of the Bones, just to keep myself in the habit. ;) Walker is a paleoanthropologist who has spent much of his professional career researching the ancestors of homo sapiens. This book, written in 1996, is centered around his discovery of an almost-complete skeleton of an adolescent male of homo erectus (the species thought to be the ‘missing link’ between humans and our common ancestor with apes). Thus, Walker’s study of the skeleton drives the book. But interwoven with this are chapters covering the history of the search for the missing link and lots of scientific information. There’s a good balance between the science stuff and the personal stuff-Walker’s own experiences digging in eastern Africa, and various character sketches of other scientists on a similar question. And while the book is full of well-told anecdotes and well-explained science, its greatest strength is that it always keep the big picture in mind: our fundamental need to know who we are. The result is an erudite, compelling account of the scientific attempt to discover our history.
That being said, every once in awhile it seems like Walker is indulging in score-settling (when discussing how his views differ from other scientists’ theories). Also, towards the last quarter of the book, the scientific details start coming fast and furious. The tone feels a bit different from the rest of book, and for awhile it was a little jolting. These details dropped it from five stars to four, but it’s still well-worth the read. Recommended!