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In 1984 a team of paleoanthropologists on a dig in northern Kenya found something extraordinary: a nearly complete skeleton of Homo erectus, a creature that lived 1.5 million years ago and is widely thought to be the missing link between apes and humans. The remains belonged to a tall, rangy adolescent male. The researchers called him “Nariokotome boy.”
In this immensely lively book, Alan Walker, one of the lead researchers, and his wife and fellow scientist Pat Shipman tell the story of that epochal find and reveal what it tells us about our earliest ancestors. We learn that Nariokotome boy was a highly social predator who walked upright but lacked the capacity for speech. In leading us to these conclusions, The Wisdom of the Bones also offers an engaging chronicle of the hundred-year-long search for a “missing link,” a saga of folly, heroic dedication, and inspired science.
In 1861, just a few years after the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, a scientist named Hermann von Meyer made an amazing discovery. Hidden in the Bavarian region of Germany was a fossil skeleton so exquisitely preserved that its wings and feathers were as obvious as its reptilian jaws and tail. This transitional creature offered tangible proof of Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Hailed as the First Bird, Archaeopteryx has remained the subject of heated debates for the last 140 years. Are birds actually living dinosaurs? Where does the fossil record really lead? Did flight originate from the “ground up” or “trees down”? Pat Shipman traces the age-old human desire to soar above the earth and to understand what has come before us. Taking Wing is science as adventure story, told with all the drama by which scientific understanding unfolds.