Book: Bones of Contention

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Bones of Contention: Controversies in the Search for Human Origins

Author: Roger Lewin
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press

Bones of Contention is a behind-the-scenes look at the search for human origins. Analyzing how the biases and preconceptions of paleoanthropologists shaped their work, Roger Lewin’s detective stories about the discovery of Neanderthal Man, the Taung Child, Lucy, and other major fossils provide insight into this most subjective of scientific endeavors. The new afterword looks at ways in which paleoanthropology, while becoming more scientific in many ways, remains contentious.


No area of science has a higher incidence of colorful personalities than paleoanthropology. The Leakey family and Donald Johanson are merely the best known of a vivid and contentious bunch that have not hesitated—indeed, have made every effort—to air their conflicts before a wider public. Roger Lewin’s recently updated Bones of Contention is the only reliable field guide to these scientists, their characters, and controversies. Lewin never forgets that hominid fossil discoveries always involve both the self-image of humanity and that of individual scientists. Lewin is uniquely evenhanded (i.e. he thinks everyone is wrong from time to time), yet the all-star blurbs on the cover show that he retains the respect of the entire paleoanthropological community.

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