The First Human

The First Human is a good and readable book about the search for the oldest hominin fossils. It describes the science, the fieldwork as well as the disputes in the field of paleoanthropology.

The First Human by Anne Gibbons is about the search for the oldest hominid (or is it hominin?) fossils. It focuses on paleontology and the search for the earliest fossils close to the divergence of humans from the common ancestors of humans and chimpanzees. As such, it describes the fossils and our current understanding of them and does not deal with other related topics of human origin like genetics (more on that later in my review of Before the Dawn).

I was afraid the book might just be a catalog of facts: This fossil was found there by X on this date and so on. But it is much more interesting due to the way Anne Gibbons writes and organizes the facts. It also describes the disputes and the politics of the discipline of paleoanthropology and it seems like this is an acrimonious field.

John Hawks who makes a very brief appearance in the book also has a review on his weblog.