This book tells the story of human evolution, the epic of Homo sapiens and its colorful precursors and relatives. The story begins in Africa, six to seven million years ago, and encompasses twenty known human species, of which Homo sapiens is the sole survivor. Illustrated with spectacular, three-dimensional scientific reconstructions portrayed in their natural habitat developed by a team of physical anthropologists at the American Museum of Natural History and in concert with experts from around the world, the book is both a guide to extinct human species and an astonishing hominid family photo album.
The Last Human presents a comprehensive account of each species with information on its emergence, chronology, geographic range, classification, physiology, lifestyle, habitat, environment, cultural achievements, co-existing species, and possible reasons for extinction. Also included are summaries of fossil discoveries, controversies, and publications. What emerges from the fossil story is a new understanding of Homo sapiens. No longer credible is the notion that our species is the end product of a single lineage, improved over generations by natural selection. Rather, the fossil record shows, we are a species with widely varied precursors, and our family tree is characterized by many branchings and repeated extinctions.
Photographs of most of the reconstructions that appear in this book will be featured in exhibits appearing in the new Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The opening of the Hall is planned for November 2006.
G. J. Sawyer is senior scientific technician, Esteban Sarmiento is research associate, and Ian Tattersall is curator, all in the Division of Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History. The authors live in New York City. Studio V is located in Connecticut. Donald C. Johanson is Virginia M. Ullman Chair in Human Origins, professor, department of anthropology, and director, Institute of Human Origins, at Arizona State University. Meave Leakey is research associate, National Museums of Kenya, adjunct professor, Stony Brook University, New York, and Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic Society.