"The Last Human" by Ian Tattersall

The Last Human A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans Ian Tattersall, Esteban Sarmiento, G. J. Sawyer, Viktor Deak, Donald C. Johanson, Meave Leakey, Richard Milner

Publication date:
28 Nov 2006
Yale University Press
256 pages: 267 x 203mm
63 color, 8 b-w, 21 maps
Sales territories:

The first opportunity to meet our extinct human ancestors face-to-face, through life-size reconstructions and detailed descriptions

"This unusual book draws on three-dimensional recreations to bring to life 22 of our long-vanished ancestors. . . . Convey(s) both scientific information and the sense that these were once thinking, feeling creatures."—Scientific American

"Although the art is spectacular—reason enough to spend a lot of time with this book—its triumph is science."—Nan Crystal Arens, American Paleontologist

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.

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.

"This book vividly brings to life twenty extinct species of our ancestors, branches of a diverse human family tree. It shows the sequence of development of a combination of crucial adaptations that make us, the last surviving human, the unique species that we are today."?from the Afterword by Meave Leakey

"This book features a colorful cast of characters . . .that have participated in the ongoing drama of human evolution. . . . In both word and image, it presents a series of intimate and unprecedented portraits of our extinct relatives. . . . This is, indeed, the guidebook to the human past, and the one that comes closest to being a personal time machine."?from the Introduction

"In a magnificent matching of precisely researched science and inspired popularisation, Sarmiento and his team take 22 of the best-understood human ancestors and not only put flesh on the bones but explain what those bones looked like and give us an inkling of what it might have been like to be the mind that moved them. . . . Following a fine scene-setting introduction by Ian Tattersall, the authors discuss each species individually, giving an evocative day-in-the-life account of the way they lived and a detailed discussion of their habitat, behaviou, diet and tools. . . . This is fascinating stuff. . . . [It] gives us a suitable feeling of humility and ensures that we help preserve other lineages as well as our own."?Adrian Barnett, New Scientist 


?[A] marvelous new book on our ancestors. . . . From paleontological and anthropological data previously available only in scientific publications, the authors have created an accessible field guide to our extinct cousins. Beginning each section with a short slice-of-life story about the species in question brings that hominid to life, with the supportive scientific evidence following. . . . Striking illustrations accompany the write-ups and breathe life into dry fossil bones. . . . This very current book explains the science as it now stands and is a must buy for all libraries.??Booklist

"This singular book resembles a field guide, only one related to human evolution. It documents the prevailing view among anthropologists that human evolution more closely resembles a bush than a straight line. . . . An essential addition for science and paleoanthropology collections; highly recommended for academic and public libraries."?Library Journal (starred review)

"Remarkable in scope and clarity, this stunning collaboration among scientists, scholars and artists reveals the vast panorama of hominid evolution. . . . Both inspiring and humbling, this look at humanity's ancestors?the worlds they inhabited, the challenges they faced and the legacies they left behind?is fascinating, informative, and deeply provocative."?Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This unusual book draws on three-dimensional recreations to bring to life 22 of our long-vanished ancestors. The startlingly lifelike reconstructions are the work of artist Viktor Deak and anthropologist Gary Sawyer . . . in collaboration with experts from around the world. Imaginative descriptions of the scenes by Esteban Sarmiento . . . convey both scientific information and the sense that these were once thinking, feeling creatures."?Scientific American

"For each of the nearly two dozen varieties of early humans dating from 7 million to 25,0000 years ago, the volume offers a short imagined story about lifeways, followed by scientific data on anatomy, geological age, archaeology, a location map, and photos of fossil replicas/reconstructions. . . . A tour de force. Essential."?Choice

Listed as #8 on the Editors' Top 10 List in Science for 2007 by Amazon.com

"One of the highlights of this most valuable work is the visual recreation of the faces of the twenty-two species. Using a combination of various scientific disciplines, Sawyer and Deak as 'paleoartists' have illustrated their subjects, bringing them 'alive' for the reader."??Eugene Larson, Magill Book Reviews

Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2007 by Choice Magazine

"The core of this fascinating book is color-flesh reconstructions of extinct hominid species. . . . Accompanying the reconstructions is a superb text by Esteban Sarmiento. . . . I recommend this book highly for use in undergraduate and graduate courses and to the general reader."?Science Books & Films

Gold medal winner of the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Award in the category of Science.

Named one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2007 by Library Journal

"Although the art is spectacular?reason enough to spend a lot of time with this book?its triumph is science."?Nan Crystal Arens, American Paleontologist