Extinct Humans

Ian Tattersall and Jeffery L. Schwartz

“A refreshing new look at the fossil evidence for human evolution, with spectacular photos, by two anthropologists who have traveled the world examining remains of the 15 kinds of humans and near-humans that once walked the earth—many of them, surprisingly, at the same time and in the same places.”
Natural History Magazine

Partial skull of Australopithecus africanus
from Sterkfontein, South Africa.

Once we were not alone.

Today we take for granted that we are the only human species on Earth. Yet over the last 4 million years at least 15 different human species shared the planet. What happened to all these other human species, and what is it about us that we alone survived?

Based on their unprecedented personal examination of virtually every known human fossil in collections around the world, the authors offer a radical reinterpretation of human evolution. Their conclusions are therefore often fresh and surprising. They studied the newest discoveries. Human evolution, say the authors, has long been envisioned as a straight-line progression from bipedal apes to Homo habilis to Homo erectus to Neanderthals to us, Homo sapiens. But this model of a single species at a time is suspiciously unlike the pattern of multiple branchings and extinctions known for all other animals.

Rejecting preconceived models of human evolution, Tattersall and Schwartz look anew to the actually fossils themselves. The story they tell is one of great variation, repeated new species and extinction, experimentation and failure, played out over the millions of years of human history. Human history looks less like a queue than a tree.

Extinct Humans recounts the ongoing vigorous debates over the identity of the earliest of our human ancestors. It considers how our vanished remote ancestors differed from us. Who were our direct ancestors? Which represent ultimate dead branches on our family tree? Perhaps most provocatively, why are we the lone remaining human species?

Rights available: World except North America


240 pages
32 color plates
64 drawings and maps
Dimensions: 7-3/8" x 9-7/8"; 188 x 249 mm
Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds

Ian Tattersall is Curator, Division of Anthropology, at the American Museum of Natural History. A graduate of Cambridge and Yale universities, he has diverse interest in primate biology and human evolution, fields in which he has authored almost 2000 scientific papers and numerous books, including The Last Neanderthal (Westview), The Fossil Trail, and Becoming Human. He is the only living human who has a primate named after him,

Jeffrey L. Schwartz is Professor of Physical Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh and a Research Assistant at the American Museum of Natural History. He received his degrees from Columbia University and has published extensively on human and developmental biology and the systematics of fossils and living primates. His books include The Red Ape and Skeleton Keys and most recently Sudden Origins. He was principle photographer for Extinct Humans.

Reviews and Endorsements

“Tattersall and Schwartz have traveled around the globe to examine essentially every known hominid fossil. Their study of the anatomy has led them to the following conclusion. The pattern of evolution in our own species is no different from that of the rest of the earth's fauna: ‘repeated evolutionary experimentation, diversification and, ultimately, extinction.’ This reasoning may seem only commonsensical to those unfamiliar with the more usual picture that paleoanthropologists sketch of a rather linear development—‘a single-minded struggle,’ as the authors put it, ‘from bestial benightedness to uplifted enlightenment.’ They develop their theme with great style (and great photographs) and conclude by suggesting what accounts for H. sapiens' being the lone hominid on the earth today. We won't spoil the fascinating read by divulging what they (very convincingly) propose. The book is an intellectual adventure that would be well worth undertaking for this intriguing denouement alone, but there are in addition a wealth of informative stops en route.”
Scientific American

“No longer can human evolution be viewed as a simple progression of a single lineage from a primitive ancestor to ourselves. Research over the last half century has revealed a plethora of species and raised provocative questions about our past. This absorbing, comprehensive and authoritative narrative, based on the authors' own first hand experience of the original fossils, is a must for anyone with an interest in our origins.” -
Meave Leakey, Head, Division of Paloanthropology, National Museums of Kenya

"As two of the world's most preeminent anthropologists, Tattersall and Schwartz know the fossil record first-hand."
Science News

Skull of early modern human
Homo sapiens) from
Jebel Qafzeh, Israel.

“No two scientists are better qualified to talk about the fossil record of human evolution than Ian Tattersall and Jeffrey Schwartz. Unlike most scholars, they do not base their remarkable insights into human origins on secondary or even primary published sources. Instead, they have personally visited and studied nearly every fossil hominid ever found. As a result, his volume speaks with authority and commitment; its revelations about our ancestors are rewarding and provocative. A must for every fossil lover's library—layperson and professional alike.”
Donald Johanson, Director Institute of                     Human Origins, Professor of Anthropology, Arizona State                     University

“A provocative look into evolution and the emergence of H. sapiens as the lone remaining human species on Earth, Extinct Humans is a valuable resource for laypersons and professionals interested in learning about the origins of man.”
Biology Digest

“In this fantastic book we learn the where, when, and why so many other human species have disappeared and only we have fortunately survived until now.”
Hisao Baba, National Science Museum,                     Tokyo, Japan

“With its outstanding illustrations and levelheaded treatment of empirical data, this impressive and indispensabvble book is a very important contribution to modern paleoanthropology.”
Library Journal [starred review]

“Tattersall and Schwartz have produced a masterpiece that combines historical thought processes on man's place in nature and prehistoric fossil reality in a highly entertaining and informative style. This is not just another book on fossil man but a challenge to those ‘lumpers’ who would confine our ancestors to a paltry few species. The authors have traveled world-wide to examine the fossils they discuss and have written an inspired and thought-provoking book.”
Ron J. Clarke, Director of Research,                     Department of Anthropology, J.W. Goethe University

“Paleoanthropologists Tattersall and Schwartz offer a provocative…survey of the fossil evidence for human evolution, based on direct study of a great proportion of the original material, a task that few paleoanthropologists can claim to have undertaken.”

“[An] attractively produced introduction to the vexed world of early hominids.”
Publishers Weekly

“A superior overview, a profitable addition to any library.”

“...[I] shall continually go back to [Extinct Humans] with profit.”
New York Times


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