Review – Seven Skeletons

Posted September 14, 2016 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Seven Skeletons by Lydia PyneSeven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World’s Most Famous Human Fossils, Lydia Pyne

Received to review via Netgalley

Seven Skeletons is a very readable survey of some of the most famous hominid skeletons ever discovered. The choice of skeletons to discuss is interesting: it includes the known hoax, Piltdown Man, because like or not, that alleged find had a massive effect on the field for far too long. It’s not solely a discussion of each skeleton’s merits as part of the hominid ancestry, but also of their part in our culture and history. Indeed, the most important aspect is that it places each skeleton in context, viewing them as a part of a larger picture as well.

If you’re very familiar with the stories of hominid finds around the world, you may not find much new here. What I enjoyed was the contextualising, even to the extent of discussing speculative fiction based on the finds. That context is far too often ignored, considering speculative fiction is often right on the cutting edge. For a detailed analysis of each skeleton’s importance on an anatomical level, I’d look elsewhere, and it’d be a heavier read. This is more cultural and thus, for me, easier (though not necessarily more fun!).

Some of the formatting was awkward, but I put that down to reading an advance copy on my Kindle. I imagine those issues will be smoothed out for the published version, especially the print edition.

Rating: 4/5

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