Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins
This anthropological and archaeological detective story begins some 5-6 million years ago and culminates with the origin of anatomically modern humans (i.e., Homo sapiens) in Africa nearly 200,000 years ago, and subsequent dispersal through much of the rest of world starting about 60,000 years ago. This is the elegantly told story of--to borrow a phrase--"bones, stones, and molecules" that provides Tattersall's synthesis and interpretations of the current state-of-knowledge associated with the fossil evidence, the stone-tool traditions, and the latest genetic data. Finally, for those who are interested, Tattersall has provided twenty pages of detailed notes and bibliographic source citations for each chapter at the end of the book. I really enjoyed reading Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins, and unhesitatingly recommend it for those interested in the natural and biological sciences.
The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know about Human Evolution
While much of this material was also thoroughly covered in Richard Klein's huge third edition of his relatively recent book The Human Career: Human Biological and Cultural Origins (2009) which I just finished reading recently, I have to say that I very much enjoyed the approach taken by Tattersall--ever the anatomist and taxonomist--in presenting and discussing the fossils in the order that they were discovered, and how they have been viewed and interpreted over time. As the book moves along, Tattersall comes back and revisits certain fossils and presents the new way of interpreting it and its proper placement in the on-going telling of the story of our human origins.
Interestingly, I am actually beginning to recognize and remember many of these fossils by the catalog and/or 'nicknames' that have been given to each of them (e.g., KNM-WT 15000, also known as "Turkana Boy" a very nearly complete skeleton of a young Homo ergaster boy), and this makes reading this book, as well as other technical journal articles and books even more meaningful to me now. Additionally, this book is liberally illustrated, with superbly detailed line drawings of just about each of the fossils that are described in the book. In conclusion, this book is well worth the read, especially if you're at all interested in the history of these amazing fossil discoveries and the evolution, over time, of the interpretation of the of these extinct species and their ultimate role in the search for the complete story associated with the origin of anatomically modern humans--Homo sapiens.