Who Should Read This Book
Origins Reconsidered recounts the story of human evolution from multiple angles: locomotion, cognitive abilities, speech, art, consciousness, and language. It is a thrilling read aiming to identify the unique elements of human nature by examining how these elements emerged over time and under what ecological conditions. It’s the layman’s classic book on paleoanthropology.
Richard Leakey is a Kenyan paleoanthropologist whose team discovered the Turkana Boy in 1984, an almost complete skeleton of a Homo erectus, which, for fossil hunters, is a remarkably rare find.
In 1977, Leakey published a book co-authored by Roger Lewin titled Origins. In light of recent scientific findings fifteen years later, he decided to re-examine the ideas presented in Origins; the result was a new book, Origins Reconsidered — In Search of What Makes Us Human.
The book is divided into six parts as follows:
Origins Reconsidered presents the reader with a view of the current state of scientific research (tools, methods, and theories) in paleoanthropology. It is a well-researched, thorough, and captivating story of our origins as a species.
The book is divided into six parts with a progressive chronological order of the events and ideas it describes. However, the book’s central theme can be read in the first chapters; what makes us human, and how far back does it go?
While this edition of Origins Reconsidered was published a while back (1992), its content is original enough to the layman, which seems to be the target audience of this work. The author supplemented his field knowledge with a vast amount of research from many subdomains of paleoanthropology, citing the resources and the researchers involved.
Origins Reconsidered reads like a novel with barely any technical jargon. The author’s writing genius is demonstrated by presenting complicated concepts in accessible forms without compromising depth and rigour.
As this website is concerned with software development and project delivery topics, the book’s practical aim examined under that lens is tiny or nonexistent. However, we highly recommend it to people interested in philosophical and scientific questions about humankind and humanity.
Books of such nature broaden our minds and place our uniqueness as a species or individuals into perspective. It also helps create a more open organisational culture and gives team members exciting topics to discuss during their lunch breaks.
Origins Reconsidered is a reasonably thorough book in its treatment of the primary themes. The author relies heavily on his field knowledge and supplements it with immense literature research. The sources are cited indirectly through the authors (alas, there is no bibliography), which provides the reader with new lines of search should they wish to know more.
The book addresses multiple facets of paleoanthropological studies, including fossil analysis, primate anatomy, molecular biology, cultural anthropology, archeology, and primate behaviour.
The book is medium-sized (375 pages printed in large format) but covers the topic nicely. The reader is seldom left with a lingering feeling that an idea needs more discussion or articulation.
Professor Leakey dedicated his career to fossil-finding expeditions, and his teams made many discoveries, the most prominent of which is undoubtedly the Turkana Boy, an almost complete skeleton of a Homo erectus (other authorities believe it’s a Homo ergaster). His writings show an unquenchable curiosity for knowledge and a philosophical bend to his thoughts. His writing and story-telling skills are unmatched.
The book can be classified under popular science.
Origins Reconsidered presents a unique style of popular science writing, and it mostly reads as a biography or novel tightly woven with technical concepts on the scientific topic it treats. It is as though the author is taking us on his journey of discovery of human origins and humanity. He recounts how human evolution theories have evolved with new archeological findings and novel ideas.
Having (unsuccessfully) attempted to read John Napier’s book The Roots of Mankind, a feeling of awe for the more technically bent books on anthropology has developed within me. I expected Origins Reconsidered to show the same daunting difficulties, but, on the contrary, it presented exceptionally accessible material. As someone with minimal knowledge of natural sciences (as is commonly the case for professionals with training in engineering), I found the book’s contents sinking in relatively quickly.
Richard Erskine Frere Leakey (19 December 1944 – 2 January 2022) was a Kenyan paleoanthropologist, conservationist and politician. Leakey held several official positions in Kenya, mostly in archaeology and wildlife conservation institutions. He was the Director of the National Museum of Kenya, founded the NGO WildlifeDirect and was the chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Leakey co-founded the Turkana Basin Institute in an academic partnership with Stony Brook University, where he was an anthropology professor. He served as the chair of the Turkana Basin Institute until his death.
- Origins (with Roger Lewin, 1977)
- People of the Lake: Mankind and its Beginnings (with Roger Lewin, 1978)
- Making of Mankind (1981)
- One Life: An Autobiography (1983)
- Origins Reconsidered (with Roger Lewin, 1992)
- The Origin of Humankind (1994)
- The Sixth Extinction (with Roger Lewin, 1995)
- Wildlife Wars: My Fight to Save Africa’s Natural Treasures (with Virginia Morell, 2001)