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Discover the Origins and Diversity of Hominids with Sapiens by Josep Corbella

Sapiens: The Long Journey of Hominids Towards Intelligence by Josep Corbella and Others

Have you ever wondered how humans became what they are today? How did we evolve from ape-like ancestors to intelligent and creative beings? How did we develop language, culture, art, religion, science, and technology? And what does the future hold for us as a species?

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If you are curious about these questions, you might want to read Sapiens: The Long Journey of Hominids Towards Intelligence, a fascinating book that explores the origins and evolution of humans from a scientific and historical perspective. In this article, I will give you a summary, analysis, and evaluation of this book, as well as some reasons why you should read it.


What is the book about?

Sapiens: The Long Journey of Hominids Towards Intelligence is a popular science book that was published in 2000 by Ediciones Península in Spanish. It is based on a series of interviews that journalist Josep Corbella conducted with three renowned experts in human evolution: Eudald Carbonell, Salvador Moyà, and Robert Sala. The book covers four main topics: the origin of hominids, the diversity of hominids, the rise of Homo sapiens, and the future of Homo sapiens.

Who are the authors and what are their credentials?

The authors of this book are well-known researchers in their fields. Josep Corbella (Barcelona, 1966) is a journalist specialized in scientific information. He has worked for Diari de Barcelonaand La Vanguardia since 1990, where he has followed the most recent discoveries about human origins. He is also the co-author of La cocina de la salud (The Kitchen of Health), along with Ferran Adrià and Valentín Fuster, and La ciencia de la larga vida (The Science of Long Life), also with Valentín Fuster. His latest book is La maravillosa historia de tu cuerpo (The Wonderful Story of Your Body).

Eudald Carbonell (Ribes de Freser, Girona, 1953) is a professor of Prehistory at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona), a researcher at the Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), and a co-director of the research project at the Atapuerca site. He is the author of numerous books of popularization, among which stand out Atapuerca: un millón de años de historia (Atapuerca: A Million Years of History), along with José Cervera, José María Bermúdez de Castro and Juan Luis Arsuaga, Aún no somos humanos: propuestas de humanización para el tercer milenio (We Are Not Yet Human: Proposals for Humanization for the Third Millennium), in collaboration with Robert Sala, and Los sueños de la evolución (The Dreams of Evolution), with Cinta S. Bellmunt.

Salvador Moyà (Palma de Mallorca, 1955) is a researcher at the Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA) and a professor of Biological Anthropology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He is an expert in paleontology and paleoecology, and has participated in several expeditions and excavations in Africa, Asia, and Europe. He has published more than 200 scientific articles and several books, such as Els primers pobladors de les Balears (The First Settlers of the Balearic Islands), La gran migración: la evolución humana más allá de África (The Great Migration: Human Evolution Beyond Africa), and El mono que llevamos dentro (The Monkey Within Us).

Robert Sala (Barcelona, 1958) is a professor of Prehistory at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and a researcher at the IPHES. He is a specialist in lithic technology and human behavior, and has directed or participated in numerous archaeological projects in Africa, Asia, and Europe. He has published more than 150 scientific papers and several books, such as Tecnología y comportamiento humano durante el Paleolítico inferior y medio en Eurasia (Technology and Human Behavior During the Lower and Middle Paleolithic in Eurasia), La prehistoria explicada a los jóvenes (Prehistory Explained to Young People), and Aún no somos humanos: propuestas de humanización para el tercer milenio (We Are Not Yet Human: Proposals for Humanization for the Third Millennium), with Eudald Carbonell.

Why is the book relevant and interesting?

The book is relevant and interesting because it offers a comprehensive and updated overview of human evolution, based on the latest scientific evidence and theories. It also presents a multidisciplinary approach that combines biology, anthropology, archaeology, history, psychology, sociology, and philosophy. The book is not only informative, but also engaging and entertaining, as it uses a conversational style, personal pronouns, simple language, rhetorical questions, analogies, metaphors, and anecdotes to captivate the reader's attention and curiosity.

Summary of the book

Chapter 1: The origin of hominids

The evolution of primates

The first chapter of the book traces the origin of hominids back to the evolution of primates. Primates are a group of mammals that include lemurs, lorises, tarsiers, monkeys, apes, and humans. They share some common characteristics, such as grasping hands and feet, forward-facing eyes, large brains, complex social behavior, and vocal communication. The authors explain that primates originated about 65 million years ago in Africa or Asia, after the extinction of the dinosaurs. They then diversified into different branches and adapted to various environments.

The emergence of bipedalism

The authors then focus on one of the most distinctive features of hominids: bipedalism. Bipedalism is the ability to walk upright on two legs. It is a rare trait among mammals, and it has many advantages and disadvantages. The authors discuss some of the possible reasons why some primates became bipedal, such as freeing the hands for carrying objects or tools, improving the vision over tall grasses or trees, reducing the exposure to solar radiation or heat loss, or facilitating long-distance travel or endurance running. They also mention some of the anatomical changes that bipedalism entails, such as a curved spine, a bowl-shaped pelvis, a shorter and wider foot, and a larger head.

The first stone tools

goal. Tool use is a sign of intelligence and creativity, and it has many benefits for survival and adaptation. The authors describe some of the first stone tools that hominids made, such as hammerstones, cores, and flakes. They also explain how these tools were used for various purposes, such as cutting, scraping, pounding, or digging. They also mention some of the cognitive and social implications of tool use, such as planning, learning, teaching, and cooperation.

Chapter 2: The diversity of hominids

The expansion of Homo erectus

The second chapter of the book deals with the diversity of hominids that existed in the past. The authors start by introducing Homo erectus, one of the most successful and widespread hominid species. Homo erectus appeared about 1.8 million years ago in Africa, and soon expanded to Asia and Europe. They had a larger brain and body than their predecessors, and they made more sophisticated tools, such as handaxes and cleavers. They also controlled fire, hunted large animals, and lived in groups.

The coexistence of different species

The authors then explore the coexistence of different hominid species that occurred during the Pleistocene epoch (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago). They explain that there was not a single linear evolution from one species to another, but rather a complex branching process that involved interbreeding, competition, and extinction. Some of the hominid species that coexisted with Homo erectus were Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo ergaster, Homo antecessor, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo floresiensis, Homo naledi, and Homo luzonensis.

The extinction of Neanderthals