What could be better than blowing up the origin of man? Kermit Pattison’s “Fossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind” is a combination of exploration and anthropology with a bit of Mad Max and the Ultimate Fighting Championships because when it comes to the origin of our species, well, it’s complicated and some folks get mighty prickly.
Fossil Men tells a well-researched tale of what happens when someone discovers something that upsets the balance of what we thought was right. And does so by a million years or so. Imagine the wilds of tribal Ethiopia, combative scientists, ego, and the secrecy required to lead with accurate science while foregoing the quick fix or financial gains of shocking the world with a new discovery.
Look, I studied f-stops, and shutter speeds and learned to test the fixer by tasting it so taking any kind of scientific advice from me is probably a terrible idea, but hear me out. I don’t care where we came from. Well, let me rephrase that. I care because I find it interesting, but whether we emerged from apes, chimps, dogs, cats or gelatinous orbs doesn’t matter to me. It’s the story and the science that counts.
I love books like this because they require so much notetaking and so much counter-research to understand history. Fossil Men is a challenge. Sure, it’s heartbreaking in some ways. The bureacuracy the infighting, the actual fighting, and the nonsense that comes with anything high profile. But underneath the modern complexity lies a story of humans simply digging up the past. Get it, read it.