Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Several terms are useful to master before reading Origins. The small, apelike creatures who appeared twelve million years or so ago are known as Ramapithecus and were the first hominids, or primates of the family Hominidae. Ramapithecus were the ancestors of two long-extinct species termed australopithecines, Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus boisei. Ramapithecus were also the begetters of Homo erectus, who around half a million years ago evolved into Homo sapiens and later, perhaps fifty thousand years ago, into the modern humans that Richard E. Leakey and Roger Lewin name Homo sapiens sapiens.

After a chapter that puts “Humanity in Perspective,” the authors explain “The Greatest Revolution,” or the series of events in the nineteenth century that led to understanding the great age of the earth and the rudiments of evolutionary theory. Five chapters on the development of humankind follow: “The Roots of Humanity,” “Hominid Beginnings,” “The Cradle of Mankind,” “From Africa to Agriculture,” and “The First Mixed Economy.” The chapters “Intelligence, Language, and the Human Mind” and “Aggression, Sex, and Human Nature” argue very strongly the authors’ views on these topics; the final essay is entitled “Mankind in Prospective.”

Leakey and Lewin state the goal of Origins clearly:Through an exploration of...

(The entire section is 503 words.)