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Posts Tagged ‘pre-history’

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel; page count 512.

Clan of the Cave Bear

I actually listened to the audio version, read by Sandra Burr. It was fantastic!

This book, the first in the Earth’s Children Series, was amazing! I can’t believe it took me so long to read it. This first book was originally published in 1980, and Auel finished the series last summer with the publication of the sixth and final book, The Land of the Painted Caves.

The story, the series in fact, follows Ayla, a prehistoric woman traversing through Europe about 30,000 years ago. Clan of the Cave Bear opens with an earthquake which destroys five-year-old Ayla’s home and her family. The child travels alone for a few days, encountering a cave lion along the way, before finally collapsing from exhaustion. She is picked up and rejuvenated by a neanderthal medicine woman traveling with her clan. The medicine woman is allowed to keep the girl even though Ayla is an “Other” (Homo sapien sapien.)

Auel breathes such life and depth into her characters. I love the differences she has created between “Others” and the Neanderthals. I was hooked from the moment I popped the CD in my car. Her landscapes are probably the most stunning thing. She makes it very easy to picture the surroundings. The crispness of the air, the color of the leaves. All of it is very well done.

The brilliance of Auel, however, isn’t in her writing style, which is certainly far above par; it’s in her research. It’s apparent the writer took a lot of time to research and get her facts straight. I appreciate any author who shows a reverence for facts, while making it accessible in fiction. Having read several previous books about human evolution, and watching numerous documentaries on the topic, I can say with some certainty that the history (prehistory?) quite accurate. (I mean, except for the obvious, albeit brief, dip into fantasy, but it’s so small and done so well, that I’ll overlook that bit.) Well, done, Auel!

Needless to say, I’ll definitely be reading the rest of this series. Although I may take a bit of a break in between installations for other books.

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If you are interested in more about human evolution, I recommend these sites: http://humanorigins.si.edu/  and https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/index.html

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Becoming Human

We frequently (only?) read historical fiction books here, but what about pre-history? There are many pre-history books out, and after the success of the Earth’s Children series, more are sure to follow.

Personally, I’ve been interested in evolution lately, especially human evolution, and watching every evolutionary documentary Netflix has made available. I thought it was high time I read a book about the topic. Living in a small, rural town, there’s not much cause for books on human evolution at my local library. However, I was lucky enough to come across The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor by Colin Tudge. Admittedly, this takes me back rather further than any pre-historical fiction would, but I find it all fascinating.

Ida, primate fossilThe book follows the discovery and research into Ida, a Darwinius masillae,  dating from about 47 million years ago (that’s the Eocene period.) They paid particular attention to how Ida might have lived; what her surroundings were like; creatures she lived alongside; how she probably moved around her world; and the probable cause of her death. The book describes ways in which Ida is similar to us and ways in which she differs. Most intriguingly, Tudge attempts to place her on the tree of human evolution — making her a potential candidate for when the great apes, chimps and such (including ourselves) broke off from other primates. Although, I must stress, it is not concrete where exactly on the primate tree Ida lies; only that she is definitively a very early primate.

The science is all very interesting, but what I wonder every time I watch or read something about human evolution is when did we gain our self-awareness, our forethought and planning skills, in short when did we acquire those ineffable traits which make humankind distinct from animals? Of course, this is something that may never be fully understood by scientists, not the least of which because there is argument over what actually, if anything, distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Another phenomenon I find interesting is human development from child into adult. Have you ever thought about how similar babies are to animals? I know my dog has much more personality than infants. (You’ll probably be reading more along this line of thinking as I am currently reading Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz.)

The Link is well-written and accessible even if you only recall your high school biology. In fact, I’d say a little too much so, since even I was left thinking, “Right. I know. Move on with it already.” I would recommend this to someone who is just starting to be interested in evolution.


These and other cool facts and videos can be found on their website: http://www.revealingthelink.com/ (I just love living in the future!)

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