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Publisher's Summary

Fifty thousand years ago - merely a blip in evolutionary time - our Homo sapiens ancestors were competing for existence with several other human species, just as their precursors had done for millions of years. Yet something about our species distinguished it from the pack, and ultimately led to its survival while the rest became extinct. Just what was it that allowed Homo sapiens to become masters of the planet? Ian Tattersall, curator emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History, takes us deep into the fossil record to uncover what made humans so special. Surveying a vast field from initial bipedality to language and intelligence, Tattersall argues that Homo sapiens acquired a winning combination of traits that was not the result of long-term evolutionary refinement. Instead, the final result emerged quickly, shocking our world and changing it forever.

©2012 Ian Tattersall (P)2019 Tantor

What listeners say about Masters of the Planet

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  • DB
  • 11-23-20

Great Book, Some Sloppy Editing

Excellent book, and a good narrator. The issue here is with the editor: Edit out the "tisks!" It's such an easy thing to do, it's an easily identifiable waveform amd simple to cut out--it's mind boggling that whoever edited this audio just left those tisks and deep breaths in, as though it adds texture to the narration. It doesn't, it's just incredibly sloppy editing that is not the narrator's fault. I enjoyed his voice, perhaps a bit fast-paced, but good overall. And this book is phenomenal. I just had to point out that editing miss, thank you for indulging me.

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Phenomenal

Truly puts the perspective of our species into perspective. A philosophical and scientific masterpiece.

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great book but too fast of an audio book

this is a great book. I specifically enjoyed the fact that the author only relies on the evidence and brimgs up conclusions as speculations rather than facts which some books do. my only problem with the audiobook was that given such scientifically heavy subject, it would have been easier to follow if read at a slower pace.

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An excellent overview of human evolution

This book is written in the non-condescending language geared towards an intelligent non-expert, giving a strong and non-sensationalized overview of one of the most fascinating areas in modern science. The book covers roughly the time from the divergence from our common ancestor with chimpanzees to the formation of speech. It acknowledges and dismisses many popular misconceptions about human origins (such as our ancestors learning to stand in order to see over tall grasses) and matter-of-factly states questions that remain open and why they are so. Overall I learned quite a bit from this book and look forward to future developments in this rapidly progressing field that may answer some of those still-open questions.

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Wonderful book about the rise of Homo sapiens!

This is a beautifully written book about the origins of Homo sapiens by a preeminent authority in primatology and paleoanthropology, Ian Tattersall, who holds an Emeritus designation at the American Museum of Natural History. The book is written for a general audience. I happened to visit the American Museum of Natural History recently and spied this book in their bookstore. I have a fascination about how our species, Homo sapiens, arose. Just who were our ancestors? This small volume will provide the reader with a number of answers. Obviously, there are gaps in our knowledge, but Mr. Tattersall offers his expert opinion when confronting the various options and paths ahead. Ian Tattersall has written a remarkable book on a very deep subject. Just where did we come from? I had the feeling I was listening to listening to one of the finest professors in the world address this subject. I can recommend this book without reservation. I am most grateful that experts like Ian Tattersall are willing to write popular books and not limit their writings to scientific journals which are read by the same small group of experts! There are many of us "non-experts" who are interested in this subject and would like to know more from an acknowledged expert. I say "Bravo!" to Ian Tattersall.

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  • Paul
  • 11-17-20

Decent exploration, unbalanced

The first half of the book is way too long, the second half, which would be more interesting a topic, and true to the books title, is rushed. A huge amount of time is spend on our earliest ancestors. Digressions occur on the specifics of how rocks and fossils are dated etc, which don't help the overall purpose of the book. By the time discussion has moved to the Neanderthals, it has become a hurried affair. Neanderthal interbreeding with Homosapiens is brushed off with "well Ligers in South Carolina". It would be better to steelman other perspectives in paleoanthropology, and then challenge them, than to dismiss them off-hand. Our acquisition of language, is the most fascinating topic, but only delved into in the last few chapters. The last 2 or 3 chapters read like a promising introduction to a book rather than the closing of a seminal publication. The narration speed is too fast, but that can be reduced in the player. The sentences are often long winded, something only exacerbated by the monotone narration.