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  • Almost Human

  • The Astonishing Tale of Homo Naledi and the Discovery That Changed Our Human Story
  • By: Lee Berger, John Hawks
  • Narrated by: Donald Corren
  • Length: 6 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, World
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (149 ratings)

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Summary

A story of defiance and determination by a controversial scientist, this is Lee Berger's own take on finding Homo naledi, an all-new species on the human family tree and one of the greatest discoveries of the 21st century.

In 2013, Lee Berger, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, heard of a cache of bones in a hard-to-reach underground cave in South Africa. He put out a call around the world for petite collaborators - men and women small and adventurous enough to be able to squeeze through eight-inch tunnels to reach a sunless cave forty feet underground. With this team, Berger made the discovery of a lifetime: hundreds of prehistoric bones, including entire skeletons of at least 15 individuals, all perhaps two million years old. Their features combined those of known prehominids like Lucy, the famous Australopithecus, with those more human than anything ever before seen in prehistoric remains. Berger's team had discovered an all new species, and they called it Homo naledi.

The cave quickly proved to be the richest prehominid site ever discovered, full of implications that shake the very foundation of how we define what makes us human. Did this species come before, during, or after the emergence of Homo sapiens on our evolutionary tree? How did the cave come to contain nothing but the remains of these individuals? Did they bury their dead? If so, they must have had a level of self-knowledge, including an awareness of death. And yet those are the very characteristics used to define what makes us human. Did an equally advanced species inhabit Earth with us, or before us? Berger does not hesitate to address all these questions.

Some colleagues question Berger's interpretation of this and other finds. Here, this charismatic and visionary paleontologist counters their arguments and tells his personal story: a rich narrative about science, exploration, and what it means to be human.

©2017 Lee Berger (P)2018 Blackstone Publishing

What listeners say about Almost Human

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good for the most part

It is a decent book with an interesting story, a tad on the self-serving side in terms of the author but this is fine and I enjoyed the tale. I’m not sure the reader was right for this book, but the main annoying bit was that he mispronounced key scientific jargon and location names, which is rather important given the type of book that this is. All in all still enjoyed it.

2 people found this helpful

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A very exciting history lesson

Narration style is excellent
The content is fabulous, who knew that the world of fossil hunting could be so competitive and exciting.
I totally recommend this book if you are interested in learning about how the work is done and the commitment that these guys and gals have to their subject. It actually made me want to join them!
I hope there is another book soon.

1 person found this helpful

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So interesting

a really well written book and very interesting! the language is easy to understand and it never makes you feel out of depth, thoroughly enjoyed it!

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great book but poor pronunciation

it's a great book with wonderful information and as an archaeology student the story is fascinating but unfortunately the narrator is very American and didn't bother to learn the pronunciation of the South African words which definitely detracted from the whole experience. for example he says Wits but it is actually pronounced Vits. Otherwise good.

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Very interesting

Lee Berger describes in great detail the methods by which he discovered and explored a cave in South Africa full of bones of a previously unknown hominid. If anthropology interests you, it is a good story and raises important questions about scientific method before we even get on to the questions about the bones themselves. For instance, in 2019 does it not seem appropriate to publish computer generated images of/information about the bones among scientists worldwide? Previously it seems scientists would sometimes jealously guard bones to themselves for decades without letting anybody else even look at them.This surely cannot be the most effective way of developing ideas. Berger remarks that many of the new generation of anthropologists are female. I wonder if this might change typical methods of research.
As for the question of human evolution, no doubt there is much debate about the place of this creature and I am not in a position to comment. However, what with finding the Neanderthal DNA, discovering the Denisovans and now the Naledi, it seems we may be learning a lot more about the family tree of homo sapiens.

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really interesting and a good adventure story

a fascinating insite into the hint for our ancestors and the conflicting views of academics on the approach

1 person found this helpful

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Wonderful recollection of a seminal event

This is far more than a diary of Sediba and Rising Star. Berger and Hawks walk through their struggles in the change in paradigm from Isaac Newton and Rosalind Franklin- style working in secret (justified in the case of the latter, given the constraints) to the open and collaborative approach which appeared to have grated the community before slowly turning them around. There are some nice character developments as we move into Dinaledi - by the end you feel like you know his son Matthew, the team of scientists and even the cavers. And just as you ask yourself questions, they are seemingly quickly addressed.

This has been one of my most enjoyable listens on Audible so far. Highly recommended!

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  • S
  • 12-06-22

riveting

The enthusiasm of the discovery and the planning and execution of the field trips and follow-up research was well captured by the narration. Kept me involved all the way.

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Exciting listening

This audio book is well read, well produced and well written. A gripping and exciting account.

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great book and makes a perfect audio book

perfect audio book
a genuine story of discovery , brilliantly written , exiting and descriptive .I recommend to anyone

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  • Peter Matthews
  • 14-01-19

A deep story on the rocky trail to human origins

As a former student of anthropology, archaeology and human evolution I found this story to be gripping. The author's path to human origins research began with childhood experiences that were similar to my own in many ways, though my own research area is very different. The story is well told and well read. We are introduced to the history of human fossil research, different kinds of human, and the scientific process... including the ways that results are debated, interpreted and disseminated.

The author's lifelong study of other kinds of human may actually parallel his suggestion that our ancestors also learned from other kinds human - as well as mixing with them (going to bed with them, so to speak).

As a scientist, I'm inspired by this book to think about how I might present my own work to wider audiences. But the book is not just for scientists, it is for all of us who are curious about those fingers typing on the keyboard in front of us.

10 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Andi Rosenmeier
  • 08-11-20

More Vanity than Anthropology

Seven chapters in and I can tell you many useless things about this man, yet very little about Early Man.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Frank's "Library of Activity"
  • 04-09-20

This was excellent!

This was quite a listening adventure. Well done. The narrator was fantastic. Never a dull moment. It was like I was part of the story and part of the team. Thanks.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Mike
  • 16-06-20

Not what I thought!

Much less of a story about human evolution that I was expecting and more of a chronicle of Lee's personal journey of discovery.
Interesting but not informative.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 20-01-20

Worth even for those acquainted with the story

The text is good, it reads like a suspenseful thriller. The science is well researched and presented in a clear and simple (but not simplistic) manner. I got annoyed sometimes by the intonation of the reader, especially when he was presenting dialog lines, but overall the reading was clear and easy to follow. I really enjoyed the story itself - though I have already seen the documentaries based on this work, the book adds so much context and background that I feel it was really worth it.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-12-19

fascinating, intelligent, and entertaining

an interesting account well-told. author explains but doesn't talk down. narrator matches the book well...i hadn't looked so didn't realize until the end that it wasn't read by the author. ending made me laugh with delight and go look for what he is up to now.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-09-20

Exciting Story!

Perfect weekend read. I was nervous that this book might be bogged down with scientific terms I didn't understand, but I was wonderfully surprised! Easy read for any layman who has a basic understanding of anthropology. The story is enticing and taps into the adventurer inside of everyone..finished it in just two days!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Andrew
  • 22-11-21

More of a memoir

It’s fine but I was hoping to learn more about ancestral humans. It’s more of a memoir of the life of someone who did research on ancestral humans. The science part is definitely secondary to that and wasn’t much new to me, having done some minimal learning in the area already

2 people found this helpful

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  • Armand Jarri
  • 30-05-21

Self indulgent. Badly written. Little science.

Too self indulgent. The author wanted to write a book to document his acheivembt and "adventures" rather than than explaining the science. Really boring and not engaging. It is also badly written. It is also badly written; too many adverds, adjectives and tacky anecdotes. How many times he used the expressions "amazing ", and ".. a new specoes never discovered before".
If you want ti read a book on human evolution i would suggest "Lucy". Although a bit dated by now, the differnce between the two books is night and day.

2 people found this helpful

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  • NK
  • 25-03-21

Almost Human

Very well done. The story and narrator were both good. I have a much better understanding of how a dig such as this operates. More importantly I have a better grasp of the studies of human evolution. Well worth the time

2 people found this helpful