When We Became Humans

When We Became Humans
Michael Bright, illustrated by Hannah Bailey
Words & Pictures

Here’s a large format, illustrated book that provides an accessible overview of human evolution from our earliest primate ancestors right through to Homo sapiens.

Having explained such terms as hominids, hominins and haplorhins, the author takes readers back to our earliest primate ancestors – tiny rodent-like mammals – of some 65 millions years back; then moves on 35 million years to the monkey-like ape ancestors that were starting to bear a greater resemblance to the apes we know today. (Here, I was fascinated to read of the theory of the parallel evolution of primates and fruit trees).

Then comes a spread on how scientists study fossil evidence and the kind of information this can yield.

Next is a look at the move to bipedalism and how this enabled early hominins both to see further across the plains and to grasp and carry tools, food and even babies.

Bright presents the theory that a number of different hominid species lived at the same time, as well as stating that as DNA analysis shows, Neanderthals and modern humans interbred.

There is just so much absorbing information packed between the covers. In addition to exploring physical changes,

the author includes a look at the stages of cultural development, tool use and its modification.

I was particularly fascinated by the cultural spreads such as the look at health care, and jewellery, (Neanderthals and humans both wore it),

trinkets and charms.

The book ends with the question of whether or not humans are still evolving, plus a visual presentation of chronology and migration routes.

Hannah Bailey’s plentiful illustrations are excellent, making the considerable amount of information feel much less challenging to primary school readers.

A book I’d thoroughly recommend adding to family shelves or a KS2 collection for supporting both the history and the science curriculum, as well as for interested individuals.

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