What Does it Mean to be Human?

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National Geographic Books, 2010 - Science - 175 pages
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This generously illustrated book tells the story of the human family, showing how our species' physical traits and behaviors evolved over millions of years as our ancestors adapted to dramatic environmental changes.

In What Does It Means to Be Human? Rick Potts, director of the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program, and Chris Sloan, National Geographic's paleoanthropolgy expert, delve into our distant past to explain when, why, and how we acquired the unique biological and cultural qualities that govern our most fundamental connections and interactions with other people and with the natural world. Drawing on the latest research, they conclude that we are the last survivors of a once-diverse family tree, and that our evolution was shaped by one of the most unstable eras in Earth's environmental history.

The book presents a wealth of attractive new material especially developed for the Hall's displays, from life-like reconstructions of our ancestors sculpted by the acclaimed John Gurche to photographs from National Geographic and Smithsonian archives, along with informative graphics and illustrations. In coordination with the exhibit opening, the PBS program NOVA will present a related three-part television series, and the museum will launch a website expected to draw 40 million visitors.
 

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Contents

smithsonian
6
PARTI BEING Human BEcoMing Human
19
the HuMan FAMILY tree
30
survival of the AdaptABLE
44
the first steps
58
families and Growing up
68
tools and food
80
human proportions
90
Evolution of our BRAIN
100
THE ORIGIN or ourselves
116
chapter to the roots of imagination
126
one species worldwide
138
the turning point
150
are we it?
160
ss
171
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About the author (2010)

Chris Sloan is senior editor and the director of mission projects at National Geographic magazine. He is a specialist at developing stories on archaeology, paleoanthropology, and paleontology.

Rick Potts is director of the Smithsonian's human origins program and curator of anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History.

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