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Social Science Physical

Ancient Bones

Unearthing the Astonishing New Story of How We Became Human

by (author) Madelaine Böhme, Rüdiger Braun & Florian Breier

translated by Jane Billinghurst

foreword by David R. Begun

Greystone Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Sep 2020
Physical, Paleontology, Expeditions & Discoveries
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Oct 2020
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2022
    List Price

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“Splendid and important …. Scientifically rigorous and written with a clarity and candor that create a gripping tale … [Böhme’s] account of the history of Europe’s lost apes is imbued with the sweat, grime, and triumph that is the lot of the fieldworker, and carries great authority.”—Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books

In this “fascinating forensic inquiry into human origins” (Kirkus STARRED Review), a renowned paleontologist takes readers behind-the-scenes of one of the most groundbreaking archaeological digs in recent history.

Somewhere west of Munich,paleontologist Madelaine Böhme and her colleagues dig for clues to the origins of humankind. What they discover is beyond anything they ever imagined: the twelve-million-year-old bones of Danuvius guggenmosi make headlines around the world. This ancient ape defies prevailing theories of human history—his skeletal adaptations suggest a new common ancestor between apes and humans, one that dwelled in Europe, not Africa. Might the great apes that traveled from Africa to Europe before Danuvius’s time be the key to understanding our own origins? 

All this and more is explored in Ancient Bones. Using her expertise as a paleoclimatologist and paleontologist, Böhme pieces together an awe-inspiring picture of great apes that crossed land bridges from Africa to Europe millions of years ago, evolving in response to the challenging conditions they found. 

She also takes us behind the scenes of her research, introducing us to former theories of human evolution (complete with helpful maps and diagrams), and walks us through musty museum overflow storage where she finds forgotten fossils with yellowed labels, before taking us along to the momentous dig where she and the team unearthed Danuvius guggenmosi himself—and the incredible reverberations his discovery caused around the world.

Praise for Ancient Bones:

Readable and thought-provoking. Madelaine Böhme is an iconoclast whose fossil discoveries have challenged long-standing ideas on the origins of the ancestors of apes and humans.”—Steve Brusatte, New York Times-bestselling author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

“An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, and exceptionally thought-provoking read.”—Midwest Book Review

“An impressive introduction to the burgeoning recalibration of paleoanthropology.”—Kirkus Reviews(starred review)

About the authors

Madelaine Böhme's profile page

Jane Billinghurst holds an M.A. in German and Philosophy from Oxford University and is the author of numerous nonfiction books, including Temptress: From the Original Bad Girls to Women on Top. She is also an editor and has been the director of Simon Fraser University's Summer Book Editing Workshop. She lives in Anacortes, Washington, where she can often be found tending her foxgloves and forget-me-nots or relaxing in a garden chair.

Jane Billinghurst's profile page

Rüdiger Braun's profile page

Florian Breier's profile page

David R. Begun's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Selected by Alexander McCall-Smith as a Book of the Year for the New Statesmen

“Splendid and important …. Scientifically rigorous and written with a clarity and candor that create a gripping tale … [Bo?hme’s] account of the history of Europe’s lost apes is imbued with the sweat, grime, and triumph that is the lot of the fieldworker, and carries great authority.”
Tim FlanneryThe New York Review of Books

“[A]ncient mysteries, serendipitous discoveries, feuding experts, and scientific breakthroughs, all unfolding like a richly detailed detective story…”
Booklist, starred review

“In this exciting investigation into the long and ancient path of humans, the authors explore the connections among evolution, climate, and environment… An impressive introduction to the burgeoning recalibration of paleoanthropology.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Bohme and her colleagues are wonderful storytellers. They present a complex tale that features a daunting number of moving parts with all the local colour, humour and narrative pace of a well-written mystery novel.”
Vancouver Sun

“An inherently fascinating, impressively informative, and exceptionally thought-provoking read...Ancient Bones is expertly written, organized and presented, making it a critically important and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and college/university library.”
Midwestern Book Review

“As outspoken as it is readable.”

“Part Sherlock Holmes, part Indiana Jones, Ancient Bones is an entertaining and provocative retelling of the human evolutionary story. Böhme's hypotheses—written with enthusiasm and clarity—will be scientifically scrutinized for decades to come.”
Jeremy DeSilva, author of First Steps: How Upright Walking Made Us Human

“Madelaine Bohme is an iconoclast, and her fossil discoveries have challenged long-standing ideas on the origins of the ancestors of apes and humans. She lays it all out in this readable and thought-provoking book, which goes to show that new fossil clues always have the potential to generate new ideas.”
Steve Brusatte, University of Edinburgh paleontologist and New York Times-bestselling author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

“In pursuit of an intriguing if controversial theory of distant human origins, Madelaine Böhme and her colleagues very readably unearth some fascinating history and evoke all the excitement that is inherent in modern paleoanthropological research.”
Ian Tattersall, co-author of The Accidental Homo sapiens: Genetics, Behavior, and Free Will.

“An enthralling journey through time and around the world to untangle the complexities of ape and human evolution. Prof. Boehme skilfully intertwines scientific description with the history of fossil discovery and investigation to explain the evolution and biology of our closest relatives. Sometimes controversial but always exciting and engaging, this book is essential reading for those who want to explore alternative perspectives on our origins.”
Sarah Elton, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology, Durham University

“This book expresses perfectly the excitement of discovering ancestral lineages in our genus. It is a colorful, personal account of research into one of the most basic interests of our species—our origins and our close extinct relatives.”
Dr. Robert DeSalle, principal investigator, Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics

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