The Skull in the Rock: How a Scientist, a Boy, and Google Earth Opened a New Window on Human Origins
by Lee R. Berger and Marc Aronson
Intermediate National Geographic 64 pp.
9/12 978-1-4263-1010-2 $18.95
Library ed. 978-1-4263-1053-9 $27.90
Paleontologist Berger, working in the fossil-rich hills near Johannesburg, South Africa (often accompanied by his young son, Matthew), has made some key contributions to the field. His and Matthew’s most recent find, referred to in the title, gave scientists a nearly intact skeleton from a new species, Australopithecus sediba. Detailed accounts of advances in the field and the technology used to support paleontology research, including satellite imagery that gave new perspective to old sites, are intertwined with the story of Berger’s not-always-straightforward path to a scientific career. Additional information about the period in natural history to which Australopithecus sediba belonged, the fossil-dating key to establishing the relative ages of the fossils, and the uncertainties Berger still has about this very recent find show readers science almost as it is happening, bringing us ever closer to the missing links in the “braided stream” of hominin evolution. The story is greatly enhanced by illustrative material, which includes photographs of Berger; the research site from which the fossils were extracted; the fossils themselves, both in situ in the rocks and later reconstructed in skeletal form; and striking facial reconstructions of these ancient ancestors. Suggestions for further reading, a glossary, and an index are appended.
From the November/December 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.