The Complete Idiot"s Guide to Human Prehistory

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Robert J. Meier. 2003. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Human Prehistory. Alpha Books, New York.

A Complete Idiot? Give me a Break

I gotta admit it up front. Books with the word "idiot" or "dummy" in the title somehow never really appealed to me, for some reason. Shows ya what I know.

Robert J. Meier's "Complete Idiot's Guide to Human Prehistory" is a pleasant surprise. Meier, professor emeritus of anthropology at Indiana University, has a fresh, informal way about him, as he explains the current understandings of human prehistory, beginning with the pre-human species Australopithecines and ending with the great human migrations out of Africa, into Europe, into Asia, into Polynesia, into Australia, and finally into the Americas.

The chapters are well-illustrated. A few of the drawings I thought could have had a bit more information in them, but for the most part they were clear and helpful. Liberally strewn throughout the text are glossary entries and side bars, called "boxes", illuminating a particular topic with Paleofacts (rejecting current mythologies), Paleoquest (describing areas still controversial), Fieldnotes (general enhancements), and Anthropos (mini-biographies of the major scientists). At the end of every chapter is "The Least You Need to Know", essentially a recap of the information just covered.

A Glossary and Bibliography

A glossary is provided at the end of the book, as is a bibliography of additional reading matter and links to good websites for further information.

Of course, you're probably like me, familiar with these sorts of books for computer technology, taxes, and understanding members of the opposite sex. This has had the unfortunate result in that it is difficult to take such books seriously.

However, after reading Meier's book, it seems to me that this type of introduction, if well-written and well-grounded in science, provides interested non-professionals with a painless way to learn about what is, after all, a fascinating subject--human prehistory.

Think of it. Non-academic people reading books like this one to learn and understand more about modern science. What in the world is ridiculous about that?


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