Academic journal article Science Scope

Skull in the Rock

Academic journal article Science Scope

Skull in the Rock

Article excerpt

By Lee R. Berger and Marc Aronson. 2012. 64 pp. $18.95. National Geographic Society.

Washington, D.C. ISBN: 9781426310102. (Grades 6-12)

The narrative opens with an unlikely event that will surely act as a hook for readers of all ages. A nine-year-old boy, Matthew Berger, is accompanying his father, paleontologist and professor Lee Berger, on a fossil dig near the family's home in Johannesburg, South Africa. Matthew calls his father's attention to what appears to be a fossil. Lee Berger is astonished to see that it is a human clavicle, and further discovery of a nearly complete skeleton from this two-million-year-old individual leads to the identification of a significant and unexpected human ancestor. The new prehuman find, named Australopithecus sediba, displays an apelike brain size and arm bones, but humanlike hands and front teeth.

This book succeeds on many levels. A student researcher looking for a concise history of discoveries in human evolution will find a time line with clear explanations. The notion that a child could be an important member of a scientific discovery team becomes quite plausible when one learns how young Matthew has a trained eye for spotting fossils.

The authors explain the traditional methods of determining a fossil's age and proceed to more modern techniques, including a fascinating description of the French synchrotron, an x-ray generating particle accelerator that Berger used to learn many details about sediba. …

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