The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey

The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey: Unearthing the Origins of Monkeys, Apes, and Humans

CHRIS BEARD
ILLUSTRATIONS BY MARK KLINGLER
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 363
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppk93
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  • Book Info
    The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey
    Book Description:

    Taking us back roughly 45 million years into the Eocene, "the dawn of recent life," Chris Beard, a world-renowned expert on the primate fossil record, offers a tantalizing new perspective on our deepest evolutionary roots. In a fast-paced narrative full of vivid stories from the field, he reconstructs our extended family tree, showing that the first anthropoids-the diverse and successful group that includes monkeys, apes, and humans-evolved millions of years earlier than was previously suspected and emerged in Asia rather than Africa. InThe Hunt for the Dawn Monkey,Beard chronicles the saga of two centuries of scientific exploration in search of anthropoid origins, from the early work of Georges Cuvier, the father of paleontology, to the latest discoveries in Asia, Africa, and North America's Rocky Mountains. Against this historical backdrop, he weaves the story of how his own expeditions have unearthed crucial fossils-including the controversial primateEosimias-that support his compelling new vision of anthropoid evolution. The only book written for a wide audience that explores this remote phase of our own evolutionary history,The Hunt for the Dawn Monkeyadds a fascinating new chapter to our understanding of humanity's relationship to the rest of life on earth.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94025-3
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. 1 Missing Links and Dawn Monkeys
    (pp. 1-28)

    In rural China, the highest compliment you can get is not that you’re attractive or smart. It’s that you work really hard. As I shift to stay in the scant midday shade offered by a deep ravine on the northern bank of the Yellow River, this proletarian attitude makes a lot of sense. When I left the United States earlier this month, spring had barely begun. Checking the calendar in my field notebook, I see that it’s only mid May—too early in the season for a heat wave. Yet for the past few days, my team has endured triple...

  6. 2 Toward Egypt’s Sacred Bull
    (pp. 29-60)

    In the northern suburbs of Paris lies an artistic district known as Montmartre (“mount of the martyrs”). The area takes its name from events that transpired in the third century A.D., when a small cadre of Christian missionaries was dispatched to the Gallo-Roman city of Lutece, as Paris was known at the time. The prominence of Roman Catholicism throughout subsequent French history testifies to the effectiveness of these early evangelists in converting the local population. Yet, as might have been expected, the group’s missionary zeal also contributed to their own downfall. Local pagan priests conspired with the ruling Roman authorities...

  7. 3 A Gem from the Willwood
    (pp. 61-86)

    In 1880, most of Wyoming Territory lay, at least proverbially, at the ends of the earth. This was particularly true of Wyoming’s northern two thirds, a remote and sparsely populated region that had been deliberately bypassed by the Union Pacific Railroad, whose completion about a decade earlier had brought both economic stimulus and rapid and reliable transportation to Wyoming’s southern tier. The railroad’s decision not to challenge the rugged terrain of northern Wyoming matched that of most early visitors to the area. For decades, white settlers had consistently forsaken the region, which they trudged across in covered wagons in their...

  8. 4 The Forest in the Sahara
    (pp. 87-114)

    On the fringe of Egypt’s immense Western Desert, about sixty miles southwest of Cairo, a series of escarpments rises above a brackish lake known as Birket Qarun. In antiquity, the lake provided early Egyptian farmers with the rare opportunity to cultivate crops beyond the narrow strip of arable land lining the Nile Valley. Successive Egyptian dynasties controlled the level of the lake by regulating the flow of water through a canal linking it with the Nile, an indication of their technological prowess. Ancient roads, temples, and other archeological features abound in the surrounding region, a topographic basin known as the...

  9. 5 Received Wisdom
    (pp. 115-141)

    By the late 1980s, paleontologists had been successfully recovering fossil primates for more than 150 years. From the pioneering efforts of Georges Cuvier and Jacob Wortman to the more recent expeditions of Elwyn Simons, a burgeoning inventory of Greek and Latin names charted the latest revelations from the fossil record. Despite the confusing proliferation of new species and genera, the signal concerning our own deep evolutionary history seemed easy enough to decode. The earliest fossil primates from the Eocene all belonged to one of two major groups. The first of these consisted of vaguely lemurlike adapiforms such asAdapisand...

  10. 6 The Birth of a Ghost Lineage
    (pp. 142-166)

    I fell in love with Wyoming the first time I saw the place. Back then, I could never have predicted that Wyoming’s vast, open basin and range country would play such a pivotal role in my career. But this is hardly surprising, since I also had no idea what type of career I might pursue. Like a lot of boys entering their awkward teenage years, I was far more interested in sports than science. Growing up in the 1970s in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, backyard basketball filled most of my free time. Dean Smith and his...

  11. 7 Initial Hints from Deep Time
    (pp. 167-193)

    Fertile fields and hillside vineyards whiz past the window in our compartment on the southbound TGV, the French version of a bullet train. My wife, Sandi, parcels out the food we’ve taken on board for lunch. Adhering to that well-worn maxim about “when in Rome,” we share a freshly baked baguette, some fruit, and a rich assortment of cheeses. Sandi looks out at the passing scenery, seemingly oblivious to the blistering speed we’ve managed to achieve. She has seen this all before, having undertaken several archeological field seasons investigating how Paleolithic humans hunted Ice Age horses in France. It’s a...

  12. 8 Ghost Busters
    (pp. 194-214)

    Less than a month after my return to the United States, I received a telephone call from Rich Kay, a well-known professor of biological anthropology and one of the world’s leading authorities on anthropoid origins. Rich told me that he, Elwyn Simons, and John Fleagle—another expert on primate anatomy and evolution, based at Stony Brook University, on Long Island—had decided to organize an international conference and workshop at Rich and Elwyn’s home institution, Duke University. According to Rich, the rationale for the conference was obvious. Given the multiple theories of anthropoid origins that were being espoused, as well...

  13. 9 Resurrecting the Ghost
    (pp. 215-245)

    Dusk still alters the scope and pace of daily activities in rural China, just as it affected countless human generations before the era of rural electrification projects. As I stroll the main avenue of Yuanqu, the county seat of this part of Shanxi Province, its nonfunctional street lamps actually work to my advantage. The hour is still early, and many of the locals are outdoors, promenading with their family and friends after the evening meal. For awei guo ren(foreigner) like me, this is the best time to get out and see the sights. Even along the town’s busiest...

  14. 10 Into the African Melting Pot
    (pp. 246-276)

    According to the renowned philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, science does not progress by marching slowly and steadily toward enlightenment. Rather, scientific advances occur in fits and starts. Most of the time, scientists go about their business in workmanlike fashion. They labor to reconcile assorted classes of data and observations with the organizing principles that dictate how their field of science operates. Occasionally, these long interludes of “normal science” are punctuated by dramatic intellectual transformations, which Kuhn called “ paradigm shifts.” Whenever one of these paradigm shifts occurs, the old way of thinking gets discarded, often over the objections of...

  15. 11 Paleoanthropology and Pithecophobia
    (pp. 277-294)

    W hen it comes to figuring out where we stand with respect to the rest of Earth’s biotic diversity, we humans have always looked at nature through a narcissistic lens. It seems obvious that humans are special. The prevalence of this view comes as no great surprise, given that ours is the only literate, verbally gifted species on the planet. Alternative opinions—if they exist—have never been voiced or written down, at least not by the principals involved.

    Prior to the Darwinian revolution, organized religions justified the concept that humanity stood apart from all other life forms. According to...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 295-312)
  17. References Cited
    (pp. 313-330)
  18. Index
    (pp. 331-348)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 349-349)