Reviewed by Thomas Brown
When a new discovery about our human origins is made, it always garners headlines. Today new discoveries quickly become intertwined with forensics as scientists use an increasing array of tools to shed light on our human past. This book provides an excellent review of the variety of disciplines that come into play as scientists try to piece together the puzzle surrounding each new discovery. Any teacher who wants to show how a variety of scientific tools are used to find answers to questions about new paleontological finds will find this book to be an excellent resource.
The book details the science behind our present understanding of Kennewick Man, a skeletal find in Oregon that has changed our present perspective about our human ancestors' migration to North America. This find has caused us to push back man’s arrival to an earlier point than had been previously hypothesized. As Kennewick Man’s story unfolds, the reader is taught about a variety of scientific tools that are now used in paleontology. From the use of CT scans to find out what may have killed this individual, to the use of radioactive isotopes for dating him, to the use of chemistry to identify certain chemicals in the bones as a means of understanding how Kennewick Man survived in the sediments for so long, this book illustrates how scientists use many different tools in their work. Along the way, the author and the readers meet the scientists and others who have tried to discover Kennewick Man’s past and learn about their accomplishments as well as their challenges. Each chapter leads the individual through the various efforts made over many years to piece together the entire story. By the time that the book ends, the reader is left in awe of how much science can teach us about a pile of bones found in a riverbed. They also are able to look upon the reconstructed face of Kennewick Man based on the science that was explained throughout the book.
This book would provide a wonderful resource for any biology teacher. Besides helping any teacher better understand the forensic science used in paleontology, the book provides a list of additional resources that could be used to learn even more about how the secrets of Kennewick Man and other paleontological finds are revealed.
Review posted on 10/10/2012