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The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack

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The Rickety Cossack - an ancient and heavily fossilized human skeleton discovered in Germany's Neander Valley in 1856 - was found before Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, and its unfamiliar appearance was explained in various bizarre ways. One scientist propsed the remains were those of a Cossack horseman with rickets, which had caused him to furrow his brow in agony leading to hyperdevelopment of the bone above his eyes.

in the absence of an evolutionary context, this fanciful interpretation was perhaps forgiveable. But, alas, it wasn't the last. In The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack and Other Cautionary Tales From Human Evolution, paleoanthropologist and primatologist Ian Tattersall argues that a long tradition of "human exceptionalism" in the study of our fossil record has distorted perceptions of our origins, encouraging us to believe that we are the product of a long, slow process of improvement. Tattersall explains how this outlook has led us to see ourselves as a perfected product, when in reality our evolutionary journey has been far more complex than that. 

Drawing partly on his own career - from a young scientist in awe of his elders to crotchety elder statesman - Tattersall offers an idiosyncratic look back at the competetive world of paleoanthropology from before the days of Darwin, continuing through the Leakey dynasty in Africa, and concluding with the latest astonishing findings in the Caucasus.

Ian Tattersall is Curator Emeritus in the Division of Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History. The author of many books, including the widely praised Masters of the Planet, he is often interviewed about human evolution in the media and speaks around the world. 

Author: Ian Tattersall
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Publishing Date: June, 2015
Hardcover: 256 pages