The search for human origins is a fascinating story – from the Middle Ages, when questions of the earth’s antiquity first began to arise, through to the latest genetic discoveries that show the interrelatedness of all living creatures. Central to the story is the part played by fossils – first, in establishing the age of the Earth; then, following Darwin, in the pursuit of possible ‘Missing Links’ that would establish whether or not humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor. John Reader’s passion for this quest – palaeoanthropology – began in the 1960s when he reported for Life Magazine on Richard Leakey’s first fossil-hunting expedition to the badlands of East Turkana, in Kenya. Drawing on both historic and recent research, he tells the fascinating story of the science as it has developed from the activities of a few dedicated individuals, into the rigorous multidisciplinary work of today.
In these videos, John Reader, author of Missing Links: In Search of Human Origins talks about the treasure hunt that is the search for the missing link.
Is it possible to discover the missing link?
What is it like finding the remains of an ancient pre-humanoid?
Can scientists draw firm conclusions from fossil finds?
John Reader is Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University College London. A writer and photographer with more than fifty years of professional experience, his work has included contributions to major international publications, television documentaries and a number of books, including including The Untold History of the Potato, Africa, Pyramids of Life with Harvey Croze, and Rise of Life. His latest book, Missing Links: In Search of Human Origins, published in October 2011. John Reader has previously written about Australopithecus sediba for OUPblog.