This book brings to light nine stories that took place before history began to be recorded. Each story is told from the standpoint of our forebears from the distant past and with the help of a palaeoanthropologist who knows them well and has helped others appreciate them. The author imagines aliens landing on Earth to assess whether living beings have attained a sufficient degree of self-awareness and cognizance of their origins – in short, whether they genuinely understand evolution. The answers to their questions lie in nine manuscripts discovered by the visitors and whose protagonists are: Lucy, the world’s most famous specimen of Australopithecus; the Neanderthals of Circeo; the Altamura Man; Ötzi, the iceman from the Alps; and many other ancestors of ours. With an effortless narrative style, the author explains, on the one hand, how science is able to reconstruct and interpret deep time history and, on the other, how it improves our comprehension of our identity and place in nature. Only this awareness can lead us to overcome the challenges that face humanity and which stem from our own cumbersome presence on Earth.
Giorgio Manzi teaches Anthropology at the Sapienza University in Rome, is a member of the Italian Accademia dei Lincei, and is a former general secretary of the Italian Institute of Human Palaeontology.