For those interested in unknown primates, the subject of paleoanthropology should be a subject of great interest. After all, sasquatches came from some lineage in the paleoanthropological family tree, so the more we learn about our ancient ancestory, the more we learn about sasquatches and the other undiscovered hominoids. It is with this focus that I eagerly devoured Tattersall’s 2015 book, The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack: and Other Cautionary Tales from Human Evolution.
The book’s author, Ian Tattersall, is the Curator Emeritus in the Division of Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Though he started his schooling specializing in lemurs, his life’s journey has twisted and turned enough to find himself in a prominent and influential position well-earned through experience and publication.
The book is a chronological tale of the history of paleoanthropology, its major players, and their specific discoveries from Aristotle and the other Greek anatomists through to the most active players in the field in 2015. Significantly, this includes the discovery of Homo floresiensis, though much more work has been done on those fossil hominins since the publication of the book. Credit must be given to Tattersall for his acknowledgment that these Floresian “Hobbits” were strangely archaic in morphology, and begging for a closer look, even back when he was writing the book.
I found the book’s story to be a fascinating one, and hugely pertinent to sasquatch studies. Since sasquatches are real animals, they, like humans, have ancestors represented in the fossil record. Much can be learned about sasquatches simply by studying those bipedal hominins that came before them (and the same can be said about humans, which is why paleoanthropology is such an important and interesting science).
Much of the book shows how some stubborn ideas became ingrained into the scientific paradigms of the day. One such idea repeatedly mentioned in the book is the “One Species Hypothesis,” which in paleoanthropology means that there can only be one “human-type” animal existing in an area at a time. The newer type would move in and drive the previous, more archaic species to extinction. For example, it was thought for decades that neanderthals were the direct predecessor to modern humans, and that when we came on the scene, we made the neanderthals go extinct. We now know this is not exactly true (though our arrival may have played a role in driving them to extinction), and that neanderthals were a distinct side branch on the evolutionary tree rather than our predecessor, but this example does illustrate the ill-fated idea of the “One Species Hypothesis.”
Tattersall shows how the Single Species Hypothesis is no longer thought to be true, so he notes that numerous species of pre-human hominins lived concurrently on the planet, and indeed in the same areas at the same time. Curiously, he states unequivocally, more than once in the book that humans are the only hominin left alive on the planet. I guess I can’t blame him, but he is sure in for a surprise!
For anyone interested in the sasquatch subject who loves the science behind mystery, I fully recommend this book. The overview of paleoanthropology is succinct and enlightening. The scientific language is digestible, not putting too many of the terms far above the head of the reader. Tattersall’s writing style is fully accessible to most scientifically-literate readers and laymen alike.
To purchase this book, click this link, or on the picture of the book cover above.