The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack

  • by Ian Tattersall
  • Narrated by Tom Perkins
  • 9 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In his new book, The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack, human paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall argues that a long tradition of "human exceptionalism" in paleoanthropology has distorted the picture of human evolution. Drawing partly on his own career - from young scientist in awe of his elders to crotchety elder statesman - Tattersall offers an idiosyncratic look at the competitive world of paleoanthropology, beginning with Charles Darwin 150 years ago, continuing through the Leakey dynasty in Africa, and concluding with the latest astonishing findings in the Caucasus. The book's title refers to the 1856 discovery of a clearly very old skull cap in Germany's Neander Valley. The possessor had a brain as large as a modern human but a heavy, low braincase with a prominent brow ridge. Scientists tried hard to explain away the inconvenient possibility that this was not actually our direct relative. One extreme interpretation suggested that the preserved leg bones were curved by both rickets and by a life on horseback. The pain of the unfortunate individual's affliction had caused him to chronically furrow his brow in agony, leading to the excessive development of bone above the eye sockets. The subsequent history of human evolutionary studies is full of similarly fanciful interpretations.


What the Critics Say

"An opinionated, authoritative, and delightfully provocative account of efforts to make sense of human fossil discoveries." (Kirkus Starred Review)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

only useful for people with evolutionary knowledge

What made the experience of listening to The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack the most enjoyable?

the way he goes explains/draws a picture of the fossils he is talking about. it might not be 100% but the picture he draws using his 40+ years of experience is very insightful

If you’ve listened to books by Ian Tattersall before, how does this one compare?


What about Tom Perkins’s performance did you like?

favorite audio voice!

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

toothless north Caucasus fossil

Any additional comments?

an additional book(recommendation) that could explain more of the chemistry or geological differences in the periods of time he is talking about,

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- victor

its Tattersall's style, what else can I say.

silly fun and interesting for people totally sold to this field. I will buy more.
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- Astra

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-28-2015
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio