BOOKS: PREHISTORIC POTBOILERS

A PALEOANTHROPOLOGIST CRITIQUES TWO NEW NOVELS IN WHICH MODERN SCIENTISTS MEET ANCIENT HOMINIDS FACE TO FACE

Twist any paleontologist's arm and you'll eventually elicit a fantasy about meeting long-extinct animals in the flesh. That's understandable enough, for fossil bones and teeth are frustratingly mute about so many of the things that made them the living organisms they once were. This is never more true than with the fossils of early hominids. But few paleoanthropologists have actually had the nerve to go public with their most imaginative musings, at least partly because they are so conscious of the gulf between what can and cannot reliably be said.

Novelists, on the other hand, need have no such scruples, and...

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