Jon Kalb

This is a genre-buster if ever there was one. Austin paleontologist Jon Kalb set out to chronicle his seven years of fossil hunting in Africa in the seventies, but the final product is far more than "science adventurism" (his term). The subtitle, though a bit daunting— The Race to Discover Human Ancestors in Ethiopia's Afar Depression —helps conjure the dusty romance of paleontology and the enduring thrill of great discoveries by the likes of Louis Leakey. But Kalb's book encompasses more. In an easy style that is scholarly but entertaining, the author interweaves his memories of the forbidding Afar nomads who wander the fossil-rich plains; the war and desperation that ravaged the rest of the country; and the petty egotism that drove many of his colleagues. He even throws in a few wild-animal stories (camp-threatening lions, for one) and celebrity anecdotes (he dined with Haile Selassie). Like the fossil beds Kalb once explored, Adventures in the Bone Trade is crammed with valuable bits and pieces—some on the surface, some buried deep below.

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