Hominin Crossroads

Author Mark A. Weaver is working on a new book about human ancestors, "Hominin Crossroads," about three contemporaneous hominin species, Australopithecus africanus, Paranthropus aethiopicus, and Homo habilis, living some 2-2.5 million years ago. Here is a brief early excerpt, taken from the three's first encounter of one another:


A small rise separated her from whatever it was that had attracted the vultures’ attention, and when she crested the little hill, beyond some low bushes and shrubs Twig could indeed see what looked like a carcass up ahead. She approached stealthily, warily, acutely aware that there might be killers at the site. Creeping from bush to bush, she finally came to the spot, and gripping her spear tightly in throwing position, she sprang out from the last bush and sized up the scene in a heart-pounding instant. 

It was a dead grazer, all right, and a large whole one, barely touched. But that was not what stopped her cold and made her jaw drop. What did was…unbelievable. It was a male strider, standing there staring at her, with his mouth open, too. Well, he looked like a strider, anyway…yet different, in some indefinable way, from all the ones she had ever known. He also carried a spear, a well-made one by the look of it, but he held it at his side, and thus she had the better of him. If he made a move toward her, or the grazer, he would be a dead strider…or whatever he was. 

The moment stretched out, but then suddenly Twig became aware of something—large, by the sound of it—moving toward them through the grass on the other side of the little bluff. The strange male heard it too and cast a brief glance in that direction before returning his astonished face to her. She gripped her spear even tighter, fearing that the killer was coming back for its meal, but when the beast stepped out from around the little rise, she nearly dropped the spear in utter amazement. 

It looked vaguely like a strider, but abnormally…robust. Thick muscles bulged from its great arms and legs, and it had a huge, rather pointy head, covered with shaggy black fur as was the rest of its brawny body. The creature, obviously a male, carried what looked like a spear, but then she realized he held it more like a walking or digging stick. She saw that the male she had encountered first was now gaping at this new arrival, too, but he glanced back at her, and his look of bewilderment was so profound it was almost funny. But this huge unknown being, not really ape or strider, had unnerved her far too much to find anything amusing right now. 

Twig stared at the creature, fear rising, while it stared back and then shifted its own dumbfounded gaze to the male strider, then back to her again. She readied herself, either to run or launch her spear, when yet another incredible thing happened: the huge hairy creature smiled.    [July, 2016]

Look for Hominin Crossroads in 2017.

"Lucy Lives: A Novel Look At Early Human Evolution"  is now available for purchase at the bookstore of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Lucy is in excellent company at the museum...to her left is "Lucy's Legacy" by Don Johanson!


Lucy Lives: A Novel Look At Early Human Evolution by Mark A. Weaver

ABOVE: Au. africanus (Ples), H. habilis (Twig)

LEFT: P. aethiopicus (the Black Skull)

Lucy Lives​ at the American Museum of Natural History