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Reviews of Adventures in the Bone Trade


Science News, 12/09/2000: "In this riveting, first person account, Kalb relates how his brash geological expedition paved the way for a series of the most significant discoveries in modern archaeology. . . . Kalb remained on the front lines of efforts to extract the desolate region's closely guarded keys to the human past. In this gripping memoir he tells the sometimes terrifying tale of that search."

Choice, July, 2001: "Kalb's rip-roaring tale of the clash of titan egos . . . . Kalb is engaging precisely because he presents the search for early hominid fossils novelistically, with no attempt to mask his own blemishes. . . . As Kalb documents [Afar] discoveries such as the bones of 'Lucy' . . . he makes his readers lust, sweat, swear, and connive with the expatriate adventurers.".

Athena Review, 2002: "Jon Kalb has made trememdous contributions to East African geology and paleontology. His dedication to the field of paleoanthropology and his resultant achievements, however, prompted others to usurp his research area in Ethiopia and make false claims about his reason for being in the country. In Adventures in the Bone Trade, Kalb vividly describes Ethiopia in an engaging narrative style, filled with historical facts, yet makes the reader feel fully part of the action. While reading this book, one perceives the intricate life of city markets (figs. 1,2), and becomes personally acquainted with people of the Afar region (fig 3). Ethiopia is rich in both prehistory and history (figs. 4,5), and Kalb's book is sprinkled with Ethiopian stories that serve as a history lession to all interested in learning more about this Land of Punt. . . . Kalb's dedicated approach to research, publishing, and most of all, collaborating with others was perceived as a threat. Kalb was told from the very beginning to be careful, but he had one problem: he trusted his colleagues. This book is a must read for anyone interested in paleoanthropology."

Natural History, 2002: "Jon Kalb's engrossing account of discovery and disappointment in the Afar region of Ethiopia may be one of the best first-person accounts of finding human fossils ever written . . . In these pages, we are backstage for some of the great scenes in human paleontology . . ."

American Anthropologist, 2002: "For years, Jon Kalb's 'adventures' with early hominid discoveries have been the stuff of legend and lawsuit in anthropology. Here, Kalb tells his version of the events surrounding some of the most spectacular hominid-bearing sites in Ethiopia. Starting in 1971, Kalb worked in Ethiopia as a geologist and lived in Addis Ababa with his wife and young daughters. Fascinated by the triple rift junction, he criss-crossed the Afar and Middle Awash regions of Ethiopia and personally discovered and worked on many important archaeological and paleontological sites."

Faculty of Science, Addis Ababa University, 2001: "The quest for human origins in Ethiopia has been replete both with spectacular discoveries and infamous personal acrimonies. . . . It is therefore a matter of considerable interest that one of those who participated in the 'scramble' of the 1970s has finally penned down for us his [Jon Kalb] reconstruction of those momentous events - with all the heroism and the villainy that they so ironically combined. . . . the author has done a commendable job in giving us in as comprehensive a fashion as possible his version of a contentious story. The hope is that both the scientists and the state authorities and the scientific foundations would learn something from this and help redeem paleontological research in the Awash basin from the disrepute into which it has fallen, despite its phenomenal achievements." -Bahru Zewde, Professor of History, Addis Ababa University

Texas Monthly, January 2001: "This is a genre-buster if there ever was one. . . 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."

California Wild Magazine, Winter 2002: "This firsthand account of the people who have helped shape the study of human origins makes for an enlightening case study into how paleoanthropology gets done outside the ivory tower and down in the trenches. . . .One of the most admirable aspects of this book is his genuine concern for the Ethiopian people. Kalb emphasizes that fieldwork should be more than just 'fossil-mining,' and attempts to incorporate and train local people to find, curate, and analyze the fossils and artifacts collected from their own country."

The Washington Post Book World, 02/11/2001: "What distinguishes [ADVENTURES IN THE BONE TRADE] is its blend of the long-dead and the contemporary; alongside the story of the region's paleohistory and geography, Kalb sets a less pretty tale of the jealousies and rivalries among the bone hunters he knew and worked with. Moving from the geological to the geo-political, he also provides the reader with a field scientist's careful record of the events that deposed Haile 1974 and later led the region into civil war and famine -- calamities.that touched Kalb and his work directly and indirectly in many ways."

Discover Magazine , 03/2001: "Geologist-paleontologist Kalb blends 19th-century-style travelogue and up-to-date science in a lively memoir of his work in a fossil-rich region of Africa."

The Herald (National Peace Corps Assoc.), Spring 2001: "There is a good deal of human detail in ADVENTURES IN THE BONE TRADE, from camping right in the middle of a major caravan route . . .to one of [Jon Kalb's] colleagues , , ,becoming a feasting ground for mosquitoes. All in all, this is a fascinating read, as both history and as a scientific adventure in discovery of predecessors to human and modern human conflict."

Scientific American, 03/2001: "Kalb tells the story of his work, the scientific infighting, and the political turmoil in Ethiopia during his years there with verve and thoroughness."

The Dallas Morning News, 12/18/2000: ". . . recounts the author's first-hand experience with the search for hominid fossils in East Africa in the 1970s -- complete with geological and historical background on the region, details on the fierce battle between competing scientific egos and descriptions of life in Ethiopia during after the 1974 overthrow of Emperor Haile Sellassie."

American Journal of Physical Anthropology, June, 2001: "The book is engagingly written and grabs the reader right away. Sprinkled throughout the Preface are words and phrases such as "bloodletting," "backstabbing," "cutthroat," "red terror," and "brutal tyrant" (pp. vii-viii). This lexicon, I presume, was a conscious choice by the author to start your blood racing and get your fingers page-turning. The language is often earthy and there was no attempt to ignore events that were less than socially acceptable."

Faculty of Science, Addis Ababa University, 2001: "Kalb's pioneering work in the Afar is respectable. His contribution to the paleontological/paleoanthropological studies of the Afar region is of great significance. His sufferings are saddening. Ethiopians must be ashamed of what happened, and it must never be repeated on others. He has written a book which every one studying prehistory and Ethiopia must read." -Solomon Yirga, D.Sc.

Journal of Anthropological Research, May, 2001: "The last decade has seen a proliferation of popular books on human evolution, many of which offer few new insights on their subject matter. Fortunately, Kalb's book departs from the trend and presents an important, richly varied, and highly readable account. . . . Kalb's portrayal of his enjoyment of fieldwork and the excitement of making discoveries are.delightful and add zest to an engrossing story. He interlaces his accounts of fieldwork at Hadar and the Middle Awash with numerous dryly humorous anecdotes. . . . Kalb weaves diverse threads together into a very readable and informative text. Anyone interested in human evolution, Paleolithic archaeology, East Africa, the history of anthropological science, or Western science in the Third World should read this book."

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