The Last Lost World

The Last Lost World

Ice Ages, Human Origins, and the Invention of the Pleistocene

Additional Formats
  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781101583685
  • 320 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


An enlightening investigation of the Pleistocene’s dual character as a geologic time—and as a cultural idea

The Pleistocene is the epoch of geologic time closest to our own. It’s a time of ice ages, global migrations, and mass extinctions—of woolly rhinos, mammoths, giant ground sloths, and not least early species of Homo. It’s the world that created ours.

But outside that environmental story there exists a parallel narrative that describes how our ideas about the Pleistocene have emerged. This story explains the place of the Pleistocene in shaping intellectual culture, and the role of a rapidly evolving culture in creating the idea of the Pleistocene and in establishing its dimensions. This second story addresses how the epoch, its Earth-shaping events, and its creatures, both those that survived and those that disappeared, helped kindle new sciences and a new origins story as the sciences split from the humanities as a way of looking at the past.

Ultimately, it is the story of how the dominant creature to emerge from the frost-and-fire world of the Pleistocene came to understand its place in the scheme of things. A remarkable synthesis of science and history, The Last Lost World describes the world that made our modern one.



"Daughter-and-father historians of science pretty fully justify their profession in this brilliant explanation of the most recent geological epoch […] For science mavens of a philosophical bent, this may be the book of the year, a font of knowledge and, what’s more and better, intellectual exercise." — Booklist

“Written in clear, supple prose, this title will interest historians, anthropologists, and anyone fascinated by the Ice Ages, human evolution, and the history of science and culture.”
Library Journal

“Lasting from about 3 million to 10,000 years ago, the Pleistocene is both a geological epoch and an idea, write science historians Stephen Pyne (Voyager: Exploration, Space, and the Third Great Age of Discovery, 2011, etc.) and his daughter Lydia, who proceed to deliver a perceptive account of both."
Kirkus Reviews

“[Pyne] and his daughter dig right into the subject of the tumultuous, fascinating Pleistocene and do […] a lively, bang-up job of it.”
Open Letters Monthly
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