The Last Lost World by Lydia V. Pyne
Ice Ages, Human Origins, and the Invention of the Pleistocene

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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.


About Lydia V. Pyne

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LYDIA V. PYNE is a lecturer at Drexel University. She has an MA and PhD in the history and philosophy of science, and an MA degree in anthropology. Her father, STEPHEN J. PYNE, is a historian in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. He is the award-winning author of Voyager, Year of the Fires, and How the Canyon Became Grand. Visit
Published June 14, 2012 by Penguin Books. 314 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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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.

May 15 2012 | Read Full Review of The Last Lost World: Ice Ages...

Publishers Weekly

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 Father and daughter historians Lydia Pyne (Drexel University) and Stephen Pyne (Year of the Fires) argue that, in the 19th century, with the development of the notion of the Pleistocene era—from 2.6 million years ago to about 10,000–12,000 years ago, toward the end of which Homo sapiens eme...

Mar 26 2012 | Read Full Review of The Last Lost World: Ice Ages...

Open Letters Monthly

The Last Lost World: Ice Ages, Human Origins, and the Invention of the Pleistocene.

| Read Full Review of The Last Lost World: Ice Ages...

Science News

in colder periods, exotic species rendered Europe, in the words of this father-daughter writing team, “a woolly Serengeti on steroids.” The Last Lost World, however, is not so much about the facts of the Pleistocene as it is about the idea of the Pleistocene — how scientists real...

Sep 21 2012 | Read Full Review of The Last Lost World: Ice Ages...

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