The Ancestor's Tale
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Ancestor's Tale (subtitled A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life) is a 2004 popular science book by Richard Dawkins, with contributions from Dawkins' research assistant Yan Wong. It follows the path of humans backwards through evolutionary history, meeting humanity's cousins as they converge on common ancestors. The book was nominated for the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books.
The narrative is structured as a pilgrimage, with all modern animals following their own path through history to the origin of life. Humans meet their evolutionary cousins at rendezvous points along the way, the points at which the lineage diverged. At each point Dawkins attempts to infer, from molecular and fossil evidence, the probable form of the most recent common ancestor and describes the modern animals that join humanity's growing travelling party. This structure is inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.