A Word in Your Ear: The Dinosaur Hunters and Before the Flood
Saturday 03 August 2002
Most of us are familiar with the background of the story Deborah Cadbury tells in The Dinosaur Hunters (HarperCollins, c.3 hrs, £8.99): the challenge presented by the fossils discovered in the 19th century in English coastal cliffs and quarries to the Biblical idea that God made the world a few thousand years ago, and their eventual explanation by Darwin's theory of evolution. But she makes it especially interesting by focusing on the personal rivalry between Gideon Mantell and Richard Owen. Andrew Sachs's intelligent reading helps the listener keep track of a crowded stage of characters, but publishers of this sort of book might consider adding a "cast list" to the cover notes. Tim Pigott-Smith succeeds as usual in keeping us glued to the headphones while he reads Tim Wilson's Before the Flood (Orion, c.7 hrs, £12.99), an intriguing and compelling thesis that there was indeed a major flood about 5,000BC, caused by a swing in global temperatures that resulted in massive melting of the polar icecaps. All the Bible was wrong about was the world beforehand. In fact, its main feature was a magnificent civilisation of warrior women, busty, big-bottomed and feisty, who did the talking and fighting while men looked after the house and forged iron swords. Wilson knits together myths as various as Jason, the Amazons and Atlanta into a convincing explanation of puzzlingly ancient dates now proved for civilisations excavated in the Dead Sea, Malta, Turkey and Tunisia.
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