Bones, Rocks and Stars:
The Science of When Things Happened

Chris Turney

Macmillan 2006
A book review by Danny Yee © 2009
Bones, Rocks and Stars contains eleven pieces on different topics which involve dating: the Julian and Gregorian calendars; the attempt to identify a historical King Arthur; the medieval forgery of the Turin Shroud; the alignment of the Egyptian pyramids; the Santorini volcanic explosion; tree-rings and comet impacts; Ice Ages and their timings; megafauna extinctions; hominid fossil finds in Java and Flores; the location of the K-T impact crater; and the geological discovery of deep time. These are popular and accessible topics, largely independent, and Turney presents them clearly and entertainingly.

Different dating methods and techniques are introduced as needed and presented only very superficially. As seems to be mandatory for popular science these days, there are no equations or anything else that might scare readers. There isn't even anything approaching an explanation of isotopes! The result is too dumbed down for my liking and would best suit elementary or junior high school students — though I can't help thinking that neutrons could be introduced even at that level.

Turney is a geologist who has been directly involved in some of the work he describes, and he communicates the sense of excitement and discovery well. Many of his pieces involve historical events and the analysis of historical sources as well as scientific dating methods; here he does a pretty good job venturing into other fields. Bones, Rocks and Stars should attract and inspire readers with interests in history, archaeoastronomy, paleontology, and other fields, not just geology.

July 2009

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%T Bones, Rocks and Stars
%S The Science of When Things Happened
%A Turney, Chris
%I Macmillan
%D 2006
%O hardcover, further reading, index
%G ISBN 1403985995
%P 182pp