As humans, we are aware of ourselves. We each have a strong sense of self that emanates from our unique consciousness, and which seems to naturally lead us to ask questions about who we are, and where we come from. Like no other animal, we seem to have a very deep-seated need to know ourselves. For thousands of years, humans have attempted to answer questions about our origin, our place in the natural world, and our relationship with other forms of life. Religion and philosophy may provide one way of exploring these questions, but science leads us to look for evidence and answers in the world around us, and within us. This empirical approach to age-old questions has revealed extraordinary secrets from our past, allowing us to reach far back in time to investigate our family tree and to meet long-dead ancestors. An evolutionary perspective offers us a deep and rich understanding of ourselves, and places us, as a species, in our own biological and ecological context. We are primates, and this book starts by introducing our living relatives in this group. The next chapter takes us back to the roots of the human family tree, and we meet our ancestors. The Kennis brothers—whose artful reconstructions I have long admired—have produced a host of extraordinary, lifelike, 3D portraits of our ancient relatives. Then we look at the expansion of ancient and modern human species out of Africa, and move on to examine changes in human lifestyles and subsistence as the Ice Age drew to close, and finally to trace the emergence of ancient civilizations across the globe. This is not a story of an inexorable rise to power, to worldwide domination and dominion over the rest of the natural world. It is not a story of an inevitable and linear progression, from a life in the trees to great civilizations. Evolution through natural selection may tend to produce greater diversity and complexity over time, but that is not the same thing as “progress.” Evolution unfolds in unpredictable and surprising ways, and it is both humbling and wonderful to realize that there was nothing inevitable about the appearance of our own species on earth; serendipity underlies the greatest achievements of our civilizations.