9780471252528

The Dawn of Human Culture

Klein, Richard G.

ISBN 10: 0471252522 / 0-471-25252-2
ISBN 13: 9780471252528
Publisher: Wiley
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Hardcover
Editorial Reviews for this title:
Synopsis:
A bold new theory on what sparked the "big bang" of human culture

The abrupt emergence of human culture over a stunningly short period continues to be one of the great enigmas of human evolution. This compelling book introduces a bold new theory on this unsolved mystery. Author Richard Klein reexamines the archaeological evidence and brings in new discoveries in the study of the human brain. These studies detail the changes that enabled humans to think and behave in far more sophisticated ways than before, resulting in the incredibly rapid evolution of new skills. Richard Klein has been described as "the premier anthropologist in the country today" by Evolutionary Anthropology. Here, he and coauthor Blake Edgar shed new light on the full story of a truly fascinating period of evolution.

Richard G. Klein, PhD (Palo Alto, CA), is a Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. He is the author of the definitive academic book on the subject of the origins of human culture, The Human Career. Blake Edgar (San Francisco, CA) is the coauthor of the very successful From Lucy to Language, with Dr. Donald Johanson. He has written extensively for Discover, GEO, and numerous other magazines.


Review:
"The premier anthropologist in the country today."
-Evolutionary Anthropology on Richard Klein

"High above the western shore of Lake Naivasha, a blue pool on the parched floor of East Africa's Great Rift Valley, sits a small rockshelter carved into the Mau Escarpment. Maasai pastoralists who once occupied this region in central Kenya called the place Enkapune Ya Muto, or 'Twilight Cave.' People have long sought shelter there. The cave's sediments record important cultural changes during the past few thousand years, including the first local experiments with agriculture and with sheep and goat domestication. Buried more than three meters deep in the sand, silt, and loam at Enkapune Ya Muto, however, lie the traces of an earlier and even more significant event in human prehistory. Tens of thousands of pieces of obsidian, a jet-black volcanic glass, were long ago fashioned into finger-length knives with scalpel-sharp edges, thumbnail-sized scrapers, and other stone tools, made on the spot at an ancient workshop. But what most impressed archeologist Stanley Ambrose were nearly six hundred fragments of ostrich eggshell, including thirteen that had been fashioned into disk-shaped beads about a quarter-inch in diameter. Forty thousand years ago, a person or persons crouched near the mouth of Enkapune Ya Muto to drill holes through angular fragments of ostrich eggshell and to grind the edges of each piece until only a delicate ring remained. Many shell fragments snapped in half under pressure from the stone drill or from the edge-grinding that followed. The craftspeople discarded each broken piece and began again with a fresh fragment of shell.

"Ambrose believes that these ancient beads played a key role in the survival strategy of the craftspeople and their families. In the Kalahari Desert of Botswana, !Kung San hunter-gatherers still practice a system of gift exchange known as hxaro. Certain items, such as food, are readily shared among the !Kung but never exchanged as gifts. The most appropriate gifts for all occasions just happen to be strands of ostrich eggshell beads. The generic word for gift is synonymous with the !Kung word for sewn beadwork. Although the nomadic !Kung carry the barest minimum of personal possessions, they invest considerable time and energy in creating eggshell beads.

"No one knows whether the toolmakers at Enkapune Ya Muto or the other ancient African sites intended their ostrich eggshell beads to be social gifts. But if these beads were invested with symbolic meaning similar to that of beads among the !Kung, then Twilight Cave may record the dawning of modern human behavior."
-From The Dawn of Human Culture

From the Back Cover

Review:
The Dawn of Human Culture

Some fifty thousand years ago Homo sapiens, the newest branch of a long and varied tree of evolved apes, suddenly developed a remarkable range of new talents. These people-whose primitive stone culture had previously been little different from that of their ancestors-began painting. They invented music and the instruments to play it. They fashioned jewelry and clothing, created fishing poles and tackle as well as bows and arrows, constructed the oldest substantial houses, and buried their dead with ritual and ceremony. This creative explosion, occurring over such a remarkably short period, has been called the "big bang" of human culture.

It was the fourth in a series of punctuated events that have marked the history of human evolution. The first occurred between seven and five million years ago when a group of African apes, in response to shrinking forests and expanding open savannas, began to walk upright. These are the bipedal apes of which Lucy and her kin are the most famous. The next occurred about two and a half million years ago, again during a time of global climatic change resulting in major environmental disruption, when the first stone-tool makers emerged. The third occurred about 1.8 million years ago when humans developed modern body proportions and colonized largely treeless environments for the first time.

So what accelerated our cultural development? What made us who we are?

Now, for the first time, preeminent anthropologist Richard Klein tackles this mystery, one of the great enigmas of our evolution. With Blake Edgar, he works his way forward through time as Homo developed, looking for clues, discarding false leads, and examining why other species of man such as the Neanderthals failed to develop a similar culture-and failed to survive. He reexamines the archeological evidence, including the latest findings, and considers new discoveries in the study of human genetics. This journey leads him to a bold new theory involving the brain that could solve the mystery of our origins and that points the way for future studies.

From the Inside Flap

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Book Description: Turner Publishing Company, United Kingdom, 2002. Hardback. Book Condition: New. 237 x 163 mm. Brand New Book. A bold new theory on what sparked the big bang of human cultureThe abrupt emergence of human culture over a stunningly short period continues to be one of the great enigmas of human evolution. This compelling book introduces a bold new theory on this unsolved mystery. Author Richard Klein reexamines the archaeological evidence and brings in new discoveries in the study of the human brain. These studies detail the changes that enabled humans to think and behave in far more sophisticated ways than before, resulting in the incredibly rapid evolution of new skills. Richard Klein has been described as the premier anthropologist in the country today by Evolutionary Anthropology. Here, he and coauthor Blake Edgar shed new light on the full story of a truly fascinating period of evolution.Richard G. Klein, PhD (Palo Alto, CA), is a Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. He is the author of the definitive academic book on the subject of the origins of human culture, The Human Career. Blake Edgar (San Francisco, CA) is the coauthor of the very successful From Lucy to Language, with Dr. Donald Johanson. He has written extensively for Discover, GEO, and numerous other magazines. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780471252528

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