Skin: A Natural History

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9780520256248: Skin: A Natural History

We expose it, cover it, paint it, tattoo it, scar it, and pierce it. Our intimate connection with the world, skin protects us while advertising our health, our identity, and our individuality. This dazzling synthetic overview, written with a poetic touch and taking many intriguing side excursions, is a complete guidebook to the pliable covering that makes us who we are. Skin: A Natural History celebrates the evolution of three unique attributes of human skin: its naked sweatiness, its distinctive sepia rainbow of colors, and its remarkable range of decorations. Jablonski begins with a look at skin's structure and functions and then tours its three-hundred-million-year evolution, delving into such topics as the importance of touch and how the skin reflects and affects emotions. She examines the modern human obsession with age-related changes in skin, especially wrinkles. She then turns to skin as a canvas for self-expression, exploring our use of cosmetics, body paint, tattooing, and scarification. Skin: A Natural History places the rich cultural canvas of skin within its broader biological context for the first time, and the result is a tremendously engaging look at ourselves.

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From the Inside Flap:

"When you meet people, whether they're fully clothed on the street or scantily clad on the beach, the first part of their body that you see, smell, and perhaps touch is the skin. Skin is our largest and most visible organ, our personal poster board for decoration and advertisement. Nina Jablonski gives us the best and most fascinating account of everything that you might want to know about the packaging of our anatomy."—Jared Diamond, author of Collapse and Guns, Germs, and Steel

"This fascinating book traces the long evolutionary history of our integument, revealing a whole host of essential skin functions that most of us have probably never even thought of."—Ian Tattersall, author of The Fossil Trail

"An intriguing study of our body's most visible organ. I wish I'd written it myself."—Spencer Wells, author of The Journey of Man

"A fascinating and comprehensive account of the biological and cultural aspects of human skin."—John Relethford, SUNY at Oneonta

About the Author:

Nina G. Jablonski is Professor and Head of the Department of Anthropology at the Pennsylvania State University. She edited The First Americans: The Pleistocene Colonization of the New World and The Origin and Diversification of Language (both UC Press), among other books. Her research on human skin has been featured in National Geographic, Scientific American, and other publications.

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Jablonski, Nina G.
Published by University of California Press (2008)
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