The Human Career: Human Biological and Cultural Origins

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  7. Full Name Comment goes here. Are you sure you want to Yes No. Browse by Genre Available eBooks Be the first to like this. No Downloads. A third has a focus on behavioral ecology i. It appears to this outsider that these are not so much competing traditions as they are nearly independent and seemingly unaware of each other. They each have much to contribute, they are each prominent in particular current disagreements in the field, and they each have glaring weaknesses.

    Anatomical details are central to the literature on Australopithecines and their relatives, primates in Africa on the human side of the ancient chimp—human split from five to ten million years ago to about two and half million years ago when we start calling the fossils Homo rather than Australopithecus.

    The anatomists are also in the thick of debates these days about the hobbit, the small hominid remains found on the island of Flores. Details of the wrist are apparently critically important in distinguishing whether these creatures are derived from Australopithecines, from Homo erectus perhaps having undergone island dwarfism , or are simply pathological dwarves.

    Climate-Driven Evolution

    A weakness of the anatomical tradition is the treatment of anatomical details as if they were selectively neutral, mere traits that can be tabulated to generate answers by consensus. There is not much awareness of quantitative genetics. The behavioral ecology tradition emphasizes mating competition and intergroup struggles as the important drivers of human evolution.

    With roots in economics, comparative animal behavior, and the new population genetics of interaction started by W. Hamilton in the s, social interactions themselves are the prime drivers of human evolution. The ecologists look to ancient environments, climate, and climate change to explain changes in the distribution of humans and related species in time and space. They see humans responding to the physical and biotic factors like geography, climatic shifts, the availability of exploitive technologies, or the availability of domesticates.

    In this literature, humans are members of communities, and these communities are like organisms evolving to become better and better at provisioning their members. This group or species view of evolution contrasts sharply with the implicit model of the behavioral ecologists in which reproductive competition between individuals within groups is the important dynamic. The Humans Who Went Extinct is firmly in the third, that is, classical ecological tradition.

    Human Biological and Cultural Origins, Third Edition

    This admirable book is a summary and interpretation of human evolution from the first bipeds several million years ago to the earliest settled agricultural populations after the end of the Pleistocene. The title does not do justice to the scope of the book: there is only a weak focus on the extinction of the Neanderthals. It is an excellent summary of the classical ecological approach to human evolution with a dazzling portrayal of the relevant paleoclimatology, paleoecology, and biogeography.

    These traditions ought to be complementary; instead they are rather isolated from each other.

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    The discipline would be enriched if we acknowledged that the narratives that each tells are models and that models should be evaluated and falsified with data. There are numerous situations where models from the ecological and behavioral traditions compete directly, and such situations ought to be exploited for direct tests of the competing models. Why did settled farming appear after the Last Glacial Maximum in several areas of the world, but never in the prior interglacial about , years before? The ecologists explain this in terms of geography and climate, the availability of domesticates, increasing demand from a larger human population, and a lot of chance.

    Some in the behavioral ecology tradition see settled agriculture as a consequence of the formation of regional polities with militias that suppress local raiding and warfare, leading to population growth, land scarcity, and increasing labor inputs into subsistence. These models could both be true or both false, but they ought to be tested as competing hypotheses. There appear quite suddenly in the archaeological record new ways of making stone tools, worked bone, decorations like beads, evidence of clothing, and art including sculptures like the famous Venus figurines. One explanation is that some cognitive or perhaps social threshold was crossed marking the origins of true humanness.

    The creativity, the evidence of regional exchange of materials, the art and fine technology—all these mark here the very first real members of our species. A second, perhaps more cynical, explanation is that whenever we see gaudy art, fine weapons, and fancy technology among technologically primitive societies today, these traits mark societies where men don't have to work very hard provisioning their families. Think of the societies of the US Northwest, where salmon runs only take up several months per year, with the rest of the caloric input from berries and gathered foods presumably gathered mostly by women.

    The result is beautiful totem poles and watercraft and other decorative arts.

    Another familiar example is the tribes of the US Great Plains after they took up mounted predation of bison following the introduction of the horse. A small hunt could feed many people for weeks, leaving males free to develop an impressive warrior culture with lots of gaudy decorations and weapons. In the view of cynics, then, the creative explosion is a mere signature of a society where men could parasitize women. The makers of the Venus figures are not foreshadowing Rodin, they are foreshadowing Playboy magazine.

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    Can these models be tested? I am no expert in the classical ecological tradition; so much of Finlayson's fascinating book was new to me. For example, Finlayson calls on his knowledge of biogeography to propose that Australopithecines, like azure winged magpies, occupied a wide belt across Central to Eastern Asia in an ecosystem in which they flourished.

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    This proposal is not in our standard textbooks, but the great paleontologist GHR von Koenigswald always maintained that he found many Australopithecine teeth in his collections from Chinese pharmacists. A staple of my lecture notes on the modern human diaspora is that when the earth is cold the Middle East is ecologically Europe with its Palearctic fauna, while warming means the return of Africa fauna to the Middle East.

    Several modern looking skulls from the Middle East Skuhl, Qafzeh then simply represent a temporary intrusion of African fauna into the Levant ca.

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