Thank You NetGalley and Oxford Press for the free advanced reading copy A very thoroughly researched book of human origins from Australopithecines to Homo sapiens The book focuses on socio cognitive interactions and their result on brain development and bipedal gait then just biological evidence. Interesting what drives our social circles and social needs as humans The reason for why we care about who How we evolved to different lifestyles and what kind of activities bond us together efficiently. The Story Of Human Evolution Has Fascinated Us Like No Other We Seem To Have An Insatiable Curiosity About Who We Are And Where We Have Come From Yet Studying The Stones And Bones Skirts Around What Is Perhaps The Realest, And Most Relatable, Story Of Human Evolution The Social And Cognitive Changes That Gave Rise To Modern HumansIn Human Evolution Our Brains And Behavior, Robin Dunbar Appeals To The Human Aspects Of Every Reader, As Subjects Of Mating, Friendship, And Community Are Discussed From An Evolutionary Psychology Perspective With A Table Of Contents Ranging From Prehistoric Times To Modern Days, Human Evolution Focuses On An Aspect Of Evolution That Has Typically Been Overshadowed By The Archaeological Record The Biological, Neurological, And Genetic Changes That Occurred With Each Transition In The Evolutionary Narrative Dunbar S Interdisciplinary Approach Inspired By His Background As Both An Anthropologist And Accomplished Psychologist Brings The Reader Into All Aspects Of The Evolutionary Process, Which He Describes As The Jigsaw Puzzle Of Evolution That He And The Reader Will Help Solve In Doing So, The Book Carefully Maps Out Each Stage Of The Evolutionary Process, From Anatomical Changes Such As Bipedalism And Increase In Brain Size, To Cognitive And Behavioral Changes, Such As The Ability To Cook, Laugh, And Use Language To Form Communities Through Religion And Story Telling Most Importantly And Interestingly, Dunbar Hypothesizes The Order In Which These Evolutionary Changes Occurred Conclusions That Are Reached With The Time Budget Model Theory That Dunbar Himself Coined As Definitive As The Stones And Bones Are For The Hard Dates Of Archaeological Evidence, This Book Explores Far Complex Psychological Questions That Require A Degree Of Intellectual Speculation What Does It Really Mean To Be Human As Opposed To Being An Ape , And How Did We Come To Be That Way This interesting look at our primate ancestors, the great and smaller apes today, and ourselves, combines various researches, some of which will be familiar, some newly learnt There are many graphs and charts, usually easy enough to understand, showing clear progressions Time requirements and energy use is the main concept through the Neanderthals, the big brained apes and bigger brained humans needing food, their social structures, the typical village size being 150 people throughout history Some interesting factors are a look at monogamy and possible reasons for it male protecting his offspring, male unable to cover enough ground to protect territories for than one female, female selecting a fit male for food and protection etc It seems that if a social group leaves the multi male and multi female shape, and either goes to harem or to monogamy, the monogamy is always a fixed end which cannot be returned from in that society I was waiting for a look at bonobos but did not get it In spare time, primates can socially interact such as grooming and selecting mates Baboons get a nod here as they forage easily, but a large group of any ape would need to be constantly on the move to keep supplied, so smaller groupings occur and in the extreme, the orang utan, solitary foraging takes place I didn t see Sapolsky s comment that baboons have eight hours a day in which to make one another s lives miserable, though earlier we did get his work reduced to the association between low status and stress If an animal can t adapt its diet and can t forage enough to find food, or has to worry about predators, it can t reproduce fast enough to replace population Chimps can cope with either lion or leopard but not both The glum outlook given is that great apes, particularly the orang utan will go extinct in the wild through climate change and human pressure Mary Leakey found, in 1978, a fossil set of footprints in volcanic ash They show two adult people and a child These have been dated to 3.6 m.y.a so we know that humans walked upright in Tanzania at that time By four m.y.a there were various lineages of upright walkers around, some successful than others The book looks at the australopithecines and presents what we know of them, modelling their ecology and whether they were living like baboons or chimps Why bipedalism If your legs are longer than your arms it is a very efficient way of moving It also gives you a better view and cooling The aquatic ape theory, not named here, is shrugged off with barely a sentence We see that some communities lived in limestone caves in Africa which not only provided security but regulated temperature Carbon 3 isotope plants, sedges and the like versus carbon 4 isotope plants, trees and shrubs, leave traces in the body so it is possible to reconstruct diets We look at whether these hominids were monogamous or not I was waiting for the contrast between the sperm of gorillas and chimps to be mentioned but it wasn t Gorillas who get to mate are harem owners and see off other males, and their sperm apparently is full of junk chromosomes, damaged and useless A small amount of the sperm is viable By contrast almost all of a chimp s sperm is fit for purpose because a chimp has many male competitors Towards the end of the book the author mentions that chimps have bigger testes than gorillas Climate shifts having separated out various species to various diets and ways of life, some survived and some died out over time We move on to the modern distribution and changes The author says the Homo floresiensis hobbit surprised us by persisting until 12,000 years ago, but is just a small subspecies which survived because it was isolated on an island, and why it became small is an interesting question for another time I can explain that islands force an animal species to become small, from ponies to rhinos That s well proven There are a few exceptions like the Komodo dragon, but they are the biggest predators with abundant food Fire is given as a probable answer to the demands of a bigger brain From half a million years ago cooking fire sites are well distributed on the Old World continents I have read in More Population, Nature, and What Women Want by Robert Engelman that a bigger brain forced babies to be born facing back from the mother instead of towards her chest, requiring a midwife and so forcing group living I didn t see that mentioned here Big brains have the advantage of allowing a species to adapt to cope with shifting environments, and in the Rift Valley lakes sometimes dried up, while the Sahara turned to desert in the Eurasian continent the light levels were lower and the Ice Age advanced We re told that monkeys and apes sleep up trees or cliff faces but humans don t climb cliffs well enough I ve seen the theory elsewhere that bipedalism evolved in hominids which particularly lived on cliffs as opposed to swinging under tree limbs brachiation We get the Denisovans mentioned, but so far we only know of them from a single cave of bones They were cousins of Neanderthals, further east in Siberia Here we get a good map showing distribution of archaic human sites and of the Neanderthals, which includes a point in west England I m presuming they got there by walking across Doggerland during the Ice Age Social bonding while eating communally, especially over cooked food, is suggested We re told that people at higher latitudes tend to have bigger eye sockets and visual processing parts of the brain than people in tropics, even today This fits with Neanderthals doing well They may have kept modern humans back from Europe for a long time But 700,000 years ago the Out of Africa event saw humans on the move The genetic lineages of all humans are explained, with only one family of four having moved out of Africa Fire added time to the day, shortening night and allowing for tool making and socialising With language, laughter and dance, the campfire became a vital part of society That s convincing as we still enjoy a campfire sing song today We learn about speech, symbolism and art We have altered bones to apes for speaking and hearing I was sobered to read of a Palaeolithic burial near today s Moscow in which two children were found, who had been clothed with around 5,000 pierced beads on each, and 250 fox teeth in a belt on one, an ivory pin on the other Other grave goods were placed with them This grave was 200,000 years old Goodness me, doesn t DNA tell you interesting things about our lice And about conflict or bride theft and fathering of children Worth a read Then we move on to art, language and how it established mate rights, even to how we name our kin The real issue, quoting Austen Hughes, is not who is related to us in the past, but who shares in interest in future generations with us Religion, involving animal spirits, and trances follow Settlements, farming, defensive walls and warfare await near the end of the book Feasting and drinking with kin are suggested as a way of overcoming population stresses Then we get the jokingly named cads versus dads look at male behaviour in social groups and whether grandmothers are valuable as child minders Seems very modern There are 50 pages of notes and references followed by an index of 15 pages Needed, I have to say, for so many theories, facts and discussions are packed into this book I still have not found an all encompassing book on our evolution, comparison with apes and other early humans, and prehistory, as will be apparent, but Human Evolution crams in a great deal and looks at most of the modern theories and findings If you have not read much on the topic, you ll learn a lot, and anyone will dip in and find something new or a new model of ancestral behaviours This is easy enough to follow for non scientists, well worth a read and deserves a place on the shelf for further reference I downloaded an ARC from Net Galley for an unbiased review. Robin Dunbar did an excellent job in researching, formatting, and reporting a frankly complex topic The question of our origins has always been at the forefront of biology In fact, a multidisciplinary effort is still attempting to elucidate the exact course of our species Dunbar brings a psychologist s perspective to the topic of evolution and attempts to explain the idea that evolution affects not only our bodies, but also our brains, and in particular, our behavior Amazingly enough, Dunbar makes the topic engaging, as dry as it has the potential to be, which is both impressive and appreciated. A wealth of information presented in a refreshing conversational manner Use of graphics was effective in conveying the message and reducing the density of the read Two topics I would have enjoyed additional coverage from the author were the relationship between archaic and anatomically modern humans AMH and physical gestures, sign language as a possible precursor to vocal language Communication does not require oral language to be effective Simple gestures such a pointing and waving would seem to be a natural sequential step in developing a visual and subsequent oral language Forensic investigation of indigenous sign languages might produce archaic roots similar to that found in vocal languages.It is hard to believe that Neanderthal alleles can persist in our AMH DNA unless they provided an evolutionary advantage I question the argument that AMH could acquire these alleles independently by cohabitating for only 20 30k years in similar latitudes as Neanderthals while Homo Heidelbergenisis took hundreds of thousands of years to genetically diverge to Neanderthal continence Is it not likely the interaction between the Neanderthal and new comers was intimate to an extent that allowed the propagation of advantageous genetic traits in a new hybrid population that continues to exist today This does fly in the face of the theory that Neanderthal were a different species However, the invocation of speciation demarcations in human evolution based on physical attributes and the associated strict interpretation of non existent interbreeding or non fertile offspring, seems antiquated in light of growing genetic evidence The simpler explanation is that Neanderthals, Denisovians and other coexistent hominins were not species in a strict sense and cross breeding lead to the observed genetic evidence we have today. Like Grooming and Gossip, I felt that this book s central point was made about 2 3 of the way through It is a wonderful analysis a look at energy budgets homeostatic demands and traits that might have evolved in hominids in order to deal with them Absolutely, I would give 4 stars to the first 2 3 of the book Only subtracting a star because the writing style is fairly academic However, the redundancy of the final 1 3 of the book really annoyed me and became a very quick skim. Very informative The author wrote in an easy to understand manner without sacrificing proper terminology I rather enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those that want to understand human evolution better along with how our brains and development of culture developed along with. If, like me, you read the occasional popular science book about humans, you have probably at some point come across Dunbar s Number This is derived from the fact that, if you graph brain size ok really relative size of certain parts of the brain to body size, but you get the idea to average group size e.g how many chimpanzees sleep in a group at night, how many gorillas, how many bonobos, how many orangutans, etc , you find a correlation The bigger the brain after taking into account body size, and looking just at the parts responsible for abstract thought rather than muscle control , the larger the group Follow this line up to human brain size, and it intersects this line somewhere around 150 This, is Dunbar s Number.Hunter gather societies around 165 18th century English villages 160 11th century English villages 150 Nebraska Amish parishes 112 Social network size in small world experiments 134 Company size in Second World War armies 180 Research specialties sciences and humanities 100 200 Median number of Facebook friends in 2014 200.So, across a broad range of human cultures and time periods, we see that the preferred group size we can keep track of is between 100 and 200 It makes sense, once pointed out, that we would have a tendency to add people to the group up until the point that the political drama reaches the breaking point because people cannot keep track of all the different rivalries and relationships Still, someone had to be the first to point it out and test it in a rigorous way, and publish the results for others to see , and that someone was Robin Dunbar.Having heard about Dunbar and his Number for years, though, I somehow until now never read a book of his In fact, I m not sure I realized that he was still very much alive and actively researching He seemed like one of those legendary founders of a field, like Pavlov or Milgram, whose work is often referenced but from whom no news can be expected Au contraire.In this book, he divides human evolution up into five Transitions , where we leveled up in our ability to interact with the world and each other One viewpoint that he utilizes, which I had not seen used so extensively before, was that of the time budget In brief, it relates to the fact that it takes time to manage all those social relationships You can t just throw 100 apes of any species, including ours in a group and expect them to get along It will end in tears or worse if the individuals do not expend enough time with enough other individuals to keep the relationships in good shape.It s the sort of thing that pre 21st century scientists were not especially good at realizing Insert here your own speculation on the difficulty that a male dominated field has in realizing that relationships take time and effort To Dunbar s credit, he does realize it, and has gathered together a lot of different data sources on how much time different species take in grooming which in some species, like us, has been replace by grooming talk , where we chat to perform the same social function that grooming once did.There is, of necessity, some speculation in here about how exactly we made the various transitions required to go from a chimpanzee or bonobo like ape, to what we are now When exactly did fire come about What about language Did that come before or after singing and dancing These questions are not entirely settled, but Dunbar has informed opinions on them, and without claiming there is no controversy or room for debate, he sets out clearly how he thinks it happens, and then shares the data that supports that informed guess There are also a number of clear and helpful graphs and charts that help to make the relationships clear, especially if like me you prefer a visual display of information.It makes me wonder, what is my time budget How much time do I spend on my social circle Does writing a book review and then posting it on Goodreads count Does arguing about things on Facebook actually do damage, creating a social grooming deficit which then needs to be repaired or paid back It is the hallmark of a good popular science book that it not only tells you things, it prods you to ask interesting questions you would otherwise not have asked.I will be searching out books by Dr Dunbar though not, perhaps, 150 of them. You have to know the past to understand the present Inviting friends to dinner may seem like an important feature of civilized modern cultural habits but many may be oblivious of the fact why and how it all evolved may date back to the time when there wasn t any human beings to hang around.The book is than a typical traditional work on evolution of species specifically ours, homo sapiens and our dead family members Rather than quoting the conventional accounts and facts relied upon the bones and artifacts, author utilized his erudition in explaining, speculating the human behaviour via social and cognitive aspects in an understandable way maybe even to a typical teenager who s good enough to have knowledge that humans evolved from Monkeys Author s unique statistical models and brain equations are highly successful in speculating on the behaviors like Bipedalism, Monogamous, Postponing the reward activities, Laughter a great miracle , Mentalizing capabilities, symbolism, Cooking and many interesting phenomena The Tree of life is so intriguingly rich and complex.I knew almost nothing of Human Evolution and our family members It was a privilege to know those species Australopithecines familiar by the name LUCY , Homo Erectus, Ergaster, Heidelbergensis, Neantherdals and us, Anatomically Modern Humans The legacy was so moving, spiritually enlightening to know that the small sized brain we possess, can help us understand things way beyond our reaches You dig deeper and it gets and complicated, and you get confused, and it s tricky and it s hard, but It is beautiful A huge thanks to Net galley and Oxford University Press for this insightful advance copy.
Robin Ian MacDonald Dunbar, British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist He is a specialist in primate behaviour Currently Professor of Evolutionary Psychology and head of the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford.
- 432 pages
- Human Evolution
- Robin I.M. Dunbar
- 15 September 2017 Robin I.M. Dunbar