The Animal Connection: A New Perspective on What Makes Us Human

Overview

A bold, illuminating new take on the love of animals that drove human evolution.
Why do humans all over the world take in and nurture other animals? This behavior might seem maladaptive—after all, every mouthful given to another species is one that you cannot eat—but in this heartening new study, acclaimed anthropologist Pat Shipman reveals that our propensity to domesticate and care for other animals is in fact among our species' greatest strengths. For the last 2.6 million ...

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The Animal Connection: A New Perspective on What Makes Us Human

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Overview

A bold, illuminating new take on the love of animals that drove human evolution.
Why do humans all over the world take in and nurture other animals? This behavior might seem maladaptive—after all, every mouthful given to another species is one that you cannot eat—but in this heartening new study, acclaimed anthropologist Pat Shipman reveals that our propensity to domesticate and care for other animals is in fact among our species' greatest strengths. For the last 2.6 million years, Shipman explains, humans who coexisted with animals enjoyed definite adaptive and cultural advantages. To illustrate this point, Shipman gives us a tour of the milestones in human civilization-from agriculture to art and even language—and describes how we reached each stage through our unique relationship with other animals. The Animal Connection reaffirms our love of animals as something both innate and distinctly human, revealing that the process of domestication not only changed animals but had a resounding impact on us as well.

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Editorial Reviews

Dean Falk
“Pat Shipman is a respected paleoanthropologist and a superb science writer with an extraordinary reach. Until I read this book, I had not appreciated the significant impact of animals for charting the course of human evolution or the universal importance that animals have today for improving the quality of human life.”
Barbara J. King
“I read The Animal Connection with great admiration; its data-rich narrative offers profound insights about our species’ long history with other animals.”
Nina G. Jablonski
“Shipman takes us on a journey through human evolution as it has never been told before. She demonstrates that humanity emerged not only through tool use and language, but because of our associations with animals. Shipman’s triumph is her demonstration that the modern human condition was borne of our personal connections with animals—from horses as transportation, to cows and sheep as food, to dogs as vigilant companions. Our achievements on two legs were made possible by our many relatives on four.”
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
“Pat Shipman has written one of the most important books on the human-animal connection ever. One might even say it is the single most important book, possibly the only one, to look at our deep connection to animals over the entire evolutionary history of our species. She says that animals are central to the very essence of being human and has proven this to be the case in a work of extraordinarily broad scholarship.”
Bernd Heinrich
“Eye-opening… a compelling argument and an exciting story. The Animal Connection goes beyond the obvious of what every pet-lover knows. It shows how we evolved and hence how and why we are unique. This is an important book. It’s a must-read.”
Temple Grandin
“Pat Shipman gathers together the results of many archaeological studies, and she clearly shows how animals were intimately involved in the development of early humans. Both animal lovers and readers who are interested in human psychology will not be able to put this fascinating book down.”
Library Journal
From an evolutionary viewpoint, our taking in animals might seem strange; they eat food we might otherwise eat ourselves. But as anthropologist Shipman explains, learning to coexist with and indeed care for other animals has given humans a distinct adaptive advantage. Shipman's books all get high marks from LJ reviewers, and this one would seem to carry the discussion of the human-animal bond one step further.
Kirkus Reviews

In an easy, conversational style, American Scientist contributor Shipman (Anthropology/Penn State Univ.; Femme Fatale: Love, Lies, and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari, 2007, etc.) sets forth her theory that our connection with animals is in large measure what makes us human.

The author argues that the urge to care for and connect with other species is a universal human trait and that the animal connection dates from more than 2.6 million years ago when our ancestors began using stone tools to process animal carcasses as food. The use of stone tools not only changed what our ancestors ate but what they needed to know about the behavior of animals around them. Sharing this knowledge about animals was essential to their success as predators, and, writes Shipman, most of the prehistoric art that we can understand depicts medium- or large-sized animals, not landscapes, people, vegetation or insects. The author posits that interacting with animals led not only to the making of tools and to the development of symbolic behavior, including language, but another major advance in human evolution: the domestication of other species. She writes that domestication transformed animals into living tools that enabled humans to expand their abilities and exploit new resources, and that communicating with animals and training them called for a new set of skills that had to be learned, stored and transmitted. Throughout the book are black-and-white photographs of stone and bone tools, art objects and other visual evidence that Shipman presents to back up her theory that the animal connection was instrumental in shaping our species. In the final chapter, she looks at the animal connection in the modern world. Noting that it was what gave humans the vital skills of empathy, understanding and compromise, she concludes that we still have a deep need to be involved with animals and expresses her concern that this need may go unrecognized in an increasingly industrialized world.

Attention animal lovers and science buffs: Although Shipman is an academic, there is no classroom atmosphere here; the writing is refreshingly jargon-free, and the narrative may persuade pet owners to take a fresh look at their charges.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393070545
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/13/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 495,402
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Pat Shipman is a professor of anthropology at Penn State University. Coauthor of the award-winning The Ape in the Tree, she writes for American Scientist and lives in Moncure, North Carolina.

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