Feast: Why Humans Share Food / Edition 1

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Overview


For the majority of creatures on this earth, the elements of our first meals together--a flashing fire, bared teeth, a quantity of food placed in the center of a group of hungry animals--spell trouble in a myriad of ways. For us, the idea of a group of people coming together for a meal seems like the most natural thing in the world. The family dinner, a client luncheon, a holiday spread--a huge part of our social lives is spent eating in company. How did eating together become such a common occurrence for man? In Feast, archaeologist Martin Jones presents both historic and modern scientific evidence to illuminate how humans first came to share food and the ways in which the human meal has developed since that time. He also shows how our culture of feasting has had far-reaching consequences for human social evolution.
By studying the activities of our closest relatives, chimpanzees, and unearthing ancient hearths, some over 30,000 years old, scientists have been able to piece together a picture of how our ancient ancestors found, killed, cooked, and divided food supplies. They have also created a timeline showing the introduction of increasingly advanced tools and sophisticated social customs. In sites uncovered all over the world, fragments of bone, remnants of charred food, pieces of stone or clay serving vessels, and the outlines of ancient halls tell the story of how we slowly developed the complex traditions of eating we recognize in our own societies today. Jones takes on a tour of the most fascinating sites and artifacts that have been discovered, and shows us how archeologists are able to make their fascination conclusions. In addition, he traces the rise of such recent phenomena as biscuits, "going out to eat," and the Thanksgiving-themed TV dinner.
From the earliest evidence of human consumption around half a million years ago to the era of the drive-through diner, this fascinating account unfolds the history of the human meal and its huge impact on human society.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The conclusions are perceptive, discerning, and intricate, delving deeply into the understanding of human behavior and nature. Jones imparts his deductions with skill and intelligence, producing an important contribution to the studies of human societal behavior, coupled with significant implications for the future study of social interaction. Essential."--S. Kowtko, CHOICE

"In presenting his thoughtful argument for the development of social and ritual meals, Martin skillfully lays a middle path between those who would explain everything by natural selection and those interested in the grammar of meaning systems."--Library Journal

Library Journal

Why is it that humans make meals into ritual events while other animals just satisfy their hunger? To explore this question, Jones (archaeological science, Cambridge Univ.; The Molecule Hunt) offers a smooth chronological narrative from the earliest evidence of hominid eating habits right up to a 20th-century TV dinner. Each chapter begins with a short vignette suggested by archaeological remains, offering interpretations of the evidence that are precise but jargon-free. In presenting his thoughtful argument for the development of social and ritual meals, Martin skillfully lays a middle path between those who would explain everything by natural selection and those interested in the grammar of meaning systems. The book's greatest weakness is that he has skipped Asia entirely, missing out on developments from the domestication of rice to the elaborate culinary traditions and taboos of China, India, and Persia. Nonetheless, this highly readable book will be enjoyed by the general public as well as scholars. Recommended for large public libraries and all academic libraries.
—Lisa Klopfer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199209019
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/19/2007
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,289,242
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Jones is George Pitt-Rivers Professor of Archaeological Science at the University of Cambridge, and specializes in the study of the fragmentary archaeological remains of early food. In the 1990s he was Chairman of the Ancient Biomolecule Initiative that pioneered some of the most important new methods of archaeological science used in such research. His previous books include The Molecule Hunt: archaeology and the search for ancient DNA, published by Penguin.

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Table of Contents

1. A return to the hearth
2. Are we so different? How apes eat
3. In search of big game
4. Fire, cooking, and growing a brain
5. Naming and eating
6. Among strangers
7. Seasons of the feast
8. Hierarchy and the food chain
9. Eating in order to be
10. Far from the hearth
11. The stomach and the soul
12. A global food web

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