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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.