The World from Beginnings to 4000 BCE

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To be human is to be curious. And one of the things we are most curious about is how we came to be who we are--how we evolved over millions of years to become creatures capable of inquiring into our own evolution.

In this lively and readable introduction, renowned anthropologist Ian Tattersall thoroughly examines both fossil and archaeological records to trace human evolution from the earliest beginnings of our zoological family, Hominidae, through the appearance of Homo ...

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The World from Beginnings to 4000 BCE

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To be human is to be curious. And one of the things we are most curious about is how we came to be who we are--how we evolved over millions of years to become creatures capable of inquiring into our own evolution.

In this lively and readable introduction, renowned anthropologist Ian Tattersall thoroughly examines both fossil and archaeological records to trace human evolution from the earliest beginnings of our zoological family, Hominidae, through the appearance of Homo sapiens to the Agricultural Revolution. He begins with an accessible overview of evolutionary theory and then explores the major turning points in human evolution: the emergence of the genus Homo, the advantages of bipedalism, the birth of the big brain and symbolic thinking, Paleolithic and Neolithic tool making, and finally the enormously consequential shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies 10,000 years ago. Focusing particularly on the pattern of events and innovations in human biological and cultural evolution, Tattersall offers illuminating commentary on a wide range of topics, including the earliest known artistic expressions, ancient burial rites, the beginnings of language, the likely causes of Neanderthal extinction, the relationship between agriculture and Christianity, and the still unsolved mysteries of human consciousness.

Complemented by a wealth of illustrations and written with the grace and accessibility for which Tattersall is widely admire, The World from Beginnings to 4000 BCE invites us to take a closer look at the strange and distant beings who, over the course of millions of years, would become us.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[L]ucid and insightful prose...[A]n excellent introduction to a part of history that most historians skip over due to its remoteness in time, the complexity and the changing nature of the evidence, and the difficulty of the science it takes to understand it...[A]n extremely well presented and at time engaging history of the exploration of our evolutionary origins." --World History Connected

"A lucid and at times elegant introduction to the complex field of evolutionary theory.... Tattersall takes the reader on a lively and readable romp through the eons of hominid history.... Ian Tattersall's masterful treatment of early human evolution represents an auspicious point of departure for Oxford's new series on world history."--The Journal of World History

"Contributes without doubt to provide a better understanding of academic research in this field."--Elizabeth Do Lam, Teaching History

Publishers Weekly

Tattersall (Becoming Human), a curator in the anthropology division of the American Museum of Natural History, uses fossil and archeological records to examine the seven (or so) million years from the dawn of the Hominidae, the family that includes humans, to the gradual development of agriculture and permanent settlements. His topic is huge and his pages are few, but this overview will give readers a sense of the current thinking in the field. Tattersall discusses the characteristics that separate Homo sapiensfrom extinct hominids, concluding that the gulf between us and our closest relative opened up when our enlarged brains gave rise to symbolic reasoning. Asserting that hominid evolution is more complex than previously thought and that the idea of a linear progression of species is far too simplistic, Tattersall presents mitochondrial DNA evidence that we are not directly related to Neanderthals and declares, "We are not the result of constant fine-tuning over the eons, any more than we are the summit of creation." Finally, he explains the techniques used to interpret the physical evidence of evolutionary processes. This is an elegant, if brief, introduction to a complex field. 20 b&w illus. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Barnes & Noble Review
The hominid fossil record begins some seven million years ago with species that are like humans but not human. But on what basis do we identify members of our own family and say that they are not merely humanlike but human? Ian Tattersall makes it clear that we haven't figured it out, and that this is what makes paleo-anthropology an interesting -- and very human -- endeavor. In this brief volume Tattesall can only hit the high points of the fossil chronology, such as "Lucy" "Turkana boy," and "Peking Man." More important is his demonstration of how the sparse fossil record combines with the superabundance of life on earth to make questions of human identity and origins particularly challenging. Given the fluid concept of species itself -- as many definitions "as there are naturalists" -- can there be a standard definition of a human? "Defining" characteristics such as big brains and small canine teeth have come and gone. Upright posture is the current favorite, but Tattersall looks beyond the singular to complex combinations of traits that are greater than the sum of their parts. Whatever it was (probably language) and wherever we place it, such a combination separates Homo sapiens from all the other hominids that ever were; not least, perhaps, the capacity for self-reflection that motivates us to look into our own beginnings. --Sean Redmond
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195167122
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/1/2008
  • Series: New Oxford World History Series
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 917,624
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Ian Tattersall is curator at the Anthropology Department of the American Museum of Natural History and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University & CUNY Graduate School

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Table of Contents

Editors' Preface     vii
Evolutionary Processes     1
Fossils and Ancient Artifacts     19
On Their Own Two Feet     37
Emergence of the Genus Homo     55
Getting Brainier     71
Modern Human Origins     89
Settled Life     109
Chronology     125
Further Reading     127
Websites     131
Acknowledgments     133
Index     135
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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