Dawn of Human Culture

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* Book: The Dawn of Human Culture. By Richard G. Klein. JOHN WILEY & SONS, NEW YORK, 2002

URL = https://anthropology.stanford.edu/publications/book/dawn-human-culture


From the publisher:

"The abrupt emergence of human culture over a stunningly short period continues to be one of the great enigmas of human evolution. This compelling book introduces a bold new theory on this unsolved mystery. Author Richard Klein reexamines the archaeological evidence and brings in new discoveries in the study of the human brain. These studies detail the changes that enabled humans to think and behave in far more sophisticated ways than before, resulting in the incredibly rapid evolution of new skills. Richard Klein has been described as ""the premier anthropologist in the country today"" by Evolutionary Anthropology."


John Hawks :

"The assumption of the book appears to be that “culture” is synonymous with symbolic language, insofar as the authors believe that the major cultural differences between Middle and Upper Paleolithic humans all depend uniquely upon the kinds of complex interactions that language allows. This assumption leaves the expectation that relatively little about early humans was culturally interesting, other than their tool use, and Klein and Edgar are content to judge that between 1.8 million and 500,000 years ago, humans were “tall, strong, and stupid” (p. 99, quoting Alan Walker). Chapters 5, 6, and 7, which discuss archaic humans, Neandertals, and early modern humans, fall into an area much more central to Klein’s hypothesis about cultural origins. By the Middle Pleistocene, human fossils show clear signs of increasing mental sophistication, most notable in their increasing brain sizes, but also evidenced by new toolmaking techniques, range expansions into temperate and ultimately periglacial climates, increased control of fire, and cannibalism. Here, the text presents the increasing archaeological and fossil record by vignettes, including rich descriptions of the Sima de los Huesos fossil site, the discovery of ancient DNA from Neandertal remains, and the discovery of the Lagar Velho skeleton in Portugal. Necessarily, the short presentation glosses over much of the complexity of the archaeological and fossil records, but those subjects that receive more detailed treatment are chosen well to give as balanced a view as possible of what continues to be found."