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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 12 March 2001
I have read many books on evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, and evolutionary theory. This book seems to me like a summary of them all. After reading the encyclopedia from cover to cover, I feel many of the empirical and theoretical gaps in my understanding of evolutionary psychology have been filled. This is because of the breadth of subjects covered. It must be considered a must have for students of interdisiplinary subjects such as myself.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 7 April 1999
This book is simply superb - all you need as an initial jumping off point in the world of anthropology and palaeoanthropology. How the editiors got this much quality information in one place for less than £ amazing.
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2007
Anyone who is interested in understanding human origins is likely to be attracted to this book. It actually consists of a very comprehensive collection of articles by specialists - specialists on everything from "The structure of DNA" to "Tribal peoples in the modern world." Hidden away among all this specialised knowledge are some interesting conclusions, but they take a lot of searching for. There is one on page 358 - a three-quarter page box headed "Throwing". Barbara Isaac suggests that our ancestors, lacking sharp canine teeth or claws, made up for it, once their hand were freed from walking duties, by becoming good at throwing stones. There is another exciting idea on page 88. In another three-quarter page box, M H Day suggests that bipedalism involved a smaller pelvic girdle, which made it more difficult to give birth to a big-brained baby.

There are some more exciting ideas, but the great bulk of the text, whilst good background material for the specialised anthropologist, doesn't tell us anything very interesting. Some of it is downright irrelevant, merely filling up space. Why did we need an article on the New World Monkeys? They are nothing to do with our ancestry. And why must the book start off by trotting out the old chestnut about life starting off 3000 million years ago as "short stretches of nucleic acid floating in a chemical sea". Those who still believe that, do so on faith alone - it's science fiction. The truth is that no one knows how life began, if indeed it ever did begin.

What the book lacks, above all, is an intelligent overview, someone who can draw the strands together and tell us what it all means - the kind of overview that is attempted on the site Perhaps we should not expect this kind of overview. Certainly we don't get it.
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on 5 April 2015
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