47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
A long time before the dawn,
This review is from: The Dawn of Human Culture (Hardcover)
The authors set themselves the twin goals of outlining the evidence for human anatomical & behavioural evolution before 50,000 years ago and exploring the circumstances surrounding the behavioural revolution that occurred afterwards.
As a non-academic reader , albeit who has read fairly extensively around the subject, I think they succeed rather better with the first goal than the second.
The first objective is achieved through a comprehensive survey of humankinds origins from the 5.8 million year old fossils discovered at Awash in 2001.Interestingly it does not follow a strict chronological approach, the first chapter starts with the 1924 discovery of Taung child before moving onto the later discovery of older fossils. I found this a stimulating approach, since it illustrates how older theories on evolution have had to be revised and updated over recent years.
We then move on to the development of stone tools and the reproductive edge they gave their possessors, passing through the first African Exodus, Acheulan Industries etc. A lengthy chapter is spent on our old friends the Neanderthals, which provides a useful synthesis of the latest thinking on the subject and the recent DNA discoveries that leave them firmly out on a limb. Finally we arrive at early homo sapiens sapiens and the dawn of human culture.
The book is engagingly written, and the non specialist will find some of the discussions on archaelogical techniques such as faunal dating, luminescence and magnetism interesting and not too technical.
However we only get to the real dawn by about page 218 ( of 275), perhaps fairly reflecting our late arrival on the scene. I was from the synopsis somehow expecting a bit more on this interesting and less explored period and thus felt that the second objective was less fully satisfied.
Nevertheless a very informative read and if you've never read anything on the subject an excellent introduction. While it covers a lot of the same ground as Clive Gamble's Timewalkers and Chris Stringer's African Exodus, I think there is a sufficently different perspective and enough new material to make it worthwhile if you have already read these.