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Ancestors In search of human origins. By Donald Johanson Lenora Johanson and Blake Edgar. New York Villard. 1994. ISBN 0-697-42060-6. 339 pp. $27

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expect, the recurrent theme in this volume
is the biomechanics of feeding, and here
there is much to chew on. Two chapters depart from this topic: one chapter is devoted
to locomotor function of the skull (Marvalee
Wake) and there is an engrossing chapter on
the functional anatomy of hearing from a
comparative perspective (R. Eric Lombard
and Thomas Hetherington). The papers on
feeding (there are seven that deal with the
topic from a variety of comparative, modeling, and allometric perspectives) reflect the
growing realization that morphometric approaches must be utilized in conjunction
with experimental data if our discrimination of form-function relationships is to improve. Another recurrent subject is that of
constraints on form, with which every author grapples with limited success. One
comes away from this volume convinced that
even with the recognition that constraint is
an important determinant of form, its identification and impact remain elusive. Kathleen Smith (Chapter 4) summarizes the
problem neatly in explaining that “without a
more rigorous and narrow definition of constraint, be it phylogenetic, developmental or
mechanical, constraint takes on the role of
being everything not demonstrably adaptive” (p. 185). On this front there is still a
long way to go.
In essence, what this three-volume set
does is more than simply rehash what we
already know about the skull. Instead, it
serves notice that there are many aspects of
skull biology that are still incompletely understood. It is in this sense that The Skull
represents an important work, because it
raises questions throughout which will be
the impetus for future research into significant and nagging issues. It is a shame that
the type of bibliography which concludes
Volume 1 was not also produced for the remaining volumes. The additional reference
chapters would have made The Skull an indispensable reference source.
There is not a unitary theme or approach
running throughout The Skull (although the
concept of “development” nearly qualifies),
but given that over 30 authors are discussing their own areas of expertise in some detail, should we insist that there be one? The
editors state that their purpose in putting
The Skull together was primarily to point
the way forward toward new research. It
seems likely that the diversity of opinion
found in these pages will provoke a great
deal of thought and research in the future,
with some controversy along the way.
Department of Anthropology
Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut
ORIGINS.By more readily accessible to a wider audience.
Donald Johanson, Lenora Johanson, and The authors have done a splendid job in
Blake Edgar. New York: Villard. 1994. keeping the text clear and simple, without
ISBN 0-697-42060-6. 339 pp. $27.50 compromising its technical accuracy, and a t
the same time it is written in an engaging
style, that avoids the self-indulgent hokiThis companion volume to the three-part ness that so often characterizes the popular
NOVA television series of the same title is, science genre.
in my view, the most successful of Donald
The book begins with an account of JohanJohanson’s popular publishing ventures to son’s return to Hadar after an %year hiatus,
date. Part of its appeal comes from the fact during which the Ethiopian government dethat it is handsomely produced and lavishly clared a moratorium on foreign research
illustrated, but more importantly, perhaps, into prehistory, and the spectacular results
is the way it skillfully unravels and reformu- of renewed fieldwork at the site. Since 1990,
lates the complexities of current paleoan- the Hadar Research Project has recovered
thropological research to make the topic 53 hominids, dated between 3.0 and 3.4 Ma,
including an almost complete adult male
skull, recently featured in the pages of Nature. This opening chapter vividly recreates
life in the field, with an added touch of romanticism that only retrospection can bring,
as well as the excitement and personal satisfaction of making important new fossil discoveries. The remainder of the book describes the major steps in the evolutionary
history of humans, starting with Australopithecus afarensis (including, of course, an account of the discovery of Lucy), and concluding with a discussion of aspects of the
adaptability and the development of the cultural sophistication that characterizes our
own species. Each chapter is a nice blend of
history and up-to-the-minute research.
Many of the legendary tales of paleoanthropology are retold here, such as how Raymond Dart challenged the academic establishment with his revolutionary ideas on the
infant’s skull from Taung, how Eugene
Dubois went cuckoo and buried his Pithecanthropus fossils under the floorboards of
his house, and how neandertals were mistakenly confused for dead cossacks. There is
no doubt that these make terrific stories,
but, like oral traditions passed on from generation to generation, they tend to evolve,
and the boundary between reality and
mythology has already begun to blur. The
views and contributions of many of the great
historical figures in paleoanthropology are
briefly reviewed, and other characters that
we tend to associate less readily with studies
of human evolution, such as H.G. Wells,
Pablo Picasso, Hercule Poirot, and Arnold
Schwarzenegger, make cameo appearances.
However, historical narrative is not a major
theme of the book, it merely provides a contextual backdrop for discussing some of the
latest advances in human evolutionary
In Chapters 2 through 8, Johanson has
selected a series of case studies that serve to
illustrate the major issues and debates that
currently concern paleoanthropologists.
Profiled are Lovejoy’s model of the origins of
bipedalism, Binford’s iconoclastic views on
the archeology of Olduvai Gorge, Blumenschine’s research on hominid scavenging,
Toth and Schick’s work on the tool-making
capabilities of Kanzi, the symboling bonobo,
Brain’s pioneering studies of taphonomy,
MacLarnon’s research on the vertebral column of WT 15000, the debate between
Thorne and Stringer on the origins of anatomically modern humans, and Rhys Jones’
work on the prehistory of Australia, among
others. It is readily apparent that these
viewpoints do not provide the reader with a
balanced and impartial overview of the diversity of opinions in the field-they are
more reflective of Johanson’s particular perception of the nature of human evolution. In
fact, it is not until Chapter 6, in which the
competing multiregional and out-of-Africa
models of human origins are discussed (a
debate that Johanson does not have a major
stake in), that the reader gets a genuine
sense that physical anthropologists actually
disagree with each other. From an academic
perspective, one could argue that this is a
serious criticism, especially considering the
fact that more people will probably buy this
book than the total number of individuals
who will euer read the collected technical
works of even the most prolific physical anthropologist. However, by conceding to the
dictates of evenhandedness, the entire essence of the book would have been lost. After
all, it is not intended as a textbook, where
issues of objective impartiality are more
critical, but rather a retelling of the human
evolutionary story as seen through the eyes
and personal reflections of Donald Johanson. The case studies may not adequately
represent the range (or even for that matter
the consensus) of views of the discipline, but
they do serve as examples that convey to a
lay readership a sense that palaeoanthropologists are dynamic and dedicated scholars who are eager to apply new techniques
and to develop novel solutions to a variety of
fascinating problems.
In sum, this is an impressively well-written and attractive book. It cleverly weaves
together many of the historical, theoretical,
and conceptual threads that have shaped
our current understanding of human evolution. The book may not offer any new data
or original ideas that would entice the
well-informed physical anthropologist, but
the elegant simplicity of the text and the
beautiful illustrations are certainly stimulating and provocative enough to captivate the next generation of aspiring neophytes.
Department of Anthropology
New York University
New York, New York
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Nieuwenhuys 0 (1994) Children’s Lifeworlds: Gender, Welfare and Labour in
the Developing World. New York: RoutAgar M (1994)Language Shock: Understandledge, 228 pp. $19.95 (paper).
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Owsley DW and RL Jantz (eds.) (1994) SkelWilliam Morrow, 284 pp. $22.00 (cloth).
etal Biology in the Great Plains: MigraCrews DE and R.M Garruto (eds.) (1994) Bition, Warfare, Health, and Subsistence.
ological Anthropology and Aging: PerspecWashington, DC: Smithsonian Institution
tives on Human Variation Over the Life
Press, 408 pp. $45.00 (cloth).
Span, New York: Oxford University
Parker ST, RW Mitchell, and ML Boccia
Press, 445 pp. $75.00 (cloth).
(eds.) (1994) Self-Awareness in Animals
Fox R (1994) The Challenge ofAnthropology:
and Humans: Developmental PerspecOld Encounters and New Excursions. New
tives. New York: Cambridge University
Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers,
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431 pp. $49.95 (cloth).
Guldin GE (1994) The Saga of Anthropology Sempowski ML and MW Spence (1994) Mortuary Practices and Skeletal Remains
in China: From Malinowski to Moscow to
at Teotihuacan. Salt Lake City, UT:UniMao. Armonk, Ny: M.E. Sharpe, 288 pp.
versity of Utah Press, 464 pp. $100.00
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Larsen CS and GR Milner (eds.) (1994) In
the Wake of Contact: Biological Responses Stearns SC (1992) The Evolution of Life Histories. New York: Oxford University
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Lukacs JR (1993) Dental Anthropology. Young TK (1994) The Health of Native
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slides $150.00.
cal convictions, is unassailable; its demonTHEEVOLUTION
By Pat stration and documentation are quite anShipman. New York: Simon & Schuster. other matter. While Shipman purports to
1994.319pp. ISBN 0-671-75460-2.$23.00 behold the mote in her predecessors’ eyes,
she completely fails to consider the beam in
her own. Despite the book‘s title, racism is
The treatment of human “races” and the largely ignored, science is either missing or
genesis of racism are issues that have been misrepresented, and history is reinvented to
part of anthropology since its beginning. the extent that the book comes close to being
These matters remain as important today, a work of fiction. It is filled with errors of fact,
and there is an obvious need for a book that gratuitous slurs, and glaring omissions.
Shipman approaches her topic by squardeals with them. This, however, is not the
ing off a series of eminent historical figures
Shipman’s main thesis, that the scientific in a crude “good guy versus bad guy” fashfocus on “race” over the last century and a ion, illustrating her theme by vignettes from
half has been compromised by covert politi- their careers. Most are two-dimensional,
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search, donalds, 697, villard, 339, isbn, origin, human, 1994, new, 42060, york, blake, johanson, ancestors, edgar, lenore
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