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Book review Health Change in the Asia-Pacific Region Biocultural and Epidemiological Approaches.

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AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 137:240–243 (2008)
Book Reviews
THE EVOLUTION OF MODERN HUMANS IN AFRICA. By Pamela
R. Willoughby. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. 2007.
462 pp. ISBN 0-759-10119-1. $49.95 (paper).
The cultural prehistory of Africa can be roughly divided into three stages. The first involves the earliest
tool makers, who used simple flake tools in what appears
to be an opportunistic way to obtain protein. The second
starts about 1.5 million years ago with the appearance of
tools shaped to a preconceived pattern. The third began
about 250,000 years ago, when tool technology started to
become more specialized and innovative, and coincides
with the emergence of modern humans in Africa. It is
this third stage that this book explores from a multidisciplinary perspective, addressing paleoenvironmental,
genetic, anatomical, and archaeological evidence for the
origins and evolution of modern humans in Africa.
Willoughby points out that for decades modern human
origins research has focused on the first European modern humans, denigrating early modern Africans as
‘‘others’’ without history, behavior, or culture and implying that the first humans were not truly modern. The
premise of the book is to challenge these ideas by integrating the evidence from several different domains
within paleoanthropology, and this challenge is presented in the form of questions to be answered.
How well does the book address these questions?
What might genetic data be able to say about our common humanity? is addressed in Chapter 6. It provides a
clear summary of the most recent evidence from mitochondrial, nuclear, and Y-chromosome studies pertinent
to the modern human origins debate. The data reveal
the lack of genetic variation within our species, and the
majority of research points to a recent African origin for
modern humans. Thus, genetic evidence underscores our
common humanity, but, as the author points out, more
archaeological and paleontological evidence from Africa
is needed to test geneticists’ hypotheses about when and
where certain events occurred within Africa.
What is biological modernity? Fossil evidence is presented in Chapter 7, which provides a summary of fossil
discoveries in Africa, with details of morphology, dating,
and associated archaeological technologies. Although this
reads somewhat like a laundry list of fossils, it provides
a valuable synopsis of the historical context of each specimen, including various interpretations of each find since
the time of its discovery. The author concludes that, despite the paucity of fossils, there appears to be a morphological transition from Homo erectus to Homo heidelbergensis to anatomically modern Homo sapiens, whose
morphology appears to have arisen about 200,000 years
ago. However, more evidence is needed to determine the
rate of change and the selective pressures leading to
that transition. The conundrum facing paleoanthropologists is that biological modernity appears to precede behavioral modernity.
What constitutes behavioral modernity? The author
points out that past interpretation are biased by concentrating on the so-called Upper Paleolithic revolution,
where a suite of technological and behavioral traits is
associated with modern humans in Europe. However,
C 2008
V
WILEY-LISS, INC.
the three chapters devoted to detailing pertinent
archaeological sites spanning the Middle Paleolithic/Middle Stone Age to Later Stone Age reveal that individual
traits from that suite appear much earlier, appearing
even before 200,000 years ago in Africa. Ironically, those
same chapters indicate a reciprocal bias on the part of
African prehistorians for finding sites that document
that same Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition just in
Africa rather than Europe. But this perpetuates the idea
that behavioral modernity is only achieved once the
technologies associated with the European Upper Paleolithic coalesce in Africa. If modern human morphology
first appears about 200,000 years ago, what is it about
the environment and selective pressures prior to that
time that resulted in both modern morphology and the
appearance of MP/MSA technology? These people-and
their ‘‘new’’ technology-both appear at the end of a glacial period about 250,000 years ago and then spread out
across Africa into a multitude of different habitats. For
the next 185,000 years, they survived repeated warming
and cooling events, including a glacial period, each lasting about 10,000 years. The rapid fluctuation of temperatures and climate after 65,000 BP may have necessitated
the change in technology seen in the Upper Paleolithic/
Later Stone Age. But perhaps these people were already
modern and so could respond to environmental instability with greater behavioral flexibility and adaptability
than their contemporaries elsewhere. The author challenges us not to ignore those earlier, morphologically
modern humans and their technologies and to question
long-held biases that they are somehow less than
human. She presents a strong case for a kind of gradual,
mosaic evolution of modern behavior and makes one
evaluate not just who were the first to leave Africa but
who were their immediate ancestors.
This book succeeds in its monumental task of providing a pan-African survey of archaeological and paleontological sites. The details of artifacts, dates, and fossils,
provide an invaluable resource. Woven throughout the
book is a historical perspective on the development of
theories, research, people, and ideas. I found this useful,
particularly the history of African prehistoric research,
because it provides a context for evaluating the more
recent archaeological interpretations and theories. The
book makes a clear case for Africa’s potential to better
illuminate the later stages of human evolution.
In sum, this book is an excellent review of the literature, providing readers with the history and development of research, the current state of knowledge in each
field discussed, as well as a summary of major finds and
sites. It provides a welcome shift in focus from a Eurocentric to a more African-focused view of modern human
origins.
JENNIFER L. THOMPSON
Department of Anthropology and Ethnic Studies
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20860
Published online 23 May 2008 in Wiley InterScience
(www.interscience.wiley.com).
241
BOOK REVIEWS
GORILLA SOCIETY: CONFLICT, COMPROMISE, AND COOPERATION
BETWEEN THE SEXES. By Alexander H. Harcourt and
Kelly J. Stewart. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
2007. 459 pp. ISBN 0-226-31603-3. $30.00 (paper).
It is fitting that in 2007, 40 years after the founding of
the Karisoke Research Station and nearly 45 years after
the publication of George Schaller’s seminal work on the
mountain gorilla, Gorilla Society should be published. One
could argue that the book is about more than just gorillas—indeed, Harcourt and Stewart describe it as a worked
example of how socioecology can be used to explain society.
But the book is, in sum, a review and compilation of the
current state of our knowledge about gorilla society set
within a socioecological framework. The authors use some
interesting techniques throughout the volume, in an effort
to provide readers with sufficient background to fully
understand the concepts and principles that are used to
describe gorilla society. Text boxes are used effectively to
provide background information, and each chapter begins
with a summary and concludes with a comparison to other
great ape species. Although these methods work well at
providing a steady flow and consistency to the volume,
other approaches are less satisfactory. The most distracting of these is the placement at the end of each chapter of
details of methodology and statistics that are referred to in
the figures. Rather than enhancing readability, this style
interrupts the continuity of the text to a large extent. It is
easier to skip over statistical details in the text than to
jump back and forth when more explanation is needed.
Were this book written for a nonscientific audience, the
statistics-to-the-end approach might be appropriate; however, the book is written for primatologists, behavioral
ecologists, and anthropologists, who might find this somewhat disjointed organization a bit off putting.
Setting this organizational criticism aside, the volume
presents a thorough, readable, and at times personal
overview of the current state of knowledge on gorilla society, taking a socioecological approach to understanding
the differing strategies of gorilla males and females.
Organized into five main sections, the volume first provides a primer on primate socioecology. This broad overview offers insights into the theoretical approach taken
by the authors in their interpretation of gorilla society.
The second section offers some basic information on the
biology and ecology of gorillas. These sections set the
stage for the two main sections of the volume: Part 3 on
female strategies and Part 4 on male strategies. The
final section delves into future areas of research and conservation implications for gorilla survival.
It is Parts 3 and 4 that comprise the scientific ‘‘meat’’ of
this volume, and they do so in a very compelling manner.
Each chapter leads easily into the content of the next and
provides intriguing commentary to guide the reader
through the complexities of gorilla society. The authors do
an admirable job, as well, of integrating, comparing, and
contrasting data on mountain gorilla and western gorilla
populations. It is only in recent years that sufficient data
on western gorilla populations have become available to
make such comparisons possible. There remains a bias toward data on mountain gorillas; however, this bias is to be
expected given the relatively recent advent of substantive
data on western gorilla populations. Throughout these sections, differences between mountain and western gorilla
populations are discussed in light of differing ecological
constraints. Harcourt and Stewart describe the standard
socioecological paradigm of ‘‘females-to-food, males-tofemales’’ and demonstrate that this principle is completely
inadequate to describe gorilla socioecology. The authors
consider such aspects of gorilla biology as folivory, female
emigration, predation, and infanticide to support the argument that females seek out males for protection despite
potential competition over food. Comparisons with Pan
and Pongo serve to highlight the differences that have
allowed the unique features of gorilla society to develop.
The authors effectively describe the various influences
of conflict, compromise, and cooperation, alluded to in the
subtitle, in shaping gorilla society. Specifically, they pose
the question: If females compete for access to food, then
why live in groups? Alternatively, if they cooperate, then
why emigrate? It is the combination of folivory-with food
resources plentiful and indefensible-and the equalizing
influence of the male on competitive advantages among
females-that shape gorilla society. ‘‘Thus, lack of benefit
from cooperation allows emigration . . . however it does not
explain it’’ (p. 168). They argue that the benefits of protection from a male outweigh any competitive disadvantages
incurred by sharing food resources with the substantially
larger male or with other females: ‘‘Predation and infanticide favor the association; folivory allows it’’ (p. 246).
Whether this protection is driven primarily by predation
risk or infanticide risk is discussed at great length. And
although no definitive conclusion is drawn, the evidence
points toward protection against infanticide as a key component in gorilla socioecology. A modeling approach is
used effectively to describe this further, with the caveat
that, at some level, infanticide represents a form of predation, the difference being that infanticide may have a
higher probability of occurrence but lower cost (i.e., a
female can reproduce again) whereas predation incurs an
enormous cost yet is probably rare. Separating these two
explanations is nontrivial and is among the key areas of
future work highlighted in the concluding chapters.
The final chapters of the volume focus on areas that
demand further detailed investigation and call for standardization in methodology and cooperation in analysis in
order to generate answers. The authors recommend
expanding the use of ecological modeling as well as field
experimentation, neither of which has been used to full
extent by ‘‘gorilla-ologists.’’ Conservation issues are covered in the final chapter, with the postscript that without conservation, we will have nothing to study.
Gorilla Society offers a comprehensive and insightful overview of the current state of knowledge on gorilla socioecology. The volume succeeds admirably in
this regard, while also providing a complete and up-todate reference list, not only on gorilla behavior, but
more broadly on primate socioecology. As the authors
point out at the outset, gorillas are used as a case
study to highlight the importance of primate socioecology, in part, because of their uniqueness. Certainly, it
is this uniqueness that is highlighted throughout this
volume.
SUSAN W. MARGULIS
Curator of Primates
Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago, Illinois
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20872
Published online 9 July 2008 in Wiley InterScience
(www.interscience.wiley.com).
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
242
BOOK REVIEWS
HEALTH CHANGE IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION: BIOCULTURAL
AND EPIDEMIOLOGICAL APPROACHES. Edited by Ryutaro
Ohtsuka and Stanley J. Ulijaszek. New York: Cambridge
University Press. 2007. 313 pp. ISBN 0-521-83792-8.
$128.00 (hardcover).
The objective of this edited volume, as stated by
Ulijaszek and Ohtsuka in their opening chapter, is to consider ‘‘recent evidence concerning prehistoric migration,
and colonial, regional, and global processes in the production of health in the Asia-Pacific region’’ (p. 1). The volume
is a welcome contribution to a topic of longstanding interest to many biological anthropologists, and the editors
make a convincing case for the Asia-Pacific region as an
opportune locale in which to advance our understanding
of how global economic, political, and cultural processes
shape patterns of morbidity and mortality. In particular,
the recent and rapid emergence of Asian economies as
global powerhouses, globalization of trade and the penetration of the ‘‘world food system’’ into all areas of the
region, and increasing urbanization and migration are all
having profound implications for health.
The volume comprises 12 chapters written by contributors with extensive research experience in the AsiaPacific region, drawing primarily on conceptual and methodological tools from anthropology, demography, ecology,
sociology, and epidemiology. Of note is the high proportion
of contributors with primary appointments at institutions
in the Asia-Pacific region. The first three chapters set the
stage for the volume’s historical and biocultural perspective. In their opening chapter, Ulijaszek and Ohtsuka
introduce the key health issues in the region, summarize
central points from the chapters that follow, and underscore the importance of understanding contemporary
health transitions in the context of historic and prehistoric cultural and ecological processes. Oppenheimer follows with a discussion of geographic barriers to population
expansion into the Asia-Pacific region and reviews genetic
evidence for several waves of colonization and migration
in prehistory. Much of this evidence comes from research
on risk for iron deficiency and malaria and suggests that
contemporary health issues in some populations may be
shaped by past selection events. Ohtsuka’s chapter on
subsistence strategies and adaptation during prehistoric
population expansions reminds us that lifestyle changes
are not new to the Asia-Pacific region and that contemporary health transitions can be seen, in part, as an extension of events set in motion hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of years ago.
The remaining chapters take either a case study or a
comparative approach to focus on specific health issues
confronting contemporary Asia-Pacific populations. Ko
discusses the rising prevalence of obesity in Hong Kong
and notes that lower body mass index (BMI) cut-points
may be important for indicating overweight/obesity in
Asian populations, compared with European populations.
Conversely, Keighly et al. use higher BMI cut-points in
their comprehensive analysis of the social, economic, and
cultural determinants of trends in nutritional status
among Samoans in Samoa, American Samoa, and
Hawaii over a 28-year period. Inaoka et al. discuss the
cultural and economic context of obesity in Tonga, and
Ulijaszek documents historical changes in diet, blood
pressure, and body size in the Cook Islands. Attenborough emphasizes the concept of epidemiologic transition
in his review of health change in Papua New Guinea
and notes that chronic degenerative diseases are not
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
likely to replace endemic infectious diseases as major
sources of morbidity and mortality in this exceptionally
diverse nation.
Comparative data are used to full advantage in
Marks’s chapter on nutritional status in Indonesia,
Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines. In
it, he highlights the region’s economic heterogeneity and
notes that in some settings childhood undernutrition is
still common even while adult overnutrition is on the
rise. Yamauchi compares data on time allocation, diet,
and physical activity from Papua New Guinea highlanders and Solomon Islanders to investigate the contribution of lifestyle transitions to obesity, whereas
Woodward and Blakely investigate the economic factors
contributing to historical declines in mortality in indigenous and colonizing populations in New Zealand and
Australia. Finally, Frisbie et al. provide a review of the
health status of Pacific Islanders and Asians living in
the United States, emphasizing the relative well-being of
these groups, and the importance of recognizing the heterogeneity that exists within the commonly used categories of ‘‘Asian’’ or ‘‘Pacific Islander.’’
With a few exceptions, the chapters do not explicitly
link health outcomes to specific social, economic, and/or
cultural transitions but instead document changes in disease patterns over time or make ecological comparisons
across settings that differ with respect to their level of
urbanization or engagement with global processes. Topically, the nutrition transition and its health correlates are
the central focus of the majority of the chapters. This
amount of attention is perhaps appropriate given that several populations in the region are among the most obese
in the world, but some readers may be interested in other
health issues that receive scant attention, including
maternal and infant health, child growth, and recent epidemics of suicide in several South Pacific groups. Also
notably absent is any discussion of the developmental origins of adult disease, despite widespread recognition in
anthropology and the nutritional sciences that early environments and intergenerational influences are important
determinants of chronic degenerative diseases in adulthood. These factors may be particularly important for populations undergoing the nutrition transition.
These issues remain for future research. In the meantime, the volume documents the emergence of overnutrition and associated chronic degenerative diseases as
major public health problems in a dynamic, rapidly changing part of the world. The volume’s historical, biocultural
approach to these issues is a welcome, albeit at times
unevenly applied, complement to more traditional demographic and epidemiological perspectives on global health
transitions. The volume would be useful for advanced
undergraduate and graduate courses covering topics
related to human adaptability and population biology,
energetics and nutrition, and global health. In addition,
human biologists, demographers, nutrition scientists, and
epidemiologists with international health interests will
want to add this volume to their bookshelves.
THOMAS W. MCDADE
Department of Anthropology
Northwestern University
Evanston, Illinois
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20873
Published online 9 July 2008 in Wiley InterScience
(www.interscience.wiley.com).
243
BOOK REVIEWS
BOOKS RECEIVED
Cela-Conde CJ, and Ayala FJ (2007) Human Evolution: Trails from the Past. New York: Oxford University Press. 432 pp. $69.50 (paper).
Cohen MN, and Crane-Kramer GMM (eds.) (2007)
Ancient Health: Skeletal Indicators of Agricultural
and Economic Intensification. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. 464 pp. $75.00 (paper).
Fairgrieve SI (2008) Forensic Cremation: Recovery
and Analysis. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. 224 pp.
$99.95 (hardcover).
Fiorato V, Boylston A, and Knüsel C (eds.) (2007)
Blood Red Roses: The Archaeology of a Mass Grave
from the Battle of Towton AD 1461. Oxford, UK:
Oxbow Books. 284 pp. $50.00 (paper).
Gibson L (2008) Forensic Art Essentials: A Manual
for Law Enforcement Artists. Burlington, MA: Academic Press. 550 pp. $99.95 (paper).
Jones A (2007) Memory and Material Culture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 272 pp.
$25.99 (paper).
Lister A, Bahn P, and Auel JM (2007) Mammoths:
Giants of the Ice Age. Berkeley: University of California Press. 192 pp. $29.95 (cloth).
Moran EF (2008) Human Adaptability: An Introduction to Ecological Anthropology. Philadelphia: Westview Press. 473 pp. $42.00 (paper).
Owen R (2007) On the Nature of Limbs: A Discourse.
Edited by R. Amundson with a preface by B. K.
Hall. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 119 pp.
$20.00 (paper).
Perry S, and Manson JH (2008) Manipulative Monkeys: The Capuchins of Lomas Barbudal. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 368 pp.
$45.00 (cloth).
Pickering T, Schick K, and Toth N (eds.) (2007)
Breathing Life into Fossils: Taphonomic Studies
in Honor of C. K. (Bob) Brain. Gosport, IN:
Stone Age Institute Press. 314 pp. $74.95 (hardcover).
Pinhasi R, and Mays S (eds.) (2008) Advances in
Human Palaeopathology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. 408
pp. $150.00 (hardcover).
Thewissen JGM, and Nummela S (eds.) (2008) Sensory Evolution on the Threshold: Adaptations
in Secondarily Aquatic Vertebrates. Berkeley: University of California Press. 358 pp. $75.00 (hardcover).
Trevathan WR, Smith EO, and McKenna JJ (eds.)
(2008) Evolutionary Medicine and Health: New Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press. 544
pp. $45.00 (paper).
Van Gelder L (2008) Weaving a Way Home: A Personal Journey Exploring Place and Story. Ann
Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 176 pp. $19.95
(cloth).
Waldron T (2007) Palaeoepidemiology: The Measure of
Disease in the Human Past. Walnut Creek, CA:
Left Coast Press. 150 pp. $49.00 (cloth).
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20863
Published online 13 June 2008 in Wiley InterScience
(www.interscience.wiley.com).
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
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