Book review Hominin Environments in the East African Pliocene An Assessment of the Faunal Evidence.код для вставкиСкачать
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 138:119–122 (2009) Book Reviews HOMININ ENVIRONMENTS IN THE EAST AFRICAN PLIOCENE: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE FAUNAL EVIDENCE. Edited by René Bobé, Zeresenay Alemseged, and Anna K. Behrensmeyer. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer. 2007. 356 pp. ISBN 1-4020-3097-0. $129.00 (hardcover). More than 25 years ago, C. K. Brain introduced the idea that there might be causal links between Neogene African climate change and major events in human evolution. Since that time, there have been 1) consistent advances in the study of the deep-sea paleoclimate record; 2) a more sophisticated understanding of the impact of tectonic and orbital forcing on African paleoenvironmental conditions; and 3) the expanded recovery of an increasingly reﬁned terrestrial vertebrate fossil record. Vrba’s turnover pulse hypothesis, which was based on purported rapid changes in Plio-Pleistocene vertebrate community structure, was an important early step in organizing some of these data sets into a coherent scenario of the mechanisms that drove human evolution. However, improved faunal samples from East Africa do not document the abrupt bursts of evolution predicted by the turnover pulse hypothesis (e.g., Behrensmeyer et al., Science 1997;278:1589). Undaunted, researchers forge ahead, workshops and symposia convene, and scholarly tomes are published. In the process, the hypothesis that environmental (including climatic) change is linked to speciation has become as mundane as it is profound. Two currently prominent and competing variants of this theme are Potts’s variability selection hypothesis and the environmental forcing hypothesis of Bobé and colleagues. These issues were the subject of a recent special journal issue (‘‘African Paleoclimate and Human Evolution,’’ Journal of Human Evolution 2007;53:443). Considering the storied context of the topic (much condensed here), the introductory remarks of editors Maslin and Christensen, ‘‘Results presented in this volume may represent the basis of a new theory of early human evolution in Africa,’’ are laid bare as hyperbole. The primary importance of the results presented in the Maslin and Christensen issue is not theoretical. Its value is instead as a collective, datarich summation that parses the relative contributions of tectonics, orbital forcing, and global climate in creating local African environmental conditions under which hominids evolved throughout the Plio-Pleistocene. In that perspective, Hominin Environments in the East African Pliocene, edited by Bobé et al., can be EVOLVING EDEN: AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE EVOLUTION OF THE AFRICAN LARGE-MAMMAL FAUNA. By Alan Turner and Mauricio Antón. New York: Columbia University Press. 2007. 269 pp. ISBN 0-231-11945-3. $24.95 (paper). With the steady stream of books recounting the evolution of ‘‘Adam’’ and ‘‘Eve,’’ people have got to be wondering what the other animals in Eden were like. Perhaps, it is this much needed perspective that motivated Turner C 2008 V WILEY-LISS, INC. viewed as an important companion piece. Whereas the Maslin and Christensen issue follows in a line of succession from essential volumes like Paleoclimate and Evolution, with Emphasis on Human Origins (edited by Vrba et al., 1995) that compile contributions from disparate but complementary disciplines, the new book by Bobé et al. is much more circumscribed in its aspirations and coverage. The majority of contributors to the book’s 12 chapters are paleontologists working with primary fossil data from some of the most important Pliocene sites in East Africa. Refreshingly, the stated overarching goals are not restrictive, and the ﬁnal product demonstrates that authors were given the latitude to contribute chapters that do hang together but in a very broad way. The collective exercise demonstrates that in East Africa— where tight constraint of temporal context is possible because of radioisotopic dating—there are a variety of creative ways in which faunal data can be used to situate the events of hominid evolution fairly speciﬁcally within a long period of great geological, climatological, and ecological dynamism. In addition, most authors are to be congratulated for appropriate taphonomic sensitivity in their approaches to the fossil record. Many of the data have been presented elsewhere (sometimes in different forms or with other emphases), but having them collected into a single volume is useful to the interested nonspecialist, and they beneﬁt from the uniformly clear style of presentation throughout. Just as with the Maslin and Christensen issue, there is no theoretical revolution in the pages of Hominin Environments in the East African Pliocene. Wisely, Bobé et al. never claimed their book contained one. What it does contain is more valuable: the further product of the long-running, widespread, and dogged effort to reﬁne the relationship between environment and evolution. More theory will never narrow this gap. More dates and more fossils will. TRAVIS RAYNE PICKERING Department of Anthropology University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, Wisconsin Institute for Human Evolution University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg, South Africa DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20906 Published online 18 August 2008 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). and Antón to contribute Evolving Eden. In this volume, the notion of Eden dominates as the authors focus mainly on the large mammals that were contemporaneous with Plio-Pleistocene hominins. After a foreword by Elisabeth Vrba, the ﬁrst chapter, ‘‘Dating, continental drift, climate change, and the motor of evolution,’’ lays the foundation for the rest of the book. Anyone wishing to brush up on the ﬁrst three topics should consult this useful chapter. Closing with barely three pages on evolutionary theory and processes, the authors 120 BOOK REVIEWS assume the readers are familiar with these concepts and skip their discussion in favor of getting to the animals. The second chapter, ‘‘The background to mammalian evolution in Africa,’’ outlines the processes of looking at the present geography, climates, and biomes of Africa to understand the past. Here the authors distinguish the hunting tactics of various big cats and how they may compete for a carcass. The readers learn of the ‘‘grazing succession’’: zebras ﬁrst nip off the tip of the blades of grass, then they are followed by wildebeests, then smaller ungulates, like gazelles, obtain the most attractive parts near the ground. They also discuss the water requirements of different taxa, wetland opportunities, adaptations for desert survival, and rain forest productivity, all from the large mammal’s perspective. Over half of the book is contained in the third chapter, ‘‘African mammals, past and present.’’ As it was unnecessary to make Evolving Eden into a proper ﬁeld guide, it is not quite organized like one, but nearly every page of this chapter contains an illustration. Before the taxa are discussed in detail, general methods of anatomical reconstruction are explained, then there is a brief discussion of zoological nomenclature, terminology, and systematics. The guide begins with the Order Primates and it follows with Creodonta, Carnivora, Embrithopoda (Arsinoitheres), Proboscidea, Perissodactyla, Artiodactyla, Insectivora, Macroscelidea, Chiroptera, Pholidota, Lagomorpha, Rodentia, Tubulidentata, and Hyracoidea. The authors mention that small mammals were included only for completeness. As expected, many more pages are dedicated to primates, carnivores, and artiodactyls than to any of the other orders. This chapter is infused with interesting bits of information, for instance, bears of an extinct tribe (Ursavini) lived in Africa more than 4 million years ago; sexual selection may explain the length of the giraffe neck (p 144); the hipparionine that left a tridactyl footprint at Laetoli did so because of slippery conditions, not because it normally walked on its lateral digits (Figure 3.66). Readers may be disoriented while gazing at the reconstruction of the ‘‘Turkana boy’’ (Figure 3.17). Antón expertly drew a boyish face, but he extended the boy’s hips to obliterate the waist. This interpretation of Homo erectus pelvic proportions, based on those of the Atapuerca Neanderthal specimen, is not a mainstream one, and it is surprising to see this depiction of Homo erectus without human-like proportions. When the authors question whether the Orrorin hominin remains comprise a single individual (p 76), they indirectly address a broader area of contention. Their critique of paleontological techniques echoes accusations made against artists for fashioning fossil Frankensteins to ﬂesh out complete animals. As long as we are fully and expertly aware of the limitations of the fossil record and paleontology— from death and recovery to artistic life-like reconstruction—then science and art can continue hand in hand as is showcased in the pages of Evolving Eden. ADVANCES IN HUMAN PALAEOPATHOLOGY. By Ron Pinhasi and Simon Mays. New York: Wiley. 2008. 389 pp. ISBN 0470-03602-8. $150.00 (hardcover). It may be asked if we really need yet another book on paleopathology, especially because there are many American Journal of Physical Anthropology In the fourth chapter, the authors discuss the environmental and faunal-community reconstructions of most well-known fossil sites located in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, and South Africa. Each entry is limited to a single paragraph or to a few short ones. The ﬁnal chapter, ‘‘Evolving African mammalian faunas,’’ is the prize for reading the previous four. Illustrating mostly with words, Turner and Antón beautifully draw together and reconcile all the data they discuss in the earlier pages and paint a lovely picture of Africa and its mammalian diversity in successive evolutionary periods. The result is a glimpse of the paleolandscapes and the large mammals that lived there through a time traveler’s binoculars. If there is one gripe that many readers will have regarding Evolving Eden, it will be about the disappointing presentation of Antón’s exquisite drawings. There are only 16 color glossy plates, eight of which are reconstructions, but the other eight are photographs of landscapes and animal communities. The publisher should have replaced the latter with more of Antón’s unique depictions of extinct mammals. The rest of the ﬁgures, although plentiful, are restricted to black ink. Many of them portray sweeping landscapes, but they have been shrunk to a maximum of about 5 3 7 inches. It is difﬁcult to appreciate much detail in these small renderings. The disservice the publishers did to the artwork does not detract from the importance of this book. It is a succinct introduction to African mammalian evolution and it will easily introduce newcomers to the ﬁeld. Likewise, Evolving Eden provides new, stimulating perspectives to experienced workers. From the tone of the preface and the epilogue, this book is also aimed at ecotourists. Most notably, Evolving Eden is recommended reading for anyone who teaches human evolution, especially those who have not been to Africa to witness its biotas. Turner and Antón bring to life the cardboard dioramas in which we so frequently place ancient hominins. They show that there is more to a savanna than grass and that animals do not evolve in a vacuum. Evolving Eden is a step toward putting ancient mammals, including ‘‘Adams’’ and ‘‘Eves,’’ not just in a sedimentary context, climate, or habitat, but into a living, breathing, evolving ecosystem of the past. HOLLY M. DUNSWORTH Department of Anthropology Northeastern Illinois University Chicago, Illinois DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20913 Published online 18 August 2008 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). acclaimed sources available. In this case, the answer must be a resounding ‘‘Yes!’’ The ﬁeld of paleopathology has undergone marked advances over the past 10– 15 years. The intention of the editors of this book is to call attention to this development within paleopathological research; the shift away from individual case studies 121 BOOK REVIEWS of speciﬁc conditions toward the use of population studies to answer archaeological questions. Each chapter addresses the biases and limitations, history and future progress of paleoepidemiology, and diachronic approaches to paleopathology. Thus, there are important and fundamental differences in the approach of this book when compared with previous publications. The book is divided into two sections: The ﬁrst comprises nine chapters, which provide an overview of analytical approaches in paleopathology, whereas the second comprises seven chapters, which focus on diagnosis and interpretation of disease in human remains. The 14 contributors are experts with many years of experience in their respective research ﬁelds. Each brings his or her own approaches to the study of paleopathology and presents case studies that add an extra interest for the reader. In addition, the contributors provide information about sites and materials yet to be published and information from articles in journals inaccessible to many applied paleopathologists, biological anthropologists, and osteoarchaeologists. The ﬁrst section gives an overview of various analytical approaches used in studying paleopathology. The initial chapter provides the reader with an understanding of the form and function of bone and the processes of chemical and microbial degradation. The next two chapters address the problems encountered when basing population analyses on burial populations and the use of epidemiological approaches in paleopathology. The following ﬁve chapters discuss advances in methodological approaches to paleopathology. These chapters describe the utility of macroscopic and microscopic examination of bone, as well as how radiography and CT scanning can add information about diseased bones that is not available through more conventional methods. The last chapter in this section is a review of the databases now available and their importance to the research community. For ease of reading, each chapter follows a preset structure. There is a good historical review of research pertaining to each speciﬁc topic. Detailed descriptions of when and how to use different methods are followed by discussions of their applicability to human remains. Each chapter has its own extensive list of references. This works well in this case because each chapter covers a unique topic, and thus there is little to no overlap in the sources listed. The second section addresses diagnosis and interpretation of disease in human remains. The conditions described are those associated with trauma, infectious and metabolic diseases, tumors and tumor-like processes, diseases of the teeth and jaws, and congenital anomalies. Each chapter is brimming with in-depth information on how to recognize various diseases based on skeletal evidence. An important aspect here is that the focus is not necessarily on extreme or advanced cases; rather, less ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE NEW GENETICS. Edited by Gı́sli Pálsson. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2007. 268 pp. ISBN 978-0-521-67174-3. $29.99 (paper). This volume in Cambridge University Press’s New Departures in Anthropology series uses the Icelandic biopharmaceutical company deCODE Genetics as a case study to examine the contributions of anthropology to the understanding of contemporary biomedical debates advanced cases are considered and information on how a disease progresses over time is presented. In addition, the chapters highlight what other infectious organisms may cause the same or similar skeletal lesions and, whenever possible, provide information to differentiate one cause from another. The chapter on congenital skeletal anomalies has a welcome inclusion of in-depth information on human development and embryology, topics that are often left out or only brieﬂy touched upon in standard paleopathology discussions. The concluding chapter discusses temporal changes in stature in archaeological populations and the predictive power of various skeletal elements to model growth curves. This book is essentially an introduction to advances in paleopathology. It offers a realistic approach to information that can be acquired from archaeological populations and encourages researchers to think about the factors that may inﬂuence the results of their analyses. It highlights the problems and limitations of archaeological material and emphasizes the importance of detailed description and differential diagnosis in analysis. The authors acknowledge the potential for bias in the data and present thoughtful discussions of how to counteract such biases. The authors accept that there is much that cannot be discussed in this volume, and each author has provided exceptional references to enable readers to research topics on their own. As an advanced how-to guide, where methodology is described in such detail that even a novice may be able to perform the research, this book is an invaluable resource for those embarking on careers in either academic or applied paleopathology. The volume is a good teaching tool for graduate students and professionals, as it addresses how to recognize and record changes to skeletal remains and how to recognize what potential disease process are responsible. The many illustrations included, all in black and white, are of excellent quality and are useful representations of speciﬁc lesions and diseases, especially as they depict the progression of pathological lesions. Visually and textually, this volume is of exceptional value for guiding future generations of paleopathologists. PIA NYSTROM DIANA MAHONEY-SWALES Department of Archaeology University of Shefﬁeld, Shefﬁeld United Kingdom DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20914 Published online 18 August 2008 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). and issues. The focus on deCODE Genetics is a strength of the volume and derives from the author’s ethnographic study of deCODE from its earliest days. One of the weaknesses of the volume, however, is that the ‘‘thick description’’ of deCODE is rather thinner than one might hope. I learned much about the history of deCODE, as well as about other similar ventures in other countries, but the wide-ranging digressions that the discussion spawns give short shrift to many topics. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 122 BOOK REVIEWS This may be the result of the series’ self-stated goal of providing concise syntheses of emerging themes in social and cultural anthropology that ‘‘stimulate, provoke, and inform anthropologists at all stages of their careers’’ (p. iii). At times I found the descriptions too concise and more provocative than informative. The book itself comprises eight chapters. The introductory chapter provides background information on deCODE Genetics along with some basics of Mendelian and molecular genetics. The concluding chapter attempts to place debates and controversies in some historical context and to frame questions for continued discussion and debate within the discipline. The real substance of the volume, however, is in the intervening six chapters. The ﬁrst of these introduces the ﬁrst of three persistent metaphorical themes in the book: birthmarks are body landmarks, just as genes are genomic landmarks and health statistics are the ‘‘birthmarks of the national body’’ (p. 114), and all may be imbued with signiﬁcance beyond their physical locations and descriptions. In the subsequent chapter on genealogies, trees are used as metaphorical descriptors of various levels of human variation, from population genetics to genealogical linkages. The inadequacy of the ‘‘Tree of Life’’ metaphor is explored in various ways throughout the volume. The third metaphorical theme is that of machines. The machinery of molecular biology, the gene-hunting machine that is deCODE, and the machine that maps gene to phenotype are but a few of the machines in the book. The metaphor is a tired one, but it facilitates the characterization of genetics and biology as undergirding the ‘‘hegemony of genetic determinism in contemporary discourse’’ (p. 13). This continuing theme of the volume is but one with which many physical anthropologists and geneticists will take issue. The three chapters on biobanking, bioethics, and biovalue raise interesting questions and provide considerable insight into the international discussion of these issues from the perspective of deCODE Genetics. The biobanking chapter offers a useful summary of and comparison among deCODE and six other national efforts to integrate medical records, genealogical information, and genetic data. The bioethics chapter is perhaps the most interesting, informative, and thought provoking of the volume. It fairly portrays the early controversy over the opt-out model of the Icelandic database, the role of the international bioethics research community in this controversy, and how Icelandic citizens’ perceptions have changed over time. Support for the effort initially was very high, but the opt-out rate has grown signiﬁcantly in recent years. This chapter also explores other issues associated with informed consent (e.g., individual vs. group), patient rights, and privacy protections. Curiously, the chapter on human variation is the weakest and least satisfying of the volume. The chapter covers much ground, but little of it is new or stimulating for geneticists or biological anthropologists. It rehashes old (and not so old) controversies and arguments, but little advance is made. Yes, trees are not particularly useful at representing some levels of human variation. Perhaps a rhizome model is better, but no comparable attempt to evaluate its shortcomings is made. And yes, populations are difﬁcult to deﬁne and are frequently deﬁned fairly arbitrarily. These issues aren’t new and neither are the analytical difﬁculties they pose. Some may be surprised to read that there is a general tendency (among geneticists, presumably) to assume that human population genetic data ﬁt an island model and that the history of population American Journal of Physical Anthropology deﬁnitions and sampling emanates from this assumption. In contrast, I take this to be an active area of research and debate rather than a uniform disciplinary assumption. The discussion of populations, races, and patterned human variation is neither new nor illuminating. There is occasionally some confusion concerning levels of variation: within and between populations, individual familial ancestry, among individual genetic markers, linkage groups, etc. This chapter does not ﬁt seamlessly with the others; perhaps because it is also the only one that does not even mention deCODE Genetics. The concluding chapter is not just a rehashing of the previous discussions. It is generally well written and perhaps deliberately provocative. Many will ﬁnd it frustrating, with its restatement of the presumption of biological determinism but inadequate attention to modern analytical models of variation, e.g., gene-environment interactions or other translational and developmental complexities. But the distinction between ‘‘gene-centrism’’ and genetic determinism is worthy of discussion, as is the propensity for degrees of relatedness among individuals and personal identity to be reduced to ‘‘genetic connections and genome properties’’ (p. 213). On the other hand, there are literary excesses here. I don’t know, for example, what it means to be posthuman in the modern age, or why we should prefer the ‘‘holistic’’ term genomic anthropology to the ‘‘reductionistic’’ biological or genetic anthropology (p. 208). Similarly, the claim for radical change in ‘‘conceptions of personhood, individuality, kinship, and society’’ (p. 212) as a result of biological/genetic research and medical procedures is not well supported. Like many similar bold claims in the volume, this one, too, is unencumbered by documentation or citation of the primary literature. Despite what I view as some basic weaknesses in presentation and documentation, this volume is worth perusing, if only because it is often useful. The book was written for social and cultural anthropologists, and as such is a useful barometer of how effectively, or ineffectively, we communicate the complexities of phenotypic development and human variation. Beyond that, the treatment of the history of national biobanks, especially deCODE Genetics and the demise of the Icelandic Health Sector Database, is useful and informative. The related discussion of the history of bioethical issues is similarly instructive and important. The intended audience of this volume seems to be advanced graduate students and professional anthropologists (or other social scientists). Given its wide range and limited (sometimes superﬁcial) treatment of some subjects, it would be useful as a text only in the context of a fairly focused graduate seminar. Some of the individual chapters, on the other hand, could be productively used in a variety of courses in both social and biological anthropology. They would certainly stimulate discussion and debate. If many of the positions taken here are contentious, the conclusion of the book that ‘‘biological anthropology has thrown a new light on human evolution, history and migration’’ (p. 229) is one that should be received warmly by readers of this journal. DENNIS H. O’ROURKE Department of Anthropology University of Utah Salt Lake City, Utah DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20936 Published online 15 October 2008 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com).