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In the age of mankind. By Roger Lewin. Washington DC Smithsonian Institution Press. 255 pp. figures photographs index. $35

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By Ro er Lewin.
Washington, DC: Smithsonian nstitution
Press. 255 pp., figures, photographs, index. $35.00 (cloth).
In the Age of Mankind is a “coffee-table”
book oriented toward nonspecialists with an
interest in human biological and cultural
evolution. Written in a reportorial style with
occasional analytical moments, it provides a
popular account of some of the major issues
concerning the origin and evolution of humans.
The book is divided into three major sections. The first deals with the development
of evolution theory and the origiddiversification of primates, but mainly concentrates on the australopithecines and the rise
of Homo. The middle part reviews the further evolution ofHomo, including sections on
a few of the relevant fossils, mtDNA and its
implications for hominid phylogeny, art
(mainly Lascaux), the deployment of humans outside Africa, evidence for language
origins, and the rise of Neolithic and more
complex societies. The final section addresses the uniqueness of humans, contemplating the impact of ra idly evolving technological capacities an their implications
for future human adaptations.
Most of the book concerns humanity before
the Neolithic Revolution and much of the
text is extracted from interviews with some
of the leading authorities in paleoanthropology and archaeology. Lewin subscribes to the
rendition that much of the accounting of
prehistory is heavily influenced by “storytelling,” and throughout the text the underlying theme is that little of what the experts
concluded in the past was true. This makes
the reader suspicious about what they are
saying in the present and gives an unfair
impression of serious scientific work by paleoanthropologists and archaeolo sts, who
in my opinion are no more myt ical (nor
inaccurate) in their theorizing about the ast
than specialists working with fossil bir s or
dinosaurs. It some ways this theoretical bias
and the writing style give the text an anecdotal tone about what is really hypothesis
testing and speculation with a very incomplete fossiVarchaeologica1record.
In several places due t o the writing style
and informality in covering research results
there is superficial treatment of an issue.
For example, the discussions ofMiocene apes
and their rsdiation, bipedalism, australopithecine phylogeny, the evolution of erectus
and the fate of Neanderthals (who are designated as a species apart from supiens) are
incomplete and confusing in places. For bipedalism, Lewin writes on p. 68, “The explanation of bipedalism that currently enjoys the
most scientific support takes hominid origins completely into the sphere of animal
biology and leaves all cultural and social
appurtenances behind. It demonstrates that
the cost-energy argument is false, and further extends the trend toward biological
thinking.” Citing work by Rodman and
McHenry, he later states that “anthropologists took a long time to come to terms with
the obvious: Humans are not dogs and, more
important, they did not evolve from dogs.”To
me, these are odd statements about past and
current models for the origin of bipedalism
which mischaracterize much of the previous
research on human locomotion. As far as I
am aware, from the beginning speculations
about bipedalism have been viewed primarily from the ape perspective and consideration of energetic efficiency is still a prime
factor in human bipedal locomotion.
While the text may be inadequate in
places, the photographs, drawings, and artwork are worth the price of the book. Man of
these have been published elsewhere, gut
nowhere are they reproduced with such
quality and vividness. Nearly all photographs are in color and some are really stunning. For exam le, collectors on hands and
knees search t e desolate Fayum Depression for fossils (pp. 12-13), a reconstructed
skeleton of A. ufurensis is frozen in full running stride (p. 681, endocranial casts from
South African australopithecine sites gleam
from the page like chocolate truffles (p. 177),
and a bright Lap herder stands among a
swirl of dull reinieer (p. 196). Equally impressive are the illustrations by John
Gurche. The A. ufricunus family (p. 77) is a
classic “snapshot” reconstruction, only surpassed by his collection of Neanderthal faces
(pp. 182-183). These faces show a range of
emotional poses: La Ferrassie I with his
heavily worn anterior teeth snarls at the
viewer, while his brethren ado t more cautious, introspective postures. urche’s artwork juxtaposed with Lewin’s text, often
creates a contradiction, since the fossils are
depicted with such recognizable human
ualities and emotions, while Lewin follows
t e position that characteristically modern
human behavior is a very late development.
This is clearly not a book for classroom use.
Besides the expense, it does not provide
enough detail nor is it effectively arranged
for lectures. Despite some of my reservations
about Lewin’s approach and coverage, the
book would be a good gift for someone curious
about prehistory.
Department of Anthropology
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas
Using concepts developed in the first secThomas Wynn. Champaign, IL: The Uni- tion, Wynn shows in the second section how
versity of Illinois Press. 1989. vii + 107 Lower Paleolithic stone tool evolution, with a
pp., figures, index, $13.96 (paper).
few exceptions, mirrors the developmental
sequences of spatial thinking roposed by
Jean Piaget. Piaget’s theory of evelopment
In his “Norton Lectures,” (1974) Leonard is an evolutionary scheme, a fact often i Bernstein said that one way to know a thing nored by psychology, and much of it has to o
was in terms of another thing and proceeded with the ontogenetic development of proto undertake a musical analysis using ideas gressivel more sophisticated concepts of
of Chomskian grammar. In The Evolution of space. d i l e Piaget s theory is not without
Spatial Competence, Thomas Wynn has done its critics or imperfections, it remains, as
the great maestro one better. He has de- Wynn points out, the most widely accepted
scribed the early stages of stone tool technol- formalization of ontogenetic learning develogy in terms of two other things: formal opment. The extent to which ontogeny recamathematical precepts and the developmen- pitulates phylogeny is, of course, debatable,
tal psychology of Jean Piaget.
and is best resolved by empirical evidence.
In the first part of the book, W n trans- By demonstrating the correlation between
forms inexact archaeologxal ;i“
escriptive child develo ment sequences and the s atial
terms (ovoids, discoids, bipoints, etc.) into thinkingabi ities of stone tool makers, b y n n
formal mathematics using the language of has added some meaningful fuel t o the distopology, projective geometry, and euclidean cussion of the evolution of human intelligeometry. Wynn describes each mathemati- gence.
This book is important to human evolucal concept in clear, concise lan age, thankfully sparin us pa es of t eorems and tionists, evolutionary theorists, primatoloproofs. He t en app ies those conce ts t o gists, learnin theorists, and Paleolithic arAfrican stone tool assemblages from 0 duvai chaeologists. ome specialists in each field
Bed I, Olduvai Bed 11, West Natron, and may find Wynn’s treatment of their disciIsimila. These assemblages s an a cultural pline less than complete. If so they would be
range from Oldowan through cheulean and missing the point. Wynn’s goal is to bring
are associated with hominids from Austrulo- together diverse approaches to shed new
pithecus through Homo erectus.
light on the evolution of human intelligence,
Wynn shows that progressively more so- and to effectively construct his synthesis he
phisticated tools can be described by pro- had to omit a large number of particulars.
gressively more sophisticated mathematical The result is a readable, insightful contribuconcepts. For exam le, the simple Oldowan tion to the literature of human evolution.
artifacts from Bed need only the simplest
topological concepts such as “proximity” t o
be described, while description of Isimila
Anthropology Department
bifaces requires sophisticated topological
Kenai Peninsula College
concepts such as “continuity” to account for
Soldotna, Alaska
the modifications made by the knapper.
Wynn concludes that the increasing spatial
complexity of the artifacts is a reflection of Bernstein L (1974) The Norton Lectures 1973: The Unthe evolving mental abilities of the makers
answered Question. (Sound Recording) Columbia
Records, Vol. 1,M2X 33014.
a t least in regard to spatial intelligence.
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