Ciarán Brewster, a.k.a. adhominin, just tweeted about three book reviews. The reviews, written by Robin McKie of The Observer, cover recent books on cooking and human evolution which were written by some pretty big names in anthropology:
- Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham
Wrangham’s thesis is that the advent of cooking reduced our energy demands of actually chewing, we do have a smaller muscles of mastication, jaws and teeth. This shift diverted the energy we would be spending on the act of eating, along with eating more easily digestable nutrients, to developing massive brains. Something I didn’t know and learned in the reviews is that people who eat only on uncooked meat or veggies will slowly starve, sucks for those on the raw food diet.
- The Well-Dressed Ape: A Natural History of Myself by Hannah Holmes
Holmes addresses the fact that human females are the only primates with enlarged breasts and discusses theories on why. She says that the large breasts allow more feeding time for infants, which kept the babies more compliant and less likely to cry, which would otherwise attract predators. Our relatively hairless skin also evolved as a direct function of predator pressure, early human ancestors needed greater surface area to cool off our skin with sweat as they ran from predators in the savannah.
- The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals died out and we survived by Clive Finlayson
Finlayson discusses why and possibly how Neandertals were so easily replaced by modern humans. He argues that the harsh landscape of early Africa, about 100,000 years ago, when modern humans emerged forced them to learn new technologies and lifestyles that were, “more inventive and intelligent as they struggled for survival. European Neanderthals, untutored in the school of hard knocks, were no match for our ancestors when they met.”
These books seem to be entertaining, you should check them out if you haven’t already. Also, if you’re on Twitter and looking to follow some active anthropology minded folks, I’ve compiled what I believe to be a pretty comprehensive list of anthropology Twitterers. Check that out too, and follow it… If I’m missing anyone please let me know on Twitter or via this post’s comment thread.