What separates modern humans from our primate cousins—are we a mere blink in the march of evolution, or does human culture represent the definitive evolutionary turn? Dwight Read explores the dilemma in this engaging, thought-provoking book, taking readers through an evolutionary odyssey from our primate beginnings through the development of culture and social organization. He assesses the two major trends in this field: one that sees us as a logical culmination of primate evolution, arguing that the rudiments of culture exist in primates and even magpies, and another that views the human transition as so radical that the primate model provides no foundation for understanding human dynamics. Expertly synthesizing a wide body of evidence from the anthropological and life sciences in accessible prose, Read’s book will interest a broad readership from experts to undergraduate students and the general public.
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"...Dwight Read has brought his strong mathematical and logical skills to bear on the fundmental issue of what distinguishes cultural phenomena, both as systems and as evolutionary phenomena. Anyone concerned with 'what makes us human' will find new and important perspectives in this work."... --Henry Wright, University of Michigan
"Read argues for the emergence of enhanced cognitive abilities, and especially an increase in short-term working memory, as a driving force behind human behavioral evolution. The author reviews the diversity of social systems among Old World monkeys and chimpanzees, humans' closest living relatives, in an attempt to establish the foundation of human social organization. The book lead readers from an appreciation of the complexities of monkey and ape societies to an understanding of the sophistication of modern human communities; this transition is accompanied by an organizationl shift from biological kin selection to cultural group selection.
Summing up: Recommended. Undergraduate students and general readers."- A. Delgado Jr., CHOICE
"How Culture Makes Us Human is an intriguing book that I like very much. My appreciation stems from the author's ability to explicitly outline the cognitive capabilities within various primate lineages in order to demonstrate qualities of mind that allow for a cultural kinship system to develop. The book should appeal to both the evolutionary theory camp and the culture-is-unique camp in anthropology (and the social sciences) because it implies that both sides have a point. Clearly written, the book also contains numerous useful figures and illustrations. I recommend it highly for use in both graduate and undergraduate anthropology courses pertaining to evolution, the primates, hunter-gatherers, and culture."--William Raymond Yaworsky, Anthropology Review Database