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The Animal Connection -- a new perspective on what makes us human
Date:7/5/2011

stone tools by early humans.

The evolution of language, Shipman argues, was a matter of life and death once our early ancestors adopted a predatory lifestyle. "Language arose as a way to store and transmit to other humans vital knowledge about the habits of other animals -- both fellow predators and prey -- especially as humans spread farther and farther afield in search of food." Evidence of the overwhelming importance of the animal connection to prehistoric humans is evident in ancient cave art from Europe to Africa, Asia, and Australia, where the figures depicted are nearly always animals, including majestic bulls and mysterious felines.

Animal domestication usually is assumed to be a consequence of agriculture, which developed 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. But Shipman recounts compelling evidence from a recent radiocarbon-dating study of a fossil canine skull that humans were keeping domesticated dogs 32,000 years ago -- more than 20,000 years before the agricultural era. Humans themselves also became domesticated and were changed by the animals they lived with, Shipman notes, giving those humans with a better knowledge of animal behavior a selective advantage over other farmers.

In "The Animal Connection," Shipman's intimate knowledge of animals shines through her engaging and insightful scholarship. She brings the reader with her into the field, piecing together forensic remains with the excitement of a detective. She investigates clues about how early humans lived, including such details as how they made stone tools. "Making a cutting tool out of a piece of flint is not easy," Shipman said, telling the story of how she learned to do it herself.

Shipman, who is both a scientist and an award-winning writer, is uniquely qualified to tell the story of how the human connection with animals originated and then came to shape our evolution. An adjunct professor of anthropology at Penn State University, she is the author of ten book
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Contact: Barbara Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

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