The Cradle of Humanity: How the changing landscape of Africa made us so smart

Hardcover | November 27, 2016

byMark Maslin

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One of the fundamental questions of our existence is why we are so smart. There are lots of drawbacks to having a large brain, including the huge food intake needed to keep the organ running, the frequency with which it goes wrong, and our very high infant and mother mortality rates comparedwith other mammals, due to the difficulty of giving birth to offspring with very large heads. So why did evolution favour the brainy ape? This question has been widely debated among biological anthropologists, and in recent years, Maslin and his colleagues have pioneered a new theory that might justbe the answer. Looking back to a crucial period some 1.9 million years ago, when brain capacity increased by as much as 80%, The Cradle of Humanity explores the implications of two adaptive responses by our hominin ancestors to rapid climatic changes - big jaws, and big brains. Maslin argues that the impact ofchanging landscapes and fluctuating climates that led to the appearance of intermittent freshwater lakes in East Africa may have played a key role in human evolution. Alongside the physical evidence of fossils and tools, he considers social theories of why a large, complex brain would have provideda major advantage when trying to survive in the constantly changing East African landscape.

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One of the fundamental questions of our existence is why we are so smart. There are lots of drawbacks to having a large brain, including the huge food intake needed to keep the organ running, the frequency with which it goes wrong, and our very high infant and mother mortality rates comparedwith other mammals, due to the difficulty of ...

Mark Maslin (FRGS, FRSA) is a Professor of Climatology and Environmental Sciences at University College London, and is currently a Royal Society Industrial Fellow. He was the former Director of the UCL Environment Institute and Head of the Department of Geography, and in recent years has presented over 45 public talks, at the UK Space...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.1 inPublished:November 27, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198704526

ISBN - 13:9780198704522

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Table of Contents

1. In the Beginning2. Early Human Evolution3. Tectonic and Climate4. Cradle of Humanity5. Global Climate Change6. Celestial Mechanics7. African Climate Pulses8. The Social Brain9. Future of Humanity10. The Story So FarFurther Reading