224 pages, illustrations
Travis Rayne Pickering argues that the advent of ambush hunting approximately two million years ago marked a milestone in human evolution, one that established the social dynamic that allowed our ancestors to expand their range and diet. He challenges the traditional link between aggression and human predation, however, claiming that while aggressive attack is a perfectly efficient way for our chimpanzee cousins to kill prey, it was a hopeless tactic for early human hunters, who – in comparison to their large, potentially dangerous prey – were small, weak, and slow-footed.
Technology that evolved from wooden spears to stone-tipped spears and ultimately to the bow and arrow increased the distance between predator and prey and facilitated an emotional detachment that allowed hunters to stalk and kill large game. Based on studies of humans and of other primates, as well as on fossil and archaeological evidence, Rough and Tumble offers a new perspective on human evolution by decoupling ideas of aggression and predation to build a more realistic understanding of what it is to be human.
"Pickering provides an abbreviated but compelling history of the field, discussing dominant players as well as offering insights into how to interpret complex and fragmentary data [...] A capable and accessible guide."
– Publishers Weekly
"Using his firsthand research and a tremendous depth of knowledge, Travis Pickering offers a scientifically based meditation on the intertwining roles of aggression, hunting, and violence. Pickering takes the reader back in time to examine the roots and contributing factors that have made humans a dangerous, deadly, and paradoxically cooperative species. This book is thought-provoking, well-written, and important."
– Pat Shipman, author of The Animal Connection: A New Perspective on What Makes Us Human
"Travis Pickering is truly 'in the trenches' of human evolution research, yet his writing has all the clarity and liveliness that one would expect from a seasoned journalist. He conveys important scientific debates in a way that non-experts will find both accessible and enchanting."
– Bernard Wood, author of Human Evolution: A Very Short Introduction
List of Illustrations
1. A Man among Apes
2. Prehistoric Bloodsport
3. Tamping the Simian Urge
4. Conceiving Our Past
5. Death from Above
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Travis Rayne Pickering is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Honorary Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). He directs the multidisciplinary Swartkrans Paleoanthropological Research Project and is a co-director of the Olduvai Paleoanthropology and Paleoecology Project. He is the co-founder and coeditor of the Journal of Taphonomy and the coeditor of the book Breathing Life into Fossils.