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In one sense, human heads function much like those of other mammals. We use them to chew, smell, swallow, think, hear, and so on. But, in other respects, the human head is quite unusual. Unlike other animals, even our great ape cousins, our heads are short and wide, very big brained, snoutless, largely furless, and perched on a short, nearly vertical neck. Daniel E. Lieberman sets out to explain how the human head works, and why our heads evolved in this peculiarly human way.
Exhaustively researched and years in the making, this innovative book documents how the many components of the head function, how they evolved since we diverged from the apes, and how they interact in diverse ways both functionally and developmentally, causing them to be highly integrated. This integration not only permits the head's many units to accommodate each other as they grow and work, but also facilitates evolutionary change. Lieberman shows how, when, and why the major transformations evident in the evolution of the human head occurred. The special way the head is integrated, Lieberman argues, made it possible for a few developmental shifts to have had widespread effects on craniofacial growth, yet still permit the head to function exquisitely.
Preface: Heads Up
1. A Tinkered Ape?
2. The Skeletal Tissues of the Head
3. Setting the Stage: Embryonic Development of the Head
4. Modular Growth of the Fetal and Postnatal Head
5. Integration of the Head during Fetal and Postnatal Growth
6. The Brain and the Skull
7. You Are How You Eat: Chewing and the Head
8. Pharynx, Larynx, Tongue, and Lung
9. Holding Up and Moving the Head
10. Sense and Sensitivity: Vision, Hearing, Olfaction, and Taste
11. Early Hominin Heads
12. Ecce Early Homo
13. The Evolution of the Head in Homo sapiens
14. Final Thoughts and Speculations
Daniel E. Lieberman is Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard.
"By rooting his study in the basics of tissue mechanics and functional morphology, Lieberman does the spadework to which all such studies aspire but few achieve – and makes that task seem elegant and effortless."
– Henry Gee, Nature
"This [is an] impressive book [...] This hefty and well-written book offers a scholarly breadth and attention to detail that are certainly laudable. The book is quite unusual in that it includes a comprehensive review of the soft tissues associated with cranial features and discusses them within the context of evolutionary morphology and the fossil record of the human skull. I can think of no other volume that packages the anatomy of the human head in this fashion [...] Lieberman's big book definitely moves us ahead in effectively synthesizing so much of what is currently understood about the structure, function and evolution of the human head."
– Brian T. Shea, American Scientist
"Daniel Lieberman marshals diverse evidence to provide a comprehensive framework for understanding patterns of variation and covariation in the form, function, and phylogeny of the human head [...] The breadth and diversity of subject matter the volume will impart to the reader is particularly laudable. Lieberman's holistic approach is a welcome, if not requisite, strategy for addressing a multifarious biological system such as the human head. The book's focus on both hard- and soft-tissue components, consideration of how such elements correspond to one another, and comprehensive overview of external and internal influences on patterns of morphological variation and covariation clearly set the tone for how one might profitably investigate cranial evolution across all vertebrates. The introductions to myriad biological concepts, surveys of some modern approaches to outstanding paleoanthropological questions, and review of fossil evidence regarding evolutionary transformations in human skull form will enlighten readers of all backgrounds. The Evolution of the Human Head is an entertaining read [...] It contains a wealth of information relevant to human evolution. In doing so, it offers a wonderful entrée into many of the outstanding issues that will undoubtedly remain at the center of debates regarding human origins for years to come."
– Matthew J. Ravosa, Science
"Daniel Lieberman has written a wonderful and inspiring book about the human head's evolution [...] One stands in awe at the work that has gone into it [...] This encyclopedic book is transformative [...] The morphological details in Lieberman's book make it a direct descendant of Gray's Anatomy [...] If a single word describes this book, it is integrative. The author integrates material from anatomy, physiology, physics, biomechanics, molecular and developmental biology, but brings all under the umbrella of evolutionary theory."
– Chris McManus, Times Higher Education
"Lieberman dives deep into the cranium, showing just how much of what we consider to be human is connected to what happens above the neck."
– Carolyn Y. Johnson, Boston Globe
"Lieberman offers acute descriptions of anatomy, embryology, physiology, and hominid fossils, while providing an exciting way to observe the relationships among structures, functions, and evolutionary variance."
– Scott Vieira, Library Journal
"Lieberman's integrated approach will make his book a forum for a way of thinking in human evolution that has not yet found its equal in print."
– Christopher Dean, University College London
"This is an outstanding book. Lieberman draws from a wide variety of disciplines, including bone biology, embryology, morphometrics, functional anatomy, and paleontology to forge a masterful synthesis of the evolution of the human head. It will be the definitive reference for decades."
– John G. Fleagle, Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University