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The Evolution of Human Life History


Edited by Kristen Hawkes and Richard R. Paine

Human beings may share 98 percent of their genetic makeup with their nonhuman primate cousins, but they have distinctive life histories. When and why did these uniquely human patterns evolve? To answer that question, this volume brings together specialists in hunter-gatherer behavioral ecology and demography, human growth, development, and nutrition, paleodemography, human paleontology, primatology, and the genomics of aging. The contributors identify and explain the peculiar features of human life histories, such as the rate and timing of processes that directly influence survival and reproduction. Drawing on new evidence from paleoanthropology, they question existing arguments that link humans’ extended childhood dependency and long “post-reproductive” lives to brain development, learning, and distinctively human social structures. The volume reviews alternative explanations for the distinctiveness of human life history and incorporates multiple lines of evidence in order to test them.

2006. 524 pp., 71 black-and-white illustrations, 27 tables, 3 appendices, notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Contributors: Nancy Barrickman, Meredith Bastian, Barry Bogin, Jesper Boldsen, Kristen Hawkes, Nicholas Herrmann, Nicholas Blurton Jones, Lyle Konigsberg, Elissa Krakauer, Richard Paine, Shannen Robson, Daniel Sellen, Matthew Skinner, Maria Van Noordwijk, Carel Van Shaik, Bernard Wood

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“[T]his nicely produced, well-edited book will make important impacts and should provide a wide range of scholars with solid insights into the evolution of human life histories. It will be a fine resource for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses.”
—Steven R. Leigh, American Journal of Human Biology


  1. Introduction
    Richard R. Paine and Kristen Hawkes
  2. The Derived Features of Human Life History
    Shannen L. Robson, Carel P. van Schaik, and Kristen Hawkes
  3. Life History Theory and Human Evolution: A Chronicle of Ideas and Findings
    Kristen Hawkes
  4. Slow Life Histories and Human Evolution
    Kristen Hawkes
  5. Primate Life Histories and the Role of Brains
    Carel P. van Schaik, Nancy Barrickman, Meredith L. Bastian, Elissa B. Krakauer, and Maria A. van Noordwijk
  6. Lactation, Complementary Feeding, and Human Life History
    Daniel W. Sellen
  7. Modern Human Life History: The Evolution of Human Childhood and Fertility
    Barry Bogin
  8. Contemporary Hunter-Gatherers and Human Life History Evolution
    Nicholas Blurton Jones
  9. The Osteological Evidence for Human Longevity in the Recent Past
    Lyle W. Konigsberg and Nicholas P. Herrmann
  10. Paleodemographic Data and Why Understanding Holocene Demography Is Essential to Understanding Human Life History Evolution in the Pleistocene
    Richard R. Paine and Jesper L. Boldsen
  11. The Evolution of Modern Human Life History: A Paleontological Perspective
    Matthew M. Skinner and Bernard Wood
There are no working papers for this book at the present time.