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Human Biogeography

Alexander Harcourt

Publication Year: 2012

In this innovative, wide-ranging synthesis of anthropology and biogeography, Alexander Harcourt tells how and why our species came to be distributed around the world. He explains our current understanding of human origins, tells how climate determined our spread, and describes the barriers that delayed and directed migrating peoples. He explores the rich and complex ways in which our anatomy, physiology, cultural diversity, and population density vary from region to region in the areas we inhabit. The book closes with chapters on how human cultures have affected each other’s geographic distributions, how non-human species have influenced human distribution, and how humans have reduced the ranges of many other species while increasing the ranges of others. Throughout, Harcourt compares what we understand of human biogeography to non-human primate biogeography.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-v


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pp. vi-vii

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pp. viii-ix

...thank Robert Bettinger, Chris Darwent, Victor Golla, Frank Marlowe, David G. Smith, and Tim Weaver for information or unpublished data, and for very helpful discussion. I am very grateful to David G. Smith, Teresa Steele, John Terrell, and Tim Weaver for their commentary on several chapters. They...

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1. Biogeography and Humans

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pp. 1-12

...distributed around the world in the way it is— why we are what we are where we are. It is therefore both anthropology and biogeography. Anthropology is literally the study of humans, and it is nicely summarized...

PART ONE: Why and How Are We Where We Are?

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2. Origins and Dispersal

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pp. 15-52

...Many of the traits that distinguish humans in different parts of the world, especially genetic traits, have little to no relationship to the environment. If the differences are not due to the environment, then they can sometimes tell us about...

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3. Climate, and Hominin Evolution and Dispersal

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pp. 53-76

...Climate affects the origin, extinction, and spread of species across the globe. The highly variable climate of Africa during hominin evolution provides plenty of climatic events to connect to evolutionary events. However, statistical verifications of any...

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4. Barriers to Movement

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pp. 77-86

...Oceans, rivers, and mountains limit the distribution of primates. They define the distribution of humans too, even now within Europe, such that different languages are spoken either side of, for example, the Alps. It could be that mountains are more effective barriers in the tropics, because organisms either side of a...

PART TWO: Environmental Influences on Human Nature, Diversity,and Numbers

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5. How Are We Adapted to Our Environment?

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pp. 89-154

...Several human traits give every impression of being evolved responses to the environment, so accounting for several regional differences between human populations. Dark and light skin, respectively, prevent damage from the sun and allows...

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6. Use of Area

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pp. 155-192

...In common with a number of other large-bodied animals, primates living on islands are usually smaller than are their mainland relatives, the so- called island rule. Thus, the extraordinarily small Flores “hobbit”...

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7.A Biogeography of Human Diet and Drugs

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pp. 193-204

...Humans from different parts of the world have different diets. They correspondingly have different genes and different physiologies. For instance, the milkdrinking adults of Africa and northern Eu rope have genes coding for the production...

PART THREE: Interaction among Cultures and Species

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8. We Affect Our Biogeography

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pp. 207-214

...Humans worldwide have competed with one another probably ever since we were humans. When one culture is successful, the biogeography of human cultures changes, one culture expanding at the expense of another. Not all extinctions...

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9. Other Species Affect Our Biogeography

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pp. 215-224

...The organisms that cause disease vary in their geographic distribution, and therefore, so also do our physiological traits and genes. Thus, people native to areas where malaria is present have a different genetic complement than do those who...

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10. We Affect Other Species’ Biogeography

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pp. 225-244

...Ever since modern humans first spread out of Africa, and probably before then, we have changed the range of other species, irretrievably altering the globe’s biogeographical patterns. In a variety of ways, we have driven thousands of species to extinction, or in other words, reduced their geographic range to zero. Our movement across the globe can often be mapped by the accompanying wave of extinctions...


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pp. 245-302

General Index

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pp. 303-312

Author Index

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pp. 313-319

Production Notes

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p. 320-320

E-ISBN-13: 9780520951778
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520272118

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2012