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Life Histories of the Dobe !Kung: Food, Fatness, and Well-being over the Life-span (Origins of Human Behavior and Culture) Paperback – May 6, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"Life Histories of the Dobe !Kung is an enormous achievement, confirming what can be done with unique archival data in the right hands."
(Melvin Konner American Scientist 2011-01-01)

“The volume is full of stimulating information.”
(Jane B. Lancaster Journal Of Anthropological Research 2011-06-27)

“Nicely written and very readable. It will be widely read.”
(American Ethnologist 2011-08-08)

“A detailed and engaging analysis of nutritional and demographic data on !Kung foragers from the Kalahari desert in Southern Africa.”
(Jon Holtzman Gastronomica 2011-12-01)

“A very rewarding book . . . her findings are likely to prove very stimulating to the field.”
(Jonathan C. K. Wells Human Nature 2011-09-28)

From the Inside Flap

"A clearly presented and terrifically detailed work from the perspective of human evolutionary life histories. Dr. Howell has written a text that manages to raise as many intriguing questions as it provides to answer."—Eric A. Roth, author of Culture, Biology, and Anthropological Demography

"Nancy Howell's book on the Demography of the Dobe !Kung became an anthropological classic, the first in-depth analysis of the population structures and life histories of a foraging society. Three decades later, Howell returns to her initial data set to ask new questions inspired by Life History Theory. In the process she examines how variations in group composition impact the well-being of !Kung children, revealing that sharing is not just with one's closest relatives."—Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author of Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding

"This is a unique, scholarly book that reads like a detective novel. Howell uses demographic, anthropometric, and foraging data on the !Kung hunter-gatherers of Southern Africa to investigate what explains variation in the nutritional well-being of their children. Each chapter builds on the previous one, and through a process of elimination brings us closer to the answers, which are often surprising. Along the way, we see how food sharing is necessary to explain the peculiar elements of human life history."—Frank Marlowe, author of The Hadza: Hunter-Gatherers of Tanzania

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Product Details

  • Series: Origins of Human Behavior and Culture (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (May 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520262344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520262348
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,797,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Which would be okay if I was doing some scholarly research, but as I was looking for something to read in the evenings for fun, it wasn't quite what I was looking for. The first few chapters when she talks about her work and the Dobe !Kung in general are pretty interesting, but then it gets bogged down in her attempts to statistically test well-being (based on a bmi type indicator) using different factors (village, presence of grandparent, etc), with, spoiler alert, limited success.

Also, while I wanted to not be distracted by the fact that all the data she was referring to were from the 1960s, and hence, a group of Dobe !Kung that do not actually exist anymore in the same sense as in the 1960s when the data was collected, I found I could not.

But I can believe if this is your research interest, it could be quite informative. It is just not really a popular science book.
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Life Histories of the Dobe !Kung: Food, Fatness, and Well-being over the Life-span (Origins of Human Behavior and Culture)
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