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The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465020429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465020423
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Arguing that human genetic evolution is still ongoing, physicist-turned-evolutionary biologist Cochran and anthropologist Harpending marshal evidence for dramatic genetic change in the (geologically) recent past, particularly since the invention of agriculture. Unfortunately, much of their argument-including the origin of modern humans, agriculture, and Indo-Europeans-tends to neglect archaeological and geological evidence; readers should keep in mind that assumed time frames, like the age of the human species, are minimums at best and serious underestimates at worst. That said, there is much here to recommend, including the authors' unique approach to the question of modern human-Neanderthal interbreeding, and their discussion of the genetic pressures on Ashkenazi Jews over the past 1,000 years, both based solidly in fact. They also provide clear explanations for tricky concepts like gene flow and haplotypes, and their arguments are intriguing throughout. Though lapses in their case won't be obvious to the untrained eye, it's clear that this lively, informative text is not meant to deceive (abundant references and a glossary also help) but to provoke thought, debate and possibly wonder.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Cochran and Harpending dispute the late Stephen Jay Gould’s assertion that civilization was “built with the same body and brain” Homo sapiens has had for 40,000 years. Humanity has been evolving very dramatically for the last 10,000 years, they say, spurred by the very civilizational forces launched by that evolution. They initially retreat, however, to Gould’s 40,000-year benchmark to consider how H. sapiens replaced H. neanderthalensis and to argue for genetic mixing such that modern humans got from Neanderthals the innovative capacity for civilization. Later, agricultural life created problems necessitating adaptations, most importantly to disease and diet, that persist to this day among inheritors of the populations that made them. Lighter skin and eye color arose from other genetic reactions to environmental challenges, and less immediately obvious changes further discriminated discrete populations, as recently as late-eighteenth-century Ashkenazi Jews, among whom intelligence burgeoned in, Cochran and Harpending contend, adaptive response to social pressure. A most intriguing deposition, without a trace of ethnic or racial advocacy, though directed against the proposition that “we’re all the same.” --Ray Olson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This book is very well written.
NONAMEHERE
The 10,000 Year Explosion by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending The 10,000 Year Explosion is a fascinating book about human evolution.
Book Shark
This is a book which will enlighten even if it infuriates.
R. Razib

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

192 of 202 people found the following review helpful By R. Razib on January 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read *The 10,000 Year Explosion* in one sitting. It's an incredibly dense 300 pages, synthesizing population genetics, classical history, archaeology and paleontology (to name a few fields). But the prose is straightforward and clear. The relatively abstruse nature of some of the intellectual framework means that many readers may encounter population genetics for the first time in their life, but for those who are less than enchanted by algebra these excursions are optional and one can safely "hum through" them and get to the meat.

And there is quite a bit of meat. Many books on human evolution have one main narrative arc; e.g., the Out-of-Africa migration, or the discovery of the Hobbits of Flores. In contrast, works which focus on world events tend to take a broad "peoples & places" vantage point, with little concern for non-human dynamics. As the authors note, *The 10,000 Year Explosion* is actually a work of genetic history, so naturally its purview is broader and its foundation more varied than is normally the case with narratives which attempt to sketch out the shape of human history. In fact, it is fundamentally different than other popular works of genetic history, such as *The Journey of Man* or *The Seven Daughters of Eve*. While those books attempt to infer prehistoric population movements from the patterns of particular genes today, *The 10,000 Year Explosion* aims to give full treatment to the evolutionary power of natural selection in shaping human history. Human migrations may shape genetics, but *The 10,000 Year Explosion* shows how genetics may shape human migrations, how culture may shape genetics, and how genetics may shape culture!

The abstract models which serve as the theory are fleshed out with specific case studies and familiar dynamics.
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104 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Joel on January 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The human species, according to Cochran and Harpending, is more interesting and more varied than would be imagined. They point out that the pace of human evolution accelerates linearly with population size (more people means more mutations), and that man has domesticated himself in many of the same ways that he has domesticated his plants and animals. The last 10,000 years really have seen an explosion of evolutionary change. There is the story of how lactose tolerant Indo-Europeans spread milk-drinking with blood and fire, why the Ashkenazi suffer from crippling genetic diseases at an unexpectedly high rate while winning 25% of Nobel Prizes in the last century, and how the Spanish really brought down the Aztecs and the Incas. This book is really the anti-"Guns, Germs, and Steel." The real accidents of history are matters of gene flow and chance mutation. This book compresses an astounding number of ideas into a few short chapters. As with the other reviewer, I was caught up by the active and engaging prose style, causing me to breeze through the book in 2-3 hours.
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94 of 103 people found the following review helpful By William Holmes VINE VOICE on February 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Despite the complexity of the subject, "The 10,000 Year Explosion" is clearly written and compellingly argued. The book is devoted to refuting the idea that human evolution stopped 10,000 or 50,000 years ago, as some have argued. Rather, humans are constantly adapting to diseases, cultural innovations, and myriad other changes in the environment. As Cochran and Harpending point out in the Overview to their book, "humans have changed significantly in body and mind over recorded history. Sargon and Imhotep were different from you genetically as well as culturally."

At some level, the idea is plainly correct. Sickle cell anemia, for example, results from an adaptation to malaria. Those who had the gene were more likely to live long enough to have offspring, so the genes that code for malaria resistance are much more frequent in populations originating from areas where malaria has been historically common.

The same principle explains why the New World's inhabitants were almost completely wiped out by diseases imported from the Old World--by some estimates, mortality approached 90% of the pre-1492 population of North America and South America. The denizens of the Old World had been pastoralists and farmers much longer than their New World counterparts, and so had been exposed to a host of nasty diseases that originate from domesticated animals (e.g., smallpox). The farmers who were lucky enough to have a genetic adaptation that could resist the diseases passed the adaptation along to their offspring, and over hundreds or thousands of years the genetic defense swept through the whole population. By the time Columbus reached the New World, he and has compatriots had evolved to resist the Old World's diseases.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Graham H. Seibert TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The authors piece together evidence from their wide-ranging, largely self-taught fields of expertise to flesh out their thesis that cultural and biological evolution go hand-in-hand. It seems probable that the publicity they got for their article two years ago on Ashkenazi Jewish intelligence convinced them that the time was right for a book. The Jewish piece, relatively little changed, appears as their final chapter.

The findings are new and the book feels a little raw. The authors know that many of their findings are subject to restatement on the basis of further research. One has the feeling that their objective is not to have the final word, but to reframe the argument. Intelligence researchers and others have long contended that there are statistically significant, measurable differences among populations. The essence of the counterargument has been "No, that can't be. There has not been enough time." Cochran and Harpending cite a vast body of evidence to the effect that yes, evolution can create vast differences among populations in the timeframe under discussion. They cite the great variety to be observed among dogs and other animals, and cultivated crops, just within the last century or two. The authors claim that the thesis that there have been no significant evolutionary changes in Homo sapiens over the past 50,000 years is about as likely as dumping a bag full of silver dollars on the floor and observing that they all land on edge. Simply impossible.

They are bold to suggest that interbreeding with Neanderthals may have sparked what they call the "great leap forward" and others refer to as the "Neolithic Revolution." They argue two ways.
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