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Mortal Rituals: What the Story of the Andes Survivors Tells Us About Human Evolution Hardcover – August 13, 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews


Matt J. Rossano's attempt to parallel Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa's incredible venture with the evolution of the human capacity to survive works very well. As he so aptly puts it, his narrative describes a 'microcosm of human evolution,' and I think this book will grab the interest of many readers―students as well as the general public―as it teaches essential facts about the way Homo sapiens evolved.

(David Hicks, Stony Brook University and Clare College, Cambridge University)

A unique and ambitious volume. Rossano's narrative masterfully weaves a moving contemporary drama with a compelling account of the evolutionary history of ritual and religion. An impressive accomplishment and a truly captivating read from start to finish.

(Richard Sosis, University of Connecticut, cofounder and coeditor of Religion, Brain, & Behavior)

A fascinating, accessible account of how our propensity for group living, shaped by evolution, prepares us for survival. Rossano expertly brings the explanatory elegance of evolutionary theory and the adaptive value of ritual to bear on topics of fundamental human concern. Evocative, timely, highly recommended reading!

(Cristine H. Legare, University of Texas at Austin)

A fascinating new context for our story, illuminating and deeply rewarding for me. Mortal Rituals will be enjoyable and educational for anyone, whether familiar with our story or not.

(Eduardo Strauch, Andes survivor)

An amazingly engaging and compelling account of basic survival under the most extreme and harsh conditions. Rossano presents an excellent integration of the ordeal in the Andes Mountains with sound psychological theory and empirical evidence to explain why some were able to survive while others perished.

(Frederick L. Coolidge, University of Colorado, coauthor of How to Think Like a Neanderthal)

thought provoking

(Publishers Weekly)

An engrossing book.... Mortal Rituals is a clearly written and compelling case study.

(Craig Purshouse Times Literary Supplement)

Book Description

An intellectually exciting retelling of the saga of the Andes survivors and how they drew on the evolutionary resources of human nature to endure a ten-week ordeal.

--This text refers to the Digital edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (August 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231165005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231165006
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,204,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
An aircraft crash in a remote area, survivors left undiscovered for 10 weeks, cannibalism and much more besides. This is the grisly if not gripping story in this book that looks behind what happened from an evolutionary perspective to discover what it can really mean to be human.

The author carefully weaves together a number of findings and thoughts taken from the various fields of academia to come forward with a belief of how and why the survivors survived. It is not a religious-orientated "God's Will" sort of conclusion but an interesting mixture of circumstance, experience, determination and perhaps good fortune. Small things possibly helped play their part, such as the survivors being known to each other and members of the same rugby team, whilst other factors were more ingrained, more basic, subconsciously taken from our collective past.

Teamwork, a hierarchy, a sense of urgency, survival and leadership all contributed as well, helping mask (rather than overcome) the sense of loss, of sorrow and desperation. Necessity was the keyword in a desperate attempt to survive that possibly led to the unpalatable breaking of one of society's strongest taboos - cannibalism.

But despite the icky-ness of the headline subject, this book is no gore-fest. It is a sensible, articulate look at a subject through a mature, measured prism. As much as one can "benefit" from what happened, perhaps we are able to in any case get a slightly better understanding at what makes mankind tick in extreme situations, where help is not just a call away, where one really has just deal with what is in front of them. Of course, aircraft still crash, but thankfully technological advances may mean that there would be no similar occurrence in the future.
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