Humans possess the most expressive faces in the animal kingdom. Adam Wilkins presents evidence ranging from the fossil record to recent findings of genetics, molecular biology, and developmental biology to reconstruct the fascinating story of how the human face evolved. Beginning with the first vertebrate faces half a billion years ago and continuing to dramatic changes among our recent human ancestors, Making Faces illuminates how the unusual characteristics of the human face came about—both the physical shape of facial features and the critical role facial expression plays in human society.
Offering more than an account of morphological changes over time and space, which rely on findings from paleontology and anthropology, Wilkins also draws on comparative studies of living nonhuman species. He examines the genetic foundations of the remarkable diversity in human faces, and also shows how the evolution of the face was intimately connected to the evolution of the brain. Brain structures capable of recognizing different individuals as well as “reading” and reacting to their facial expressions led to complex social exchanges. Furthermore, the neural and muscular mechanisms that created facial expressions also allowed the development of speech, which is unique to humans.
In demonstrating how the physical evolution of the human face has been inextricably intertwined with our species’ growing social complexity, Wilkins argues that it was both the product and enabler of human sociality.
Making Faces makes faces fascinating by opening a window onto an intriguing biological landscape. Lucid accounts of the roles played by genes, bones, muscle, and brain foreshadow provocative questions about race, sex, and psychology. Wilkins’s elegant account is a guide not only to what we see in the mirror, but also to the latest and the best in human evolution.
Making Faces is a highly readable account of how and why the human face is the way it is. Wilkins lucidly weaves together over a century of research on the development, anatomy, and evolution with new provocative ideas.
Tracing our evolutionary history back to the emergence of the first vertebrates some 500 million years ago, Wilkins pairs biological and genetic studies with the archaeological record to examine how humans developed the most expressive faces in the animal kingdom. It was an intriguing transformation that also provided the foundation for some
of our species’ unique characteristics, including the neural and muscular mechanisms necessary for speech, the cognitive ability to interpret emotional responses, and thereby sociability and culture. The book…gives a truly fresh appreciation of the wonders of the human face—even if they are still lost on us first thing in the morning.
This engaging and highly readable book offers a lucid account of the diverse areas of ‘scientific investigation’ that have shaped contemporary understanding of the evolution of the human face…[It] will appeal to any individual with an interest in human evolution and biology.
- 472 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
- Illustrated by Sarah Kennedy
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