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Coming Home to the Pleistocene

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  129 ratings  ·  14 reviews
The Pleistocene was the age of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Shepard sets out to show how much of what we call culture can be traced back through our evolution from that formative stage.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published February 1st 2004 by Island Press (first published 1998)
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Richard Reese
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Paul Shepard (1925-1996) was a human ecologist and a turbocharged original thinker who spent his life trying to understand (a) how ordinary animals like us managed to evolve into a highly destructive swarm, and (b) what we could do to correct this. Genetic evolution is the primary engine of change for all forms of life, except humans. With humans, history and culture have changed us far more, and much faster.

Shepard’s research came to conclusions that did not thrill the stodgy professors of main
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
In all honesty, this book changed my view of the world. It changed how I think about human society and its relationship to the rest of nature. It changed how I think about my body and the right way to live in the world. I had more epiphanies reading this book than I have had reading any other book.

When I tried to explain the thesis of the book to my father four years ago, he thought it was ridiculous. I told him he had to read it for himself and he consented. It instantly became his favorite boo
Oct 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"The social, ecological and ideological characteristics natural to our humanity are to be found in the lives of foragers." Shepard's strong basic idea is that the hunter/gatherer existence of our Pleistocene ancestors more closely matched, or responded better to, what our genetic, biological, physiological and psychological evolution has prepared us for.

Our genetic inheritance doesn't directly prescribe specific social and cultural arrangements, he argues, but it does set limits. And these limi
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is extremely profound. It should be considered one of the primers of anti-civ theory, along with Daniel Quinn and Derrick Jensen's stuff, on a list of books to introduce people to the concepts, before they dive into the less accessible authors like Zerzan, Mumford or Kaczynski.

One of the best parts for me was the list of ways we can change the way we live in order to be in harmony with the wildness in our genomes. I hear so many people who refuse to consider the addiction to civilizati
A very interesting book, looking at various aspects of the human condition vis-a-vis the Pleistocene.
Basically, the author asserts that the human race has not evolved from what we were physically at that time, and then extrapolates to the psychological. He makes some very telling points -- to be chewed over and considered.
Profound and pragmatic analysis of our roots and present path. Still appropriate and relevant directions to explore.
“We have become accustomed to identifying a wide range of physical and social disorders—everything from war to ethnic intolerance, stress and trauma disorders, epidemic disease, and the vague dissatisfactions that lead to addictions and suicide— as weaknesses in the social, political, or technological order, rather than as evidence of a deep, ecological disassociation from our gen
Sienna Rahe
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
did not agree with the argument, but it is a good thought experiment
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Not sure what to make of this book, but thought provoking enough that I will continue to reflect on it for some time anyway. I have been working my way through some influential books in the environmental movement and having seen Paul Shepard's name several times I decided to start with this book. Clearly a brilliant and learned man, I can't help but wonder if his ideas about the superiority of the hunter-forager roots of our species over the corrupting influence of agricultural and pastoral soci ...more
Mar 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Read this after Nature and Madness. Coming Home to the Pleistocene seems to be Shepards most complete and mature book. From pg. 136, "Would it not then be incredible indeed, if savannas and forest groves, flowers and animals, the multiplicity of environmental components to which our bodies were originally shaped, were not, at the very least, still important to us? Would not such a concept of 'nature' be a major part of what might be called a basic optimum human environment?" From pg 143, "The sa ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The best one for a long time! Very deep and clear description of how humans probably lived their lives and saw themselves in the world before civilisation and how and why that changed with agriculture, domestication and authoritarian society-building. Lots of focus on how different aspects of the world came to have different meanings, things like the human relationship with time, death, earth and other humans. It cleared out lots of things for me. Lots of perspectives useful for seeing clearer o ...more
Yvette Van wijk
Dec 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting, but a bit hard to follow the thread always, a bit bitty and jumps around a lot. Many interesting opinions / theories which are obviously the authors, but not necessarily adequately backed up by references or shown to be valid in the text. maybe on needs to read his other books to get a better perspective, this one was edited after he died by his wife. Now I have ordered one of her books, Florence R Krall which sounds and reads (on Google books)as really interesting and well written ...more
Mathew Gross
Apr 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A great introduction to an author that anyone who has thought deeply about our relationship to nature must read. One cannot think about wildness without having explored Paul Shepard's lifetime of contemplation of the subject.
Sarah Cooper
May 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
one of the best books i have ever read!!!! read this book, it will impact the way you look at the world!
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Loved it.
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“Our world does not make us; nor do we make ourselves; we are the continuing creation of the interaction between our organic structure and the way we shape the world around us. It’s possible to do it badly. It’s also possible to do it well. We are an epigenetic phenomenon: our development is elaborated continuously during our entire lifetimes as it has been down through the ages.” 0 likes
“The health of a society is a measure of its freedom from stress, individual suffering, psychopathology, tyranny, and ecological dysfunction as a result of straying from that basic ancestral form.” 0 likes
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