A chatty, erudite introduction to one of the least publicized areas of archaeology: the sexual practices and attitudes of...

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THE PREHISTORY OF SEX: Four Million Years of Human Sexual Culture

A chatty, erudite introduction to one of the least publicized areas of archaeology: the sexual practices and attitudes of our prehistoric ancestors. Taylor's background as a professor (Archaeology/Univ. of Bradford, England) and popularizer for British television serves him well. As he sifts through the archaeological record to reconstruct the sex lives of hominids, Ice Age hunter-gatherers, and Neolithic farmers, he consistently entertains while provoking thought. His crisp, witty style can be found in lines like, ""I do not believe that women built Stonehenge. . . . I believe that the making of Stonehenge was ordered by a man and that he was unhappy."" The early chapters develop his thesis that sexual culture, including baby slings and contraception, was a shaping force in human evolution; the later chapters are a chronological, selective survey of Eurasian sexuality from Cro-Magnon to Roman times, capped with a loosely connected chapter on race. All the chapters are chockful of little-known facts (herbal ""morning after"" drugs; Siberian rock art showing a man on skis copulating with an elk) and acerbic rebuttals of other prehistorians' ideas. Taylor's opinions themselves are not always more credible than those he rebuts: His suggestion that language might have first been used to fake orgasm can hardly be supported or refuted by fossil evidence. Many of his claims show a nostalgic preference for the presumed sexual variety of prehistoric hunter-gatherers over the sexual repression he identifies with the agricultural revolution. And his conclusion--advocating breastfeeding and kilts over infant formula and pants--ends up sounding suspiciously trendy. But where else can you discover that pregnant mares' urine may have once been a form of transsexual hormone therapy?

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 055337527X

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996