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The Intimate Bond: How ­Animals Shaped Human History

Interspecies relationships have shaped history

Brian Fagan, anthropologist and scholar (professor at the University of California Santa Barbara), is the author of this and other interesting and deeply researched books in the field of archeology. The complexity of relationships in his family menagerie inspired The Intimate Bond’s history of how humans and animals have interacted from the Ice Age to modern times.
    Interspecies relationships have shaped history as, for example, subsistence farming of meat animals gave rise to the first large human settlements, our cities.
         From the earliest shepherds to modern animal behaviorists and pet owners, humans have learned to observe animals’ habits to train, subjugate or befriend them. Piecing clues together from cave paintings and burial tombs, Fagan concludes that early hunters tracked their prey, staying hidden and quiet for days as they watched the animals’ habits.
    But in between the first hunters, shepherds and farmers — who knew and respected the animals they depended on — and today’s humane society, there is a vast amount of evidence of brutal and inhumane treatment of animals, from horses and donkeys to cats, who were sometimes thought of as Satan’s emissaries.
         Fagan shows how the human attitude toward animals over thousands of years swings from kindness, even adoration, to cruelty and violence and back again. Going forward, will humans choose morality and altruism or brutal exploitation and self-interest in their treatment of animals? He does not offer an answer.
    A fascinating journey through history, The Intimate Bond is an interesting read for history and archeology buffs as well as for animal lovers.