At her best Vince takes dizzying leaps, making connections between archaeology, anthropology, genetics and psychology. She is especially good on the delicate interplay between genes, environment and culture. If, for instance, your society cultivated wheat crops that needed a plough — pulled by a man — the chances are you are more patriarchal than societies where women could work in the fields pulling rice. Power, and nutrition, was shared. There is a particular joy in a section that in just a few pages takes us from Aboriginal storytellers to the neurological basis of the placebo effect to a doctor who cured a patient by convincing him he had had a lizard enema (it’s complicated).