The World from Beginnings to 4000 BCE

The World from Beginnings to 4000 BCE

The World from Beginnings to 4000 BCE

The World from Beginnings to 4000 BCE

Synopsis

To be human is to be curious. And one of the things we are most curious about is how we came to be who we are - how we evolved over millions of years to become creatures capable of inquiring into our own evolution. In this lively and readable introduction, renowned anthropologist Ian Tattersall thoroughly examines both the fossil and archeological records to trace human evolution from the earliest beginnings of our zoological family Hominidae, through the emergence of Homo sapiens, tothe Agricultural Revolution. He begins with an accessible overview of evolutionary theory and then explores the major turning points in human evolution: the emergence of the genus Homo, the advantages of bipedalism - the trait that most strongly distinguishes humans from other primates - the birth of the big brain and symbolic thinking, Paleolithic and Neolithic tool-making, and finally the enormously consequential shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and elsewhere. Focusing particularly on the pattern of events and innovations in human biological and cultural evolution, Tattersall offers illuminating commentary on a wide range of topics, from early intimations of symbolism in Africa to our earliest known artistic expressions - the exquisite Cro-Magnon cave paintings and 30,000 year - old flutes made from vulture bones-to ancient burial rites, the beginnings of language, the likely causes of Neanderthal extinction, the relationship between agriculture and Christianity, and the still unsolved mysteries of human consciousness. Complemented by a wealth of illustrations and written with the grace and accessibility for which Tattersall is widely admired,The World from Beginnings to 4000 BCE invites us to take a closer look at the strange and distant beings who, over the course of millions of years, would become us.

Excerpt

Roughly 1.6 million years ago, Turkana Boy strode through the savanna of what today is northern Kenya. He was tall and longlegged and walked dozens of miles a day. He had lost most of the hair that had once covered early hominids and looked impressively human, yet Turkana Boy could not talk. the species Homo ergaster, of which Turkana Boy was a member, was a walking, but not yet talking, type of human that would eventually be replaced. One of several hominid species that predated our own Homo sapiens, Homo ergaster had many talents and abilities, skillfully wielding stone tools to perform increasingly complex tasks and, notably, inventing the handaxe.

The history of ancient bipeds and early humans reveals how each particular species, including Homo ergaster, faced challenges ranging from climate change to problems at the chromosomal level. These early humans had varying capacities and levels of intelligence, eventually changing from beings with massive teeth, protruding jaws, hairy bodies, and small brains to a species more like us. Some species succeeded, others became extinct, and along the way, new species appeared, sometimes intermingling with older ones. Humans became different and even brainier in processes that occurred in many parts of the world. the development of early humans from 5 million to 7000 bce still has many unknowns, but from bones and artifacts that have been found around the world, anthropologists and archaeologists have been able to recreate some of the drama of human evolution. They can now effectively demonstrate the ways in which one species of humans replaced another, finally producing our own version of humanity.

This book is part of the New Oxford World History, an innovative series that offers readers an informed, lively, and up-to-date history of the world and its people that represents a significant change from the “old” world history. Only a few years ago, world history generally amounted to a history of the West—Europe and the United States—with small amounts of information from the rest of the world. Some versions of the old world history drew attention to every part of the world ex . . .

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