Technology and Science in Ancient Civilizations

Technology and Science in Ancient Civilizations

Technology and Science in Ancient Civilizations

Technology and Science in Ancient Civilizations

Synopsis

Why did the Greeks excel in geometry, but lag begin the Mesopotamians in arithmetic? How were the great pyramids of Egypt and the Han tombs in China constructed? What did the complex system of canals and dykes in the Tigris and Euphrates river valley have to do with the deforestation of Lebanon's famed cedar forests? This work presents a cross-cultural comparison of the ways in which the ancients learned about and preserved their knowledge of the natural world, and the ways in which they developed technologies that enabled them to adapt to and shape their surroundings. Covering the major ancient civilizations - those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, Greece, the Indus Valley, and Meso-America - Olson explores how language and numbering systems influenced the social structure, how seemingly beneficial construction projects affected a civilization's rise or decline, how religion and magic shaped both medicine and agriculture, and how trade and the resulting cultural interactions transformed the making of both everyday household items and items intended as art. Along the way, Olson delves into how scientific knowledge and its technological applications changed the daily lives of the ancients.

Excerpt

The lives of ancient peoples may seem far removed, socially, linguistically, and especially technologically, from the concerns of the modern world. Yet the popularity of historical subjects on both the big and little screens—Troy, Alexander, 300; HBO’s Rome, the many History Channel programs—demonstrates the abiding fascination the ancient world continues to exert. Some people are drawn to the dramatic differences between the ancient and modern; others seek to find the origins for contemporary cultural features or the sources to provide meaning to our modern lives. Regardless of approach, the past holds something valuable for all of us. It is literally the root of who we are, physically through our actual ancestors, and culturally in establishing the foundations for our current beliefs and practices in religious, social, domestic and political arenas. The same ancients that we study were themselves drawn to their own pasts, often asking questions similar to the ones we pose today about our past.

The books in Praeger’s series on the Ancient World address different topics from various perspectives. The ones on myth, sports, technology, warfare, and women explore these subjects cross-culturally, both within the ancient Mediterranean context—Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and others— and between the ancient Mediterranean cultures and those of the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Others, including the volumes on literature, men, sexuality, and on politics and society, examine their topic more specifically within a Greek or Greek and Roman cultural framework.

All renowned scholars committed to bringing the fruits of their research to wider audiences, each author brings a distinctive new approach to their topic that differentiates them from the many books that exist on the ancient world. A major strength of the first group is their multicultural breadth, which is both informative in its comprehensive embrace and provides numerous opportunities for comparative insights. Likewise, the books in the second group explore their topics in dramatically new ways: the inner life of male . . .

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