World Prehistory: A Brief Introduction

World Prehistory: A Brief Introduction

World Prehistory: A Brief Introduction

World Prehistory: A Brief Introduction

Synopsis

This popular introductory textbook provides an overview of more than 3 million years of human prehistory. Written in an accessible and jargon-free style, this engaging volume tells the story of humanity from our beginnings in tropical Africa up to the advent of the world's first urban civilizations. A truly global account, World Prehistorysurveys the latest advances in the study of human origins and describes the great diaspora of modern humans in the millennia which followed as they settled Europe, Asia and the Americas. Later chapters consider seminal milestones in prehistory: the origins of food production, the colonization of the offshore Pacific and the development of the first more complex human societies based, for the most part, on agriculture and stock raising. Finally, Fagan and Durrani examine the prevailing theories regarding early state-organized societies and the often flamboyant, usually volatile, pre-industrial civilizations which developed in the Old World and the Americas.

Fully updated to reflect new research, controversies, and theoretical debates, this unique book continues to be an ideal resource for the beginner first approaching archaeology. Drawing on the experience of two established writers in the field, World Prehistoryis a respected classic which acquaints students with the fascinations of human prehistory.

Excerpt

Three thousand, four thousand years maybe, have passed and gone since
human feet last trod the floor on which you stand, and yet, as you note the
signs of recent life around you—the half-filled bowl of mortar for the door,
the blackened lamp, the finger-mark on the freshly painted surface, the fare
well garland dropped on the threshold—you feel it might have been but yes
terday…. Time is annihilated by little intimate details such as these, and you
feel an intruder.

Egyptologist Howard Carter, notebook entry
on Tutankhamun’s tomb, November 26, 1922

Golden pharaohs, lost cities, grinning human skeletons: archaeology is the stuff of romance and legend! Many people still think of archaeologists as adventurers and treasure hunters, like Indiana Jones of Hollywood movie fame seeking the elusive Holy Grail. This enduring image goes back to the late nineteenth century, when archaeologists like Heinrich Schliemann could still find lost civilizations like Troy and excavate three royal palaces in a week. Today no archaeologists behave like Indiana Jones. They are scientists, not adventurers, as comfortable in an air-conditioned laboratory as they are on a remote excavation. The development of scientific archaeology from its Victorian beginnings ranks among the greatest triumphs of twentieth-century science.

Archaeology has changed our understanding of the human experience in profound ways. A century ago, most scientists believed humans were no more than 100,000 years old. Today we know that our origins go back at least 5 million years. Our predecessors assumed the Americas were settled in about 8000 BC and that farming began around 4000 BC. New excavations date the first Americans to at least 12,000 BC and the beginnings of agriculture to about 10,000 BC. Most important, archaeology has changed our perceptions of ourselves, especially of our biological and cultural diversity. Welcome to the fascinating world of archaeology!

The ninth edition of World Prehistory continues a long tradition of providing an interesting, jargon-free journey through the 5-million-year-old landscape of the human past. We hope you enjoy your sojourn in its pages.

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