Back of History: The Story of Our Own Origins

By William Howells | Go to book overview

Author's Note

In this book I have tried to make a single story of the human background. I have not attempted simply to make a preface to history by telling about ancient man, nor to describe certain primitive institutions merely for purposes of discussion. I have wanted, not to separate fossil skulls and island trade, but rather to bring them together, and so to make something understandable out of our past for anyone who might like to know about it in the most general way.

Trying to make as much sense and as little mystery as our knowledge will allow does not mean parading all the knowledge. It means choosing this and that, trying quite deliberately to create for the reader's view an impression which, while it cannot be complete, is not an untruth. I deal with the importance of classical clans in Melanesia and parts of Malaysia. I contrast them with fiercely complicated Australian kinship systems. If I neglect to say that kinship systems almost as awesome are indeed found also in a part of Melanesia, and suggested even in Southeast Asia, it is to protect my picture not from being damaged but from being obscured, which is sometimes worse. The exceptions, the irregularities, the inconsistencies are endless, and they are necessary elements of culture and the study of it. Of course to ignore the exceptions consciously would be intolerable in professional writing. But, in carrying the fruits of all the work out of the profession and into the hands of a public which is kind enough to want to know what the anthropologists have been doing, digestive interpretation and condensation--call it "processing" if you like-- is a task and a responsibility which cannot be avoided.

-363-

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Back of History: The Story of Our Own Origins
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Books by William Howells 2
  • Title Page 3
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • Content 9
  • Prologue 13
  • The Nature of Human Life 17
  • 1 - The Coming of Mankind 17
  • 2 - The Meaning of Society 31
  • 3 - Culture: How We Behave 45
  • 4 - Language: How We Talk 56
  • The Old Hunters--The First Step 69
  • 5 - Early Tools: The Lower Paleolithic 69
  • 6 - Early Men 82
  • 7 - The End of the Stone Age 101
  • 8 - The Last Living Hunters 118
  • The New Farmers -- the Second Step 135
  • 9 - The First Food Growers: The Neolithic 135
  • 10 - The Spread of Modern Races 154
  • 11 - Asia and the Western Farmers 168
  • 12 184
  • 13 - African Herders and Gardeners 206
  • The New Societes 223
  • 14 - The Organization of Society 223
  • 15 - The Meaning of Religion 241
  • 16 - Inventions and Changes 255
  • The New World 17 the Oldest Americans 273
  • Cities and Bronze-The Third Step 315
  • 19 - The Cradles of Civilization in Asia 315
  • 20 - Egypt, Crete and the Beginnings of Europe 336
  • Epilogue 353
  • Author's Note 363
  • Index 365
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