After the Ice
20,000 B.C., the peak of the last ice age--the atmosphere is heavy with dust, deserts, and glaciers span vast regions, and people, if they survive at all, exist in small, mobile groups, facing the threat of extinction.But these people live on the brink of seismic change--10,000 years of climate shifts culminating in abrupt global warming that will usher in a fundamentally changed human world. After the Ice is the story of this momentous period--one in which a seemingly minor alteration in temperature could presage anything from the spread of lush woodland to the coming of apocalyptic floods--and one in which we find the origins of civilization itself.Drawing on the latest research in archaeology, human genetics, and environmental science, After the Ice takes the reader on a sweeping tour of 15,000 years of human history. Steven Mithen brings this world to life through the eyes of an imaginary modern traveler--John Lubbock, namesake of the great Victorian polymath and author of Prehistoric Times. With Lubbock, readers visit and observe communities and landscapes, experiencing prehistoric life--from aboriginal hunting parties in Tasmania, to the corralling of wild sheep in the central Sahara, to the efforts of the Guila Naquitz people in Oaxaca to combat drought with agricultural innovations.Part history, part science, part time travel, After the Ice offers an evocative and uniquely compelling portrayal of diverse cultures, lives, and landscapes that laid the foundations of the modern world.

After the Ice Details

TitleAfter the Ice
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 1st, 2006
PublisherHarvard University Press
ISBN-139780674019997
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Science, Anthropology, Archaeology, Prehistory

After the Ice Review

  • Forrest
    January 1, 1970
    Years ago, as an undergraduate at BYU, I was a teaching assistant to Dr. Dale Berge for a semester. Much of my time was spent boiling down textbooks into study notes for students, like an alchemist trying to extract gold from lead. It was a lot like real work. For the life of me, I can't recall the names of the textbooks (that may be a subconsious effort to forget the difficulty of the work), but they were broad world surveys of archaeology that were state-of-the-art at the time (the mid-'90s). Years ago, as an undergraduate at BYU, I was a teaching assistant to Dr. Dale Berge for a semester. Much of my time was spent boiling down textbooks into study notes for students, like an alchemist trying to extract gold from lead. It was a lot like real work. For the life of me, I can't recall the names of the textbooks (that may be a subconsious effort to forget the difficulty of the work), but they were broad world surveys of archaeology that were state-of-the-art at the time (the mid-'90s). I pored over thousands of pages, taking notes and distilling the information down into outline form for an upcoming survey class that Dr. Berge was teaching. To say I learned a lot is an understatement - I was only an anthropology minor, so I didn't have the breadth of knowledge that some of the other T.A.s had. But I knew more than the students in the classes for whom I was preparing the study outlines, so there was that, I suppose.Previous to that time, I had read Alexander Marshack's outstanding The Roots of Civilization: The Cognitive Beginning of Man's First Art, Symbol and Notation, which covers a time frame that mostly preceded those covered in Mithen's After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC, though there may be some overlap. Come to think of it, my reading of Marshack's book probably led me to want to minor in Anthropology. That book had a powerful effect on me, thrusting me back into prehistory, while fostering in me an appreciation for the human subjects of all this cool, brain-tickling research.During the winter break following my T.A. stint with Dr. Berge, I read Marija Gimbutas' Language of the Goddess: Unearthing the Hidden Symbols of Western Civilization, which covers a time period primarily after that covered by Mithen.So when I first heard of this book, I thought it might be a good survey for filling in those "gap years" between the years covered by Marshack and Gimbutas.Thankfully, I was right. This is an excellent survey, with a couple of weaknesses. Let me tell you why.First of all, scope. Mithen does an outstanding job of covering the large-scale geological and atmospheric changes that took place over this rather dynamic, often turbulent, time in the Earth's history. After a long ice age, the weather warmed for a time, then dipped back into a short, but intense, ice age, then gradually warmed up again, this time with further reaching, more long-lasting effects that we see even to this day. But Mithen isn't content with just painting a large-scale canvas. In order to bring us back down to human scale, he employs two characters with the same name: John Lubbock. The first John Lubbock was a Victorian archaeologist who brought some needed scientific rigor to the archaeological field. The second John Lubbock is a fictional character from our era who travels back in time to observe conditions and, more importantly, to observe the everyday doings of everyday people in the many different societies he visits. Their views are often contrasted to show the advances that archaeologists have made since the early days of archaeology as a science. Often, he does so step by step, showing the progression that has been made over time with new discoveries. Along the way, as Mithen goes from era to era (from 20,000 to 5000 BC) and continent to continent (covering everything except Antarctica, much to my relief), he shows the "how" of archaeology and much of why certain methods were used, how some earlier (Victorian) assumptions cast a false light on the past, and who were the key figures in gaining said insights. Sometimes, the simple jettisoning of preconceived notions of what one thinks they ought to find gives a clearer picture of what actually happened. This is the case with the discoveries at Oleneostrovski Mogilnik (Deer Island), where initial data, collected by Soviet archaeologists, was interpreted through the filter of (incorrect) Marxist ideas of prehistoric social structure. Later, when the same data was reinterpreted, a completely different picture of the ancient activities at that site emerged. At other times, the old notion of "the simplest explanation must be the best explanation" had to be abandoned, as happened at Creswell Crags, where earlier archaeologists had taken it for granted that remains found at the same stratum must have been collected there at the same time. Erosion hadn't figured into their equation. As later digs revealed, a single layer of sediment does not necessarily contain items of a single provenance. Mithen excels at exposing the reader to a number of different archaeological methodologies. In 45 pages, he covers the basic science behind, and provides examples of the use of archeo-zoology, historical genetics, and historical linguistics in reconstructing the past. His presentation of these and many other methods of delving into prehistory are thorough, catching the subtleties of each, without dragging the reader down with too much detail.The big picture never escapes Mithen, and he does well to present several sides of some controversial issues. For instance, on the question of the disappearance of megafauna such as the mastadon from North America, and whether the cause of their extinction was disease or over-hunting, his answer is . . . neither . . . and both. Mithen argues that the climactic change that occured with the warming of the Earth after the last ice age forced such animals into tight niches that could not sustain them, making them easy prey for hunters and particularly susceptible to disease. He cites several different pieces of evidence for this, not least of which is the very limited use of such animals in ancient North Americans' diets, as evidenced by the multitude of rabbit and fowl bones that show cut marks from butchering, versus the very small number of such bones coming from megafauna. Yes, there is evidence that the use of the clovis point might have been necessary to take down bigger game (though some think that the clovis point was all for show and trade, and not for use as a real weapon) and there is evidence for disease and famine (signs of starvation in megafaunal bones), but his argument, that the changes in habitat precipitated megafaunal populations, allowing them to be in a position to be pushed "over the edge," seems convincing.So this is the best book on prehistory ever, right? Not so fast. We wouldn't be following Mithen's lead if we just bought this hook, line, and sinker, now would we? After all, Mithen makes it obvious that his "newer" John Lubbock sections are fictional, though they derive from suppositions arising out of the archaeological record. But what if the suppositions are wrong, or at least suspicious?As an example, Mithen gives a fictional account of John Lubbock's visit to Mesopotamia, particularly the site at Zawi Chemi Shanidar, some time between 11,000 and 9000 BC. Here Lubbock witnesses the ritualized killing of baby goats by people dressed up in costumes that were partially constructed from vulture and eagle wings. It's great fiction: the costumed participants circle a campfire where the goats have been gathered to the rhythmic beating of a skin drum. The goats shiver with fear, then, at the climax of the ritual, the "vultures and eagles" swoop down and wring the goat's next, falling all about, spent from the orgiastic energy of the ritual.Except it didn't happen. "Maybe it did," you say. I say "prove it". Mithen's "proof" is that several vulture and eagle wings were buried along with several young goat skulls near a fire. But who's to say that the birds of prey weren't eaten and the dinner guests just didn't like wings? Perhaps the wings were removed for other reasons, as trophies, like a deer head in a man-cave today. And what of the goats? They found skulls, but no clear evidence that they were strangled. That's pure supposition. It's fiction. It makes a great story. But it's just that: a story that Mithen made up. Even he admits, several times throughout the book, that when archaeologists can't find a good reason for some of the strangeness they uncover, the default argument is that the weird assemblages are a result of ritual. It's easy to cite modern instances where religious ritual might have been assumed from the leftover trash and detritus of some very non-religious, non-ritualistic activities. Sometimes, these sorts of things are even faked. Such a thing happened not two miles from where I live.But let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Mithen's After the Ice is as good as it gets, so far as archaeological writing is concerned. If you need evidence of that, just look up a few of the books he references - b-o-r-i-n-g. And his science, for the most part, is sound. And if you, like me, had not read a survey of archaeological discoveries for over twenty years, I invite you to delve into Mithen's book. Because the further we move into the future, the more we know about the past.
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  • Jonathan
    January 1, 1970
    The LRB review can be read here: http://www.karimsadr.com/resources/Mi...I did ramble at length initially in this review-space but deleted it all as entirely irrelevant. Simply put this book is just about as good a piece of work as one could expect from such a thing, and I unhesitatingly recommend it to all and sundry. Absolutely fascinating from start to finish, with a willingness to explore controversy and be clear when he moves on to guess-work. Some quotes: From the intro: “I make use of Jo The LRB review can be read here: http://www.karimsadr.com/resources/Mi...I did ramble at length initially in this review-space but deleted it all as entirely irrelevant. Simply put this book is just about as good a piece of work as one could expect from such a thing, and I unhesitatingly recommend it to all and sundry. Absolutely fascinating from start to finish, with a willingness to explore controversy and be clear when he moves on to guess-work. Some quotes: From the intro: “I make use of John Lubbock to ensure that this history is about people's lives rather than just the objects that archaeologists find. My own eyes cannot escape the present. I am unable to see beyond the discarded stone tools and food debris, the ruins of empty houses and the fireplaces that are cold to the touch. Although excavations provide doors to other cultures, such doors can only be forced ajar and never passed through. I can, however, use my imagination to squeeze John Lubbock through the gaps so that he can see what is denied to my own eyes, and become what the travel writer Paul Theroux has described as a 'stranger in a strange land'. Theroux was writing about his own desire to experience 'otherness to its limit'; how becoming a stranger allowed him to discover who he was and what he stood for. This is what archaeology can do for all of us today. As globalisation leads to a bland cultural homogeneity throughout the world, imaginative travel to prehistoric times is perhaps the only way we can now acquire that extreme sense of otherness by which we recognise ourselves. And it is the only means that I have found to translate the archaeological evidence I know into the type of human history I wish to write. From later: "Archaeologists are still struggling to understand the new lifestyle that the Late Natufian people of the Jordan and Euphrates valleys adopted during the Younger Dryas. A telling source of evidence is their burial practice, and how this had changed from those of their village-based ancestors. Perhaps the most striking development is that people were no longer interred wearing elaborate head-dresses, necklaces, bracelets and pendants made from animal bones and seashells. The fact that about a quarter of the Early Natufians had been buried in this fashion suggested that some had been much more wealthy and powerful than others. Wealth and power had evidently been dependent on sedentary village life. This provided an elite with the opportunity to control the trade that brought seashells and other items to the villages. A return to mobile lifestyles swept away their power base and society became egalitarian once again, much as it had been in the Kebaran period. The absence of seashells adorning the dead was not because such shells were no longer available - they are found in abundance in Late Natufian settlements. Rather than being placed with the dead they were simply discarded with the domestic rubbish, along with bone beads and pendants. The shells had lost their value because there was no longer any control over their distribution - mobile hunter-gatherers were able to collect seashells for themselves and trade with whom they wished." And “Why create the social tensions that inevitably arise when one has permanent next-door neighbours within a village? Why expose oneself to human waste and garbage and the health risks that accompany a more sedentary lifestyle? Why risk the depletion of the animals and plants near one's own village? We can be almost certain that people were not forced into this lifestyle by over-population. Natufian sites are no more abundant than those of the previous times; if there had been a time of population pressure it was at 14,500 BC when there is a dramatic increase in the number of Kebaran sites and the standardisation of microlith forms. There is no evidence for a population increase two millennia later when the first Natufian villages appear. Moreover, from the evidence of their bones, the Natufian people were reasonably healthy quite unlike a people being forced into an undesirable lifestyle by shortage of food. Anna Belfer-Cohen of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has studied the skeletal evidence and found very few signs of trauma, such as healed fractures, nutritional deficiencies or infectious diseases. People under stress tend to develop thin lines in their tooth enamel- called hypoplasias. These indicate periods of food shortage, often immediately after weaning. The lines are less frequent in Natufian teeth than in those of farming people. But both Natufian teeth and those of early farmers are heavily worn down. This confirms the importance of plants in their diet: when seeds and nuts were ground down in the stone mortars, grit would have become incorporated in the resulting flour or paste. And when the food was eaten, this grit abraded the teeth, often leaving them with hardly any enamel at all. The Natufian people appear to have been quite peaceable as well as healthy. There are no signs of conflict between groups, such as embedded arrow points in human bones unlike the situation that Lubbock will find on his European, Australian and African travels. The Natufian hunter-gatherer groups were good neighbours; there was plenty of land, gardens and animals for all. It is possible that the Natufian and Abu Hureyran people were prepared to suffer the downside of village life - the social tensions, the human waste, depletion of resources - to enjoy the benefits. Francois Valla, the excavator of 'Ain Mallaha, believes that the Natufian villages simply emerged from the seasonal gatherings of the Kebaran people. He recalls the work of the social anthropologist Marcel Mauss who lived with hunter-gatherers in the Arctic at the turn of the century. Mauss recognised that periodic gatherings were characterised by intense communal life, by feasts and religious ceremonies, by intellectual discussion, and by lots of sex. In comparison, the rest of the year, when people lived in small far-flung groups, was rather dull. Valla suggests that the aggregation of mobile hunters and gatherers prior to the Natufian may have been similar, and the Natufian people simply had the opportunity to stretch out those periods of aggregation, until they effectively continued for the whole year. Indeed, all the key elements of the Natufian villages were already present at Neve David: stone dwellings, grinding stones, dentalium beads, human burials and gazelle bones. As the climate became warmer and wetter, plants and animals more diverse and abundant, people stayed longer and returned earlier to their winter aggregation sites until some people remained all year round."
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  • J.M. Hushour
    January 1, 1970
    If you've wondered what humanity was up to between the last glacial maximum and the rise of "civilization" (always the most fun parts of the game of the same name), this is the book for you. Taking a global approach, since all we ever hear about is Europe, Mithen gives you the full dilly. Every continent is covered as well as the archaeological evidence allows for, he digs into controversies over interpreting data and isn't afraid to weigh in with his own ideas.Climatology enthusiasts will be pl If you've wondered what humanity was up to between the last glacial maximum and the rise of "civilization" (always the most fun parts of the game of the same name), this is the book for you. Taking a global approach, since all we ever hear about is Europe, Mithen gives you the full dilly. Every continent is covered as well as the archaeological evidence allows for, he digs into controversies over interpreting data and isn't afraid to weigh in with his own ideas.Climatology enthusiasts will be pleased, as will archaebotanists, if that's a thing--I think that's a thing--a lot of the text is give over to climate change, plants, and the roles all that played in the emergence of modern humans.Minor quibbles: the text jumps around in time and space, which is kind of necessary but makes some sections a little confusing, especially the final section on Africa. Nice maps, but needs more illustrations, too!
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  • Akira Watts
    January 1, 1970
    This book could have been far better than it turned out. The topic is hugely interesting and is constantly in flux, as new archaeological discoveries enter the field of knowledge. But the text is fatally flawed by a few poor decisions. First among these is the choice to inject a fictional, 20th century, character into the mix, apparently as a way to describe Pleistocene/Holocene society in a relatable fashion. It ends up being incredibly distracting, repetitive, and (for me) a constant reminder This book could have been far better than it turned out. The topic is hugely interesting and is constantly in flux, as new archaeological discoveries enter the field of knowledge. But the text is fatally flawed by a few poor decisions. First among these is the choice to inject a fictional, 20th century, character into the mix, apparently as a way to describe Pleistocene/Holocene society in a relatable fashion. It ends up being incredibly distracting, repetitive, and (for me) a constant reminder that so much of what is being described is fairly speculative. Which leads to the second issue - the endnotes, where far too many details about the reasons behind speculations (as well as a lot of interesting asides) are shunted. This is a personal quibble, but unless you're David Foster Wallace and the text is called Infinite Jest, I don't get the choice of endnotes over footnotes. It irks me. Lastly, the text itself seems a bit disorganized. Even divided into regions (and why on earth is Mesopotamia grouped with South Asia?), things jump around in space and time without ever coming together in any kind of unified fashion. True, our knowledge of the time in question - 20,000 - 5,000 BCE - is fragmentary, but surely some sort of rough synthesis could have been possible.All in all, a frustrating book. So much fascinating information, but presented in what is, to me, a deeply annoying fashion.
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  • Simon Mcleish
    January 1, 1970
    Review of hardback edition, originally published on my blog here in October 2004.In the last few years, the understanding that professional archaeologists have of life in the prehistoric world has advanced rapidly, but the new ideas have generally been quite slow to filter through to the level of the interested amateur, apart from the odd newspaper article when a particularly sensational story has been unearthed, such as the disproving of the "Clovis first" theory about the earliest inhabitants Review of hardback edition, originally published on my blog here in October 2004.In the last few years, the understanding that professional archaeologists have of life in the prehistoric world has advanced rapidly, but the new ideas have generally been quite slow to filter through to the level of the interested amateur, apart from the odd newspaper article when a particularly sensational story has been unearthed, such as the disproving of the "Clovis first" theory about the earliest inhabitants of the American continent, or the exposing of the Philippine's Tasaday tribe as a hoax perpetrated by the Marcos regime for its own reasons. In After the Ice, Steve Mithen provides a popular account of the current state of archaeological knowledge and theory, a worldwide survey of the story of 15,000 years - a period which basically extends from the height of the last Ice Age to the earliest agricultural cultures.In this sort of account, the difficulty is to make the past come alive - to turn the trenches back into huts, the bones into people - while being able to show the reasoning behind the reconstruction, the boundaries between knowledge and supposition, and also to explain something of the scientific techniques used in modern archaeological investigation. Mithen uses a particular device to overcome this difficulty: he writes about what would have been seen by a time traveller he names John Lubbock, named after a famous Victorian historian, who in his own book Pre Historic Times did something similar to After the Ice, although right at the start of the study of the prehistoric past: this was the book which introduced terms such as Palaeolithic and Neolithic. John Lubbock carries a copy of Prehistoric Times around with him, which makes it possible for Mithen to discuss just how much our ideas about the past have changed in the last century and a half (and also our attitudes to non-white people). This generally works quite well, only occasionally becoming irritating; far less so than a description of the device makes it sound.Apart from those with an interest in the past for its own sake, why should anyone read After the Ice? Mithen makes a case for this by considering global warming. Through this fifteen thousand year period, global temperatures rose dramatically (though not as fast as they are now), and many of the changes in the archaeology can be linked to the environmental changes that were local effects of this. The drastic move to agriculture - it should be noted that the early farmers had poorer nutrition than the hunter gatherers they replaced - has had amassive (indeed, incalculable) social impact. This is some food for thought as we look to the next century, when global warming is likely to impact a world containing thousands of times as many people.One minor irritation occurs in connection with the footnotes. A lot of the more technical detail is relegated to notes at the end of the book, and there are many readers who, like myself, will want to follow them as they progress through the main narrative. The problem is that there are frequent errors in the numbering of the notes which can make this a frustrating process. To take an example, in the last chapter the note referenced as 2 in the text appears as 6 in the endpapers, with the notes in between also incorrect (3-5 become 2-4). I hope this will be corrected in later editions.After the Ice is a fascinating book, and is essential reading for anyone interested in the prehistoric past. Maybe in a decade or two it will be out of date; and in a century and a half it may well seem to be a naive, forgotten relic of the past like Prehistoric Times has become. But for now this is the history book of the year.
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  • Nicholas
    January 1, 1970
    An amazing look, and in some ways, seminal look into the very earliest parts of human history. Mithen's work is oddly presented in the form of a journey through time by a fictional character, but the meat of the scholarship is found in the author-asides that explain how the fictional scenes were extrapolated from the very real archaeological evidence from the various sites. The book is daring in its scale, not many authors would be brave enough to try and cover fifteen thousand years of history An amazing look, and in some ways, seminal look into the very earliest parts of human history. Mithen's work is oddly presented in the form of a journey through time by a fictional character, but the meat of the scholarship is found in the author-asides that explain how the fictional scenes were extrapolated from the very real archaeological evidence from the various sites. The book is daring in its scale, not many authors would be brave enough to try and cover fifteen thousand years of history in a 600-odd page book, but Mithen does not leave the feel that much has been overlooked. Another good point about Mithen is that he is consistent in telling us how various kinds of evidence are analysed by historians to reach the conclusions that are drawn. In some cases the explanations get very technical indeed, but the transparency of process that is usually not found in history books means that even if Mithen's work is ever rendered obsolete in its conclusions, it will remain timeless as a source of evidence.
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  • Scott Davies
    January 1, 1970
    Well I struggled through to the end of this, but only because the subject matter is so interesting and there are so few non-specialist books available. Mithen likes to paint little pictures of life as it might have been in prehistory. That in itself is fine, except that it's not always clear what is based on hard evidence and what is pure conjecture. I found myself having to re-read passages or search the footnotes to try to figure it out.Even worse is the supremely annoying presence in these vi Well I struggled through to the end of this, but only because the subject matter is so interesting and there are so few non-specialist books available. Mithen likes to paint little pictures of life as it might have been in prehistory. That in itself is fine, except that it's not always clear what is based on hard evidence and what is pure conjecture. I found myself having to re-read passages or search the footnotes to try to figure it out.Even worse is the supremely annoying presence in these vignettes  of John Lubbock; a fictional, time-traveling anthropologist ghost. It's distracting and condescending. This mistake is compounded by the decision to give him the same name as an actual (Victorian) prehistorian, who is also often referred to in the text, which means having to awkwardly distinguish between the two the whole way through.It's not surprising that the author's particular field (archaeology) will colour a work like this, but here genetic and linguistic evidence are skimmed over with unseemly haste, and aren't mentioned at all for many chapters at a time. This is important. For example, I know from other books that there is a surprising diversity of indigenous language families in one small corner in the north-west of Australia, yet just one language family accounts for the entire remainder of the continent. This is intriguing and unexplained. But it isn't mentioned, even in passing, in any of the chapters covering Australia.
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  • Alana
    January 1, 1970
    It took me several months to get through this book because it's so dense and packed with information, but it was really fascinating and well written. I especially enjoyed the imagined descriptions of these archaeological sites as they might have once been. Really a great resource if you want to know what it was like to live in the Mesolithic era.
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  • Jim Good
    January 1, 1970
    I must admit that when I first started reading this book I was put off by the manner in which Mithen provided information. The insertion of a fictional character with the same name as a Victorian age author who published a book about early archeology and sociology was hard to place within the well-researched and insightful history. Even now I find myself tempted to discuss this abstraction rather than the meat of the book, though I must admit that it accomplishes his desire to both show how view I must admit that when I first started reading this book I was put off by the manner in which Mithen provided information. The insertion of a fictional character with the same name as a Victorian age author who published a book about early archeology and sociology was hard to place within the well-researched and insightful history. Even now I find myself tempted to discuss this abstraction rather than the meat of the book, though I must admit that it accomplishes his desire to both show how views of the time evolved and give a more personal understanding of the sites themselves.With that said, the shear breadth of this book is enormous. Mithen spares little detail in discussing how archeology determined the facts of the sites uncovered. At various times he delves into phytoliths and how as inorganic material remnants of plants it helped to determine fauna, why the cave paintings seemed to cease after 10,000BC in Europe after a 20,000 year history, and how wild and cultivated crops developed in different societies and the time of their introduction. In addition he provides great detail on weather change and how the historical weather conditions were determined and most importantly how that shaped the world between 20,000 and 5,000 BC.In the end I enjoyed the science of discovery and the educated speculation more than the artificial gimmick bothered me. Anyone who has read any of Mithen’s other books let me know which one you recommend most and why. I’ll add it to the growing list.
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  • Rgauthie
    January 1, 1970
    Reviews archaeological evidence concerning the period 20,000 BC to 5000 BC, covering all the continents. Very encyclopedic and at time quite interesting, I have two complaints which almost made it a one star review. The author uses a fictional character , John Lubbock, who travels to each of the sites named (and there are dozens of them), and describes what he sees when the sites were actually in use. I found this technique detracted from the book. Besides that, Lubbock seems to travel criss cro Reviews archaeological evidence concerning the period 20,000 BC to 5000 BC, covering all the continents. Very encyclopedic and at time quite interesting, I have two complaints which almost made it a one star review. The author uses a fictional character , John Lubbock, who travels to each of the sites named (and there are dozens of them), and describes what he sees when the sites were actually in use. I found this technique detracted from the book. Besides that, Lubbock seems to travel criss cross across the prehistoric world in no particular order, except by continent. I found this very confusing,as the time periods involved were jumbled, making the timeline difficult to follow. My other criticism is the lack of diagrams. An awful lot of the sites had very similar findings, and while the author felt the need to give us a detailed word picture of some of the finds, especially all the different types of microliths, I would have found a picture much clearer. Oh, well. Glad I finished it, and have it on the shelf to refer back to, when I read other articles or books concerning this period of archaeology.
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  • Roger Burk
    January 1, 1970
    This covers the world history of mankind from 20,000 to 5,000--from the last Ice Age to (in favored locations) the Neolithic and the beginning of government. The tale is told through the eyes of a fellow named Lubbock (named after a Victorian proto-prehistorian), who wanders through each continent over this time period, unaffected by time or distance or hunger, though he does eat off the land from time to time, perhaps out of a sense of solidarity with the locals. He visits the sites that later This covers the world history of mankind from 20,000 to 5,000--from the last Ice Age to (in favored locations) the Neolithic and the beginning of government. The tale is told through the eyes of a fellow named Lubbock (named after a Victorian proto-prehistorian), who wanders through each continent over this time period, unaffected by time or distance or hunger, though he does eat off the land from time to time, perhaps out of a sense of solidarity with the locals. He visits the sites that later archaeologists will excavate, describing how they looked in life (with details filled in by imagination, pretty plausibly as far as I can tell). He visits the camps and villages, enters the dwellings and huts, samples some of the food and even helps with some of the simpler chores, all somehow without being noticed. Of course, this means he spends more time at burials and in caves than was perhaps typical of people of those ages, since those sites were better preserved for 20th- and 21st-century archaeologists. Lubbock seems unaffected by time or distance, and sometimes waits in one place for hundreds of years until his next site is ready, then rouses himself like Rip Van Winkle, shaking off the dust and tearing off the vines to go on his way. It's all great fun, and regular asides give us the archeologist's view of the site also.Two annoyances: (1) The author indulges in the idea that life was better in the paleolithic, an idea I think one would abandon at the first toothache or bout of strep throat. He laments the growth of "inequality" when everyone was getting better off. (2) He gives regular sermons on the dangers of Global Warming. Maybe he is right, but it is not his subject, and I am tired of being lectured on this subject. Interestingly, he does inform us that the earth underwent a global warming of 7 deg C in 50 years around 9600 BC purely from natural causes, more than twice the increase predicted in 100 years from current GW.
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  • Iset
    January 1, 1970
    This has been my dip-in-and-out of book for the past few months. I didn’t intend it to be so, but ARC’s kept on popping up and the requisite read-and-review commitments along with them. I think I would’ve preferred to have read it as one continuous narrative, as by the end a couple of the sites mentioned earlier in the book were a little hazy, but it does work read in this way – each chapter covers a certain region and range in time, making it quite digestible in one or two chapter chunks.Mithen This has been my dip-in-and-out of book for the past few months. I didn’t intend it to be so, but ARC’s kept on popping up and the requisite read-and-review commitments along with them. I think I would’ve preferred to have read it as one continuous narrative, as by the end a couple of the sites mentioned earlier in the book were a little hazy, but it does work read in this way – each chapter covers a certain region and range in time, making it quite digestible in one or two chapter chunks.Mithen takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of human life across the globe between 20,000 and 5000 BCE, a period known as the Mesolithic, or Middle Stone Age. Mithen’s interest is that this is a period of great change and upheaval that saw the end of the ice age, the transition to the landscapes and climates we know today, and, for humanity, the transition from a lifestyle of nomadic hunter-gathering to domestication and settled communities in many, but not all, parts of the world. It’s a big topic, and the book certainly did feel extensive at times (and once you’ve finished the book the endnotes take up the rest of the pages – a whopping third), but I felt that Mithen argues his case well. I certainly found the topic very interesting, and it was fascinating to delve even deeper into a subject with which I am already reasonably familiar, but by no means an expert. As far as I know, Mithen’s book is the only one that specifically focuses on the Mesolithic whilst providing an overall global view.However, what makes this a good book is not just an interesting subject matter; it’s how Mithen writes it. Mithen alternates his dry academic discussions, which provide the serious material an academic like me is interested in, with vivid descriptions and reimaginings of Mesolithic peoples, which provide the stimulation the reader in me needs to become engrossed in a book. The author has taken a bit of criticism for his fictional scenes, but to my academic’s critical eye he writes them very carefully, explaining in his factual sections where and why he adds dubious details. This style has been done to great effect by others in this field before; namely, Brian Fagan’s Cro-Magnon. Personally I feel it adds something to the liveliness of the narrative, and may help the casual reader get into what might other be a fairly dry, inscrutable topic. As part of his fictional sections, Mithen uses a modern day guide, called John Lubbock, named after a Victorian writer on the same topic. As other reviewers have commented, I too found this slightly ridiculous and hokey at first and was sure I wouldn’t like it; but in actuality Lubbock is a silent, invisible guide who is more of a modern touchstone viewpoint than a glaring intruder. I can’t help noting the irony of the fact that I find Mithen and Fagan’s brief fictional scenes in their non-fiction works about Stone Age life far more vivid and compelling than Jean Auel’s plodding Earth’s Children series.All in all, I have no hesitation in recommending this book.10 out of 10
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  • Elfie
    January 1, 1970
    This is Mithen at his very best! I would say that "After the Ice" is rather an encyclopedia than a book, particularly if one also studies the many pages of endnotes. We travel with Mithen and and the invisible John Lubbock who only shares the name with the real Victorian John Lubbock around the world and witness the great changes that occurred from the last glacial maximum of c. 20,000 BCE with perhaps a world population of about one million and the soon following dramatic climatic fluctuations This is Mithen at his very best! I would say that "After the Ice" is rather an encyclopedia than a book, particularly if one also studies the many pages of endnotes. We travel with Mithen and and the invisible John Lubbock who only shares the name with the real Victorian John Lubbock around the world and witness the great changes that occurred from the last glacial maximum of c. 20,000 BCE with perhaps a world population of about one million and the soon following dramatic climatic fluctuations from cold to warm to cold and warm again caused by a natural global warming. We see how these changes affected people in different areas and how at the end a new history, a new lifestyle (basically from hunter/gatherers to farmers) had began for humanity. Climate changes and global warming had happened before, but none of our remote ancestors responded the way Homo sapiens did. The book could have been just a somewhat boring listing of archeological findings, but by introducing the invisible John Lubbock Mithen could combine meticulous scholarship with some imagination and together with Lubbock we can glimpse at the daily life these prehistoric peoples may have led.We are now again faced with global warming, this time not a natural one - what will be the history, if any, written one day about our struggles and how we met our challenges?
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  • Elizabeth Sulzby
    January 1, 1970
    Published in 2003, this book covers the period from 20,000-5,000 BCE. Mithen uses a device of "taking" a man modelled on "John Lubbock, namesafe of the great Victorian polymath and author of Prehistoric Times," back through the sites he wrote about earlier. Mithen describes each of these sites and historical developments across sites from current day archeological, paleontological, genetics, geological, botanical, etc., tools and discoveries. I learned a good bit through the device, but would h Published in 2003, this book covers the period from 20,000-5,000 BCE. Mithen uses a device of "taking" a man modelled on "John Lubbock, namesafe of the great Victorian polymath and author of Prehistoric Times," back through the sites he wrote about earlier. Mithen describes each of these sites and historical developments across sites from current day archeological, paleontological, genetics, geological, botanical, etc., tools and discoveries. I learned a good bit through the device, but would have preferred just to read the information without the "Lubbock" character. I appreciated Mithen's making evident how the use of the term "history" to mean written history and what a huge amount of human history that leaves to the erroneous term "prehistory." This was my first delving into a broad swath of prehistorical discoveries. I recommend it highly. I am listing it as currently reading because I am currently reviewing it.
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  • Maria
    January 1, 1970
    A book that takes you to the time it describes: the European Mesolithic, a period where everything merged: culture, Hunting, gathering and farming, the first ceramics and the cultivation of plants and the taming of animals. A fascinating time in human history and the author is able to give you the impression that you are a part of it. As an arcaheologist, I got a perfect overview of this period, learning a lot of details even about my own region, South America. And I will never forget the moment A book that takes you to the time it describes: the European Mesolithic, a period where everything merged: culture, Hunting, gathering and farming, the first ceramics and the cultivation of plants and the taming of animals. A fascinating time in human history and the author is able to give you the impression that you are a part of it. As an arcaheologist, I got a perfect overview of this period, learning a lot of details even about my own region, South America. And I will never forget the moment when I read Mithen´s description of a visit of a Mexican mesolithic site, with its overwhelmingly detailed panorama of plants, emotions and transportation back in time. This is what I felt when stepping on an archaeological site and feeling the spirit of these areas. Great.
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  • Saschki
    January 1, 1970
    Unusual approach to communicating a sense of wonder and curiosity about the generations that came and went before recorded history - the author balances descriptions of past cultures around the world in the period following the last glacial maximum as witnessed by a time traveling alter-ego with detailed explanations of the archaeological evidence underlying the vignettes. Surprisingly readable given the depth of the scientific research he covers, and the breadth - human activity on every inhabi Unusual approach to communicating a sense of wonder and curiosity about the generations that came and went before recorded history - the author balances descriptions of past cultures around the world in the period following the last glacial maximum as witnessed by a time traveling alter-ego with detailed explanations of the archaeological evidence underlying the vignettes. Surprisingly readable given the depth of the scientific research he covers, and the breadth - human activity on every inhabited continent over a period of thousands of years. Not afraid to end a discussion of an interesting question with an admission of truthful science - we just don't know the answer yet, based on the available evidence.
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  • Helen
    January 1, 1970
    Not what I was looking for: instead of list of events, causes and effects it sounds as an attempt to write fiction story somewhat supported by archeological findings, but assumptions scream at you. Very annoying. The facts are interesting, extensive time coverage - I like it, but in form of one hundred pages summary without drifting out all the time. Real pity, not many books cover such period range at advanced level, beyond oversimplifying for popularization and being overly scholarly for speci Not what I was looking for: instead of list of events, causes and effects it sounds as an attempt to write fiction story somewhat supported by archeological findings, but assumptions scream at you. Very annoying. The facts are interesting, extensive time coverage - I like it, but in form of one hundred pages summary without drifting out all the time. Real pity, not many books cover such period range at advanced level, beyond oversimplifying for popularization and being overly scholarly for specialists only.
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  • Lise Quinn
    January 1, 1970
    This is a great book! It covers the period of between 20,000 BCE to 10,000 BCE all over the world. The author uses stories of individuals to give life to the artifacts that have been found. He takes you around the world and you really get a feel for the commonalities and yet beautiful uniqueness of the cultures visited. This book is very well researched and at the end of each story the author goes over the artifacts and explains in layman's terms the detail over each one. This would be a fantast This is a great book! It covers the period of between 20,000 BCE to 10,000 BCE all over the world. The author uses stories of individuals to give life to the artifacts that have been found. He takes you around the world and you really get a feel for the commonalities and yet beautiful uniqueness of the cultures visited. This book is very well researched and at the end of each story the author goes over the artifacts and explains in layman's terms the detail over each one. This would be a fantastic teaching tool.
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  • Daniel Tideman
    January 1, 1970
    This is a fantastic account of early homo sapien history starting with the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) 20,000 BCE progressing through to 5,000 BCE. The author creates a fictional modern man who wanders the globe during the time span noted above "observing" humanity and its early progression from nomadic hunter/gatherers to early civilization and villages and back to the nomadic wanderers as the planets climate swings back and forth and humanity learns to domesticate crops and animals. This is a fantastic account of early homo sapien history starting with the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) 20,000 BCE progressing through to 5,000 BCE. The author creates a fictional modern man who wanders the globe during the time span noted above "observing" humanity and its early progression from nomadic hunter/gatherers to early civilization and villages and back to the nomadic wanderers as the planets climate swings back and forth and humanity learns to domesticate crops and animals. It could be a textbook, but it's written with the style and pace of a novel.
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  • Johanne
    January 1, 1970
    It is just too huge, and to be honest if you attempt to read it cover to cover all the groups merge into each other with insufficient difference to really hold the reader. He gives roughly equal number of chapters to each of the continents and so by the time he is on Australia it seems that the story has already been told, the differences are more minor.I also actively disliked the narrative trick of including the Victorian paleo-anthropologist John Lubbock as a observer/ driver - clunky and jus It is just too huge, and to be honest if you attempt to read it cover to cover all the groups merge into each other with insufficient difference to really hold the reader. He gives roughly equal number of chapters to each of the continents and so by the time he is on Australia it seems that the story has already been told, the differences are more minor.I also actively disliked the narrative trick of including the Victorian paleo-anthropologist John Lubbock as a observer/ driver - clunky and just intrusive without adding anything.
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  • Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    This isn't the sort of book I read often. Like many of my generation, when I go looking for facts, I go to Wikipedia, not to 600-page history books. But Mithen does an admirable job of tracing the lifeways of Stone Age people, and does it in an engaging way. Sure, it's a bit repetitive, sure, the sheer number of facts presented in a row without much of an extended argument gets a bit exhausting, and sure, you almost feel like he would rather have written a Borgesian sort of novel rather than a h This isn't the sort of book I read often. Like many of my generation, when I go looking for facts, I go to Wikipedia, not to 600-page history books. But Mithen does an admirable job of tracing the lifeways of Stone Age people, and does it in an engaging way. Sure, it's a bit repetitive, sure, the sheer number of facts presented in a row without much of an extended argument gets a bit exhausting, and sure, you almost feel like he would rather have written a Borgesian sort of novel rather than a history text, but he kept me reading, and I know more about mammoths now.
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  • Marc Towersap
    January 1, 1970
    One thing about this book i find odd is a fictional character called John Lubbock, named after a real person, who 'visits' each of the archeological sites. There's some speculation about what this "John" actually observes, since Mithen doesn't have a time machine to actually see it. I don't know if I really like this device, sometimes it's nice, but at the same time, I'm thinking, this is pure speculation, Mithen doesn't actually know, and it kinda unnecessarily taints the description of each si One thing about this book i find odd is a fictional character called John Lubbock, named after a real person, who 'visits' each of the archeological sites. There's some speculation about what this "John" actually observes, since Mithen doesn't have a time machine to actually see it. I don't know if I really like this device, sometimes it's nice, but at the same time, I'm thinking, this is pure speculation, Mithen doesn't actually know, and it kinda unnecessarily taints the description of each site. But still, this is a good book, I'm glad to have read it.
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  • Hunter R.
    January 1, 1970
    I really want this book now, because reading it once is not reading at all because of the amount of information that is very interesting to me. I think the most fun I had with Pushkari - who lived on territory of Ukraine when I was born.
  • Naftoli
    January 1, 1970
    This book is not an easy read as it presents a plethora of research and draws attention to minute detail - this is precisely why it took me so long to read. That said, it is well worth the effort. I especially liked his forays into the domestication of plants and animals.
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  • Michael Holm
    January 1, 1970
    After The Ice provides a summary of current archaeological thinking about the Mesolithic and Neolithic Periods since the Late Glacial Maximum (LGM) which occurred about 22,000 years ago until 5000 BC. The 511 pages are divided into sections for areas around the globe: the Western Asia (Fertile Crescent), Europe, the Americas, Australia and East Asia, South Asia (India and the Middle East) and Africa. Within each section, chapters describe the findings of archaeological digs at selected sites whi After The Ice provides a summary of current archaeological thinking about the Mesolithic and Neolithic Periods since the Late Glacial Maximum (LGM) which occurred about 22,000 years ago until 5000 BC. The 511 pages are divided into sections for areas around the globe: the Western Asia (Fertile Crescent), Europe, the Americas, Australia and East Asia, South Asia (India and the Middle East) and Africa. Within each section, chapters describe the findings of archaeological digs at selected sites which provide clues to the cultures of Homo sapiens. These sections are prefaced with two chapters describing carbon dating, the possible cause of ice ages (the Milankovitch cycles), and the global warming since the Late Glacial Maximum about 22,000 years ago. His focus is on the transition from hunter-gatherer cultures to the agricultural revolution. His conclusion is that the agricultural revolution began in Western Asia, probably in the Jordan Valley. I did not read the sections about Eastern Asia, Australia and Africa. Mithen does not always identify the cultures found at these sites by name beyond the general types Neolithic and Mesolithic.He uses a fictional character to 'experience' (as a ghost in a time-travel story) an imagining of how the discovered artifacts were produced in order to bring the sites to life. John Lubbock is the name is of an actual archaeologist who wrote 'Prehistoric Times' in the late 19th century and inspired the author to study archaeology. He applies this name to the fictional ghost archaeologist. An appendix of chapter footnotes is provided along with his extensive bibliography and an index. The Harvard University Press edition also has three sections of color photographs. Area maps preface each geographic region, showing the locations of the sites mentioned.My motive for reading this book was to learn of Northern European developments in this time period, to discover the origins of my German ancestry. Mithen says that hunter-gatherers from Scandanavia inhabited northern Europe after the ice age ended. Indo-Europeans from the Hungarian plains are credited with bringing the agricultural revolution to Europe, not by conquest but by infiltration. The original inhabitants adopted the agricultural practices, maybe not as peacefully as the author implies. I learned about the Younger Dryas cool period which slowed cultural evolution around the world about a thousand years after the thawing of the glaciers had begun, the lifestyles of the Pleistocene hunter-gatherers, where domestication of grains and animals seem to have occurred and aboutwhen, the types of shelters used, burial practices, carbon dating technology, the ancient age of the Amazonian rainforest and much more. Neolithic peoples' use of language is assumed as well as singing and dancing, since the invisible John Lubbock visitor so reports even though there must be scant evidence in the artefacts found. Also learned was the conviction that the Jordan Valley area is the original home of agriculture and pastoralism, apparently preceding Mesopotamia and Egypt. Several times Mithen writes that 'warm and wet' conditions favored agriculture and that 'cold and dry' conditions favored hunting and gathering. Also predicted are more frequent El Nino conditions due to global warming. The contributions of historical linguistics to the study of humanity's development are briefly considered, but I sense that the author considers them to be 'soft data'. DNA analysis is more carefully considered and its evidence carries more weight with him.The author is good at crediting the archaelogists that excavated the many sites that were chosen to portray cultural developments. This gives a reader the opportunity to check on other interpretations of these sites. Several controversial sites are described and usually Mithen chooses to be conservative. An example is the North American Meadowcroft site which claims a date of 16,000 BC for its findings. Mithen and others question whether the carbon particles analyzed are from the cooking fire or perhaps from the numerous coal deposits nearby. Also the animal bones found at Meadowcroft are not those of tundra mammals but of woodland mammals. So as of the publishing date of 2004, Mithen was sticking to 11,500 BC date of the many Clovis sites for the earliest date of Native Americans in North America. The Monte Verde site in southern Peru, he accepts as valid for 12,500 BC for South America. But evidence for an earlier occupation about 33,000 BC, he considers inconclusive and controversial.Dr Steven Mithen is a professor of archaeology at the University of Reading who has excavated some sites himself and apparently visited many of them. This book is an excellent resource for anyone who is curious about prehistorical human cultures and the beginnings of the agricultural revolution. It also creates an appreciation for the ramifications of climate changes such asthe global warming trend we seem to be in now.
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  • Chris Jaffe
    January 1, 1970
    This is a good book, but it can be a bit exhausting. It's a 500-page overview of major archeological sites around the world, going continent-by-continent. On the one hand, it's deeply informative as you do get a sense of what was going on from the end of the Ice Age until the build up to civilization, and how it varied from region to region. On the other hand, it can be a bit repetitive and wearying. My eyes started glazing over at times, and I think that mentally I came to an end before the boo This is a good book, but it can be a bit exhausting. It's a 500-page overview of major archeological sites around the world, going continent-by-continent. On the one hand, it's deeply informative as you do get a sense of what was going on from the end of the Ice Age until the build up to civilization, and how it varied from region to region. On the other hand, it can be a bit repetitive and wearying. My eyes started glazing over at times, and I think that mentally I came to an end before the book did. Mithen tries to keep things from getting too dry with a literary devise that sorta works, and is sorta weirdly annoying. He has a fictional voyager he names John Lubbock (named after a Victorian era archeologist) travel through time and space, observing things around him. That does make things less dry ..... but it also is continually weird. Couldn't Mithen just have attempted day-in-the-life descriptions of life back then without this odd devise?But there is a ton of good info here. A chart on page 12 does a nice job showing the ebbs/flows of the Ice Ages in these years. (Well, the chart is a little annoying in that it's backwards - from right-to-left instead of reading left-to-right). The world had a warm up from 12,700 BC to 10,800 BC, but then came the Younger Dryas from 10,800 BC to 9,600 BC. This was a colder period, with an abrupt beginning and abrupt end. In fact, Mitchen notes that the world's temperature may have gone up 7 degrees in 50 years when it ended. These temperature changes caused considerable havoc. They were harder on West Asia and Europe than on other parts of the world. In fact, you had the first villages and commercial centers in western Asia before the Younger Dryas, but they fell into ruins even in these prehistoric times. Much of Europe was under glaciers during the cold spells. We have evidence of animals like reindeer in places that are now far too warm for them. Cave paintings were done to help give information on animals of the hunt and wear they were. Groups would meet a few times a year and share this info. The cave painting era ended (after 10,000 years) as the climate changed. As Europe became thickly wooded, it was easier to hunt and less likely to overhunt. One other shift in Europe: it went from having one common culture for a long time to more regional cultures. The same thing happened in the New World as the Clovis culture became many diverse cultures. There sections on West Asia, Europe, and the New World make up most of the book. The parts on East Asia/Australia, South Asia, and Africa are briefer (especially the last two sections). He goes over the evidence of early humans in the New World, and notes the the big Monte Verde find, which not only predates Clovis, but strangely even seems to predate people in Siberia. How did they get here? All Mithen is willing to say is that they were the world's greatest voyagers. In the Amazon, we used to think it was untouched by humans until recent times, but we now know that isn't true. It's likely the native tribes intentionally dispersed food-giving plants across the forest to help them survive. The big animals of the New World died out to a combination of climate change and hunting. Those two things together could cause all sorts of problems. Japan had the world's first pottery with it's Jomon culture in 14,500 BC. But full-scale rice farming didn't come there until 500 BC from the mainland. There are some nuggets on the history of the Nile. From 19,000 until 12,500 BC, the White Nile from Lake Victoria was shut off by sand dunes, so there was less flow in it. More sediments flowed down it, though. When the White Nile returned, the level of water increased dramatically. It's the era of the "Wild Nile." It became a faster moving river with a narrower flood plain. That ruined the communities of the day .... but of course they'd come back. Africa apparently domesticated cattle on their own. Cave paintings in southern Africa tell us about ritual trance dances. Northern Africa wasn't a desert, but became one about 3,500 BC and has remained one ever since.
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  • Richard Murchie
    January 1, 1970
    After the Ice is a mammoth compendium blending anthropology, archaeology, and naturalism. It is well worth the read for anyone with a slight interest in any of those subjects. Mithen’s unconventional approach of using a fictional observer as a vehicle to humanise and illuminate the archaeological findings certainly played off. Not once did the book feel like a mere list of discoveries, but rather as a journey throughout our prehistory. Without dissecting the entirety of the book, I’ll list some After the Ice is a mammoth compendium blending anthropology, archaeology, and naturalism. It is well worth the read for anyone with a slight interest in any of those subjects. Mithen’s unconventional approach of using a fictional observer as a vehicle to humanise and illuminate the archaeological findings certainly played off. Not once did the book feel like a mere list of discoveries, but rather as a journey throughout our prehistory. Without dissecting the entirety of the book, I’ll list some points of trivia/interest, and what I took from this book.-A few cases of the elaborate cave art in Europe may have served a utilitarian purpose, akin to a library, describing the environment and the sources of food in certain regions.-The temptation to extrapolate current hunter-gatherer/indigenous customs onto prehistoric groups is high and will often be false, but it can provide an interesting analogue to base our speculation on. Such examples are the ‘gift-giving’ network in South Africa, each person was assigned a partner - usually from a far-flung tribe - to which they traded gifts and objects, this allowed a strong web of social ties to flourish and it gave rise to a social safety net, where tribes struck by hardship would find hospitality from the neighbouring groups.-The idea that the very first settlers of the America’s could have originally been of direct African/Polynesian descent is very interesting, to which they died out, and then the continents were restocked with the ancestors of the current ‘Native Americans’. -The sheer span of the Australian Aborigine's oral history, known as ‘Dreamtime’, recorded the rising of the sea after the ice age, a record encompassing 20,000 years.Mithen’s authorship allows you to connect to these distant times, he brings out the traits we so readily associate with our present-day human condition - proving our adaptability and curiosity still stands strong. However, as this book deals with the drastic environmental changes brought by the end of the ice age and instances of the consequent violence, our prehistory stands as a forewarning to our (fragile) society, that climate change will be a formidable challenge.
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  • Julien Rapp
    January 1, 1970
    Is climate change real? Of course, it is. The earth is a dynamic place. The sun is a dynamic star. The universe itself is ever changing.I am writing this as a review of three books I have reread this year. Two are by Brian Fagan, and one by Steven Mithen. They cover ice ages, warming periods, and their effects on human development and the rise of civilizations. Climate change is a natural phenomenon. What isn’t natural, is how our behavior is a new element in the equation of climate change. We h Is climate change real? Of course, it is. The earth is a dynamic place. The sun is a dynamic star. The universe itself is ever changing.I am writing this as a review of three books I have reread this year. Two are by Brian Fagan, and one by Steven Mithen. They cover ice ages, warming periods, and their effects on human development and the rise of civilizations. Climate change is a natural phenomenon. What isn’t natural, is how our behavior is a new element in the equation of climate change. We have the capacity to make rapid changes that the environment, the creatures that share this world with us, and even ourselves, can’t adapt to fast enough.These books give us a look at the effects of climate change at a slower, preindustrial pace. They can serve as a benchmark of the dark side of what our achievements have brought. They look at climate change from a historical and archaeological perspective. They tell the story of climate through the eyes of our own history and how these changes affected us.While these books cover a period of about 20,000 years, our greatest influence as a growing factor in our earth’s climate is less than 200 years.
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  • Carolyn Fitzpatrick
    January 1, 1970
    If I had been assigned this book as a grad student, I would have been delighted. It is incredibly informative about the prehistoric world but is written in a very engaging tone. However, I've not been in grad school for some time, and eventually the scope of the book got to me and I had to set it aside. The first section of the book is on prehistoric life in the Middle East from 20,000 to 5,000 BCE. There is a lot of great information about the ice ages and how fluctuating temperatures affected If I had been assigned this book as a grad student, I would have been delighted. It is incredibly informative about the prehistoric world but is written in a very engaging tone. However, I've not been in grad school for some time, and eventually the scope of the book got to me and I had to set it aside. The first section of the book is on prehistoric life in the Middle East from 20,000 to 5,000 BCE. There is a lot of great information about the ice ages and how fluctuating temperatures affected the food available to prehistoric people. We learn about taking core samples from mud to see what kinds of pollen existed at the time, and radiocarbon dating, and all kinds of neat stuff. And then we move on to Europe and go through everything all over again with the European sites. And then the American sites, the Oceanic sites, etc. If I really wanted to understand the climate and customs of any particular sites, this might have held my interest better. But if you are not putting together a dissertation, then this will probably end up being way too much information.
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  • Rob Sedgwick
    January 1, 1970
    Comprehensive journey through the centuriesThis is a comprehensive and long book.It tells the story of each continent separately aided by the fictional John Lubbock who travels back in time to today's archaeological sites. The format means you travel back and forwards in time, I think I would have preferred a linear timeline with a visit to each continent. Above all though it hammers home the smallness of one lifetime but the commonality of the problems society faces across the ages.
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