[bksvol-discuss] book request

  • From: "cheryl fogle" <cfogle@xxxxxxx>
  • To: <bksvol-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 29 May 2006 02:17:39 -0600

The book in this review (below) looks like an interesting read it's an interesting combination of fact, prehistoric archaeology, speculation, and time travel.

"Just a Lonesome Traveler, the Great Historical Bum"
Douglas K. Charles
After the Ice: A Global Human History, 20,000-5000 B.C.
Steven Mithen. xvi + 622 pp. Harvard University Press,
2004. $29.95

After the Ice offers a fascinating whirlwind tour of an
underappreciated segment of human history. Author
Steven Mithen, professor of early prehistory and head
of the School of Human and Environmental Sciences at
the University of Reading, has created a complex,
multilayered account of life from 20,000 to 5000 B.C.,
during the late Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic

The seeming highlights of the rise of Homo sapiens are
well-known: the appearance of anatomically modern Homo
sapiens in Africa sometime around 150,000 years ago,
and our species' subsequent expansion out of Africa;
replacement of the Neandertals in Europe by
Cro-Magnons; the production of the spectacular cave art
that followed in the same region; and the domestication
of plants and animals in the Near East, leading to
writing and the first appearances of urban life. But
this is not the story that Mithen tells.

Before the end of the Upper Paleolithic, the world
endured the last major ice advance, which peaked around
22,000 years ago at the Last Glacial Maximum. It is in
those trying times that Mithen begins his history,
documenting how our ancestors managed to survive-and
even prosper-and setting the stage for the rapid
cultural developments that followed the end of the Ice
Age nearly 12,000 years ago. At that point, around the
time of the transition from the Pleistocene to the
Holocene, a rapid warming began the shift toward modern
climatic conditions. Farming, towns and civilizations
originated over the next 5,000 years. By 5000 B.C.,
Mithen tells us, "the foundations of the modern world
had been laid and nothing that came after-classical
Greece, the Industrial Revolution, the atomic age, the
Internet-has ever matched the significance of those

Mithen develops his narrative by weaving together four
threads. Guiding us across space and time is John
Lubbock, a fictional modern time traveler Mithen has
created, who is named for the 19th-century polymath who
wrote the classic Prehistoric Times. Through the
experiences of the 21st-century Lubbock, Mithen
(re)constructs the appearance and actions of the people
and the sights, sounds and smells of various
locations-in sum, aspects of life that an ethnographer
might record but archaeologists can only imagine. At
10,800 B.C., Lubbock visits the site of Pedra Pintada
in the Amazon basin, which until recently was assumed
to have been uninhabited for at least another 6,000
years after that time:

In the cave's airy interior there are at least ten
people standing in a circle admiring the catch. They
wear few clothes and are reminiscent of today's
Amazonian Indians-stout, with copper skins, straight
black hair and elegantly painted faces. The floor is
covered with mats made from enormous leaves; there are
baskets and bags stacked along a wall; spears, fishing
rods and harpoons are propped in a corner. Wooden bowls
at the rear of the cave contain lumps of red pigment
that have been crushed and mixed with water. Along
another wall there are bundles of soft grass, tied with
plant fibres into cushions. In the middle, a small
smouldering fireplace next to which the fish lies
magnificently on the ground.

A woman crouches and with a stone knife removes the
fish's head. This is offered to a young man, the fish
bearer, who takes it with a grin. He sucks at each
eyesocket in turn while blood and juices trickle down
his chest. With that preliminary over, the fish is
taken outside and gutted.

Lubbock spends the next few days with the people of
Pedra Pintada, helping to gather freshwater mussels and
collecting a bewildering assortment of fruits, nuts,
roots and leaves. . . .

Full Text at American Scientist http://www.americanscientist.org/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/42352

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