The World From Beginnings To 4000 Bce
- Oxford University Press Inc
- Publication Date:
- 21 February 2008
- General & World History
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The last book I read about pre-human and early humans history was my history textbook back in the mid-nineties when we were going chronologically through the history of the world in a few subsequent school years. As fascinating as the topic had been, that small introduction had been more than enough for me - I like history but the more recent events (the ones involving people) had always sounded a lot more interesting. And the textbook was not up-to-date with the current development or spent anytime discussing the more objectionable theories - it was a book created to introduce you to what the scientists believed to be the story at the time - and give you a glimpse in the distant past. So when I opened this book, I expected to find a lot of information I had never heard of, tied into what I already know and reinforcing the base I got all those years ago. And the book did not disappoint. Despite the length of the book (~120 pages), Tattersall is taking his time explaining the hows and whys of the ancient history and along the way discussing a lot of the theories around it - both new and still being considered possibly valid and old ones that had been dismissed but had shaped the historical thought for decades. All the needed background to understand what he is talking about is written clearly - waving a very readable introduction to evolution, fossils and how a piece of rock can tell you the story of a whole species. And then the book hits its main topic and takes you on a trip that will eventually lead to the first complex society - complete with all the errors, speculations, researches and dismissed theories. Tattersall's research covers everything happening in the field almost to the time when the book was published (2008) and he is using all the new discoveries in his narrative about what most likely happened. There is no attempt to go for the sensational or to hide the blunders through the years of recovering and dating fossils -- errors did happen, fabrications existed and all of them became part of the wide tapestry of the history research. A lot of what was covered in this part of the book was something I had never heard of - all the discoveries from the 90s and from the first decade of the 21st century are described and put in their appropriate context. And the last chapter of the books leads from the pre-history times, speeding through the centuries of settlement to end at the times when the first 6 complex societies emerge (almost at the same time, mostly independently) and the real history begins. If I have any issues with this book, it is the repetition. Although considering the nature of the book, it can be used as a reference one... in which case the repetition between the chapters makes sense. Overall - the book is highly readable introduction to where the humans came from. It might not appeal to the mass reader - the book is too technical in places; a bit too academical in others. Which does not bother me at all - I like the style.
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