This VSI to prehistory will introduce the reader to four and a half million years of human existence. Many of the familiar aspects of modern life are no more than a century or two old, yet our deep social structures and skills were in large measure developed by small bands of our prehistoric ancestors many millennia ago. Chris Gosden invites us to think seriously about who we are by considering who we have been. The idea of prehistory owes its origins to Darwin - suddenly any description of human life on Earth had to take account of a much longer timespan than ever before. What new views of ourselves has this new timespan opened up? Chris Gosden's fascinating new book asks: What relationships did our distant ancestors have with the natural world, with each other, and with the objects and values they created? And as humanity hurtles into a future of virtual interraction and genetic manipulation, what can the darkest recesses of our past teach us about our future? ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area.
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(178mm x 113mm x 9mm)
Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
Prehistory may not be as old as you think. According to Oxford museum curator and lecturer Chris Gosden, it ended at 10 am on 8 March 1933. That was when the last living 'prehistoric' culture on Earth was discovered - the Kawelka tribe of the New Guinea Highlands. These people were still using stone axes and dressing in animal skins, and when they saw their first aeroplane they thought it was a devil bird. The white men who stepped from it were deemed to be gods. Gosden regards that as a moment of enlightenment, not just for the New Guinea highlanders but for the whole of humanity. What the white explorers discovered bore out much of what until then had been only theories about the Stone Age way of life. Gosden's pocket-size book crams in a lot of facts about the Stone Age and beyond. Attempting to cover four and a half millennia in 131 pages must have been a daunting task, but Gosden goes at it with gusto and imparts an impressive quantity of information. Among the questions he raises and answers are what relationships our ancestors had with the natural world, with each other, and with the objects they created. Were 'ape men' really as primitive as Darwin and his successors would have us believe? Gosden points to a surprising awareness of gender, race and sexuality that seems to go back much farther than might be imagined. We may have evolved from apes but our ancestors were no monkeys when it came to changing their environment in a way that still influences our thinking today. The book is instructive and entertaining, and above all it gets the reader looking at the past in a more challenging way. It makes ideal reading for history students and anyone with even a passing history in the far-off dawn of civilization. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Chris Gosden
Chris Gosden is curator at the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford, and a university lecturer. His special interests include Pacific prehistory and late prehistoric Europe.