Archaeology and Humanity's Story A Brief Introduction to World Prehistory

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2015-11-13
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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This student-friendly textbook introduces the archaeological past from approximately seven million years ago through later politically complex societies. Archaeology and Humanity's Story: A Brief Introduction to World Prehistory does not attempt to discuss every archaeologically important site and development in prehistory and early history. Rather, it presents key issues from earlier prehistory and then organizes the chapters on politically complex societies using a similar framework. This allows students to easily compare and contrast different geographical regions. Each of these chapters also highlights a specific case study in which similar themes are examined, such as the written word; resource networks, trade, and exchange; social life; ritual and religion; and warfare and violence. Each chapter includes several sidebar boxes, a timeline showing the chronology relevant to that chapter, and "The Big Picture," "Peopling the Past," and "Evolutionary Processes" features.

Author Biography

Deborah I. Olszewski is Adjunct Professor and Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is coauthor, with Robert J. Wenke, of Patterns in Prehistory: Humankind's First Three Million Years, Fifth Edition (OUP, 2006).

Table of Contents


Part 1: The Basics of Archaeology

Chapter 1: Acquiring and Interpreting Data in Archaeology
Why Archaeology is Important
Survey and Excavation Methods
Research Design
Finding and Recording Sites
--The Big Picture: Archaeological Survey in Practice
Excavating Sites
--The Big Picture: Archaeological Excavation in Practice
Multidisciplinary Data Sets
How Old is It?
Relative Dating Methods
Absolute Dating Methods
Time Scales in Dating
Theories and Interpretations
--Timeline: The Development of Archaeology
Who Owns the Past?
--Peopling the Past: Indigenous Archaeology

Part 2: Prehistory before Political Complexity

Chapter 2: Humanity's Roots
A Word about Classification
--Timeline: Early Hominins
Bipedalism and the Earliest Hominins
Why Is Bipedalism Important?
--Advantages of Bipedalism
--Origins of Bipedalism
Evolutionary Processes
"Cousins" in the Early Hominin Lineage
Tool Use and Manufacture
Stone Tools
--Peopling the Past: Culture in the Prehistoric Record
Which Hominins Made and Used Stone Tools?
--The Big Picture: Oldowan Industrial Complex
Early Hominin Culture
--Peopling the Past: Hunting versus Scavenging

Chapter 3: Becoming Human
Pleistocene Ice Ages
Early Waves of Out of Africa
The Earliest Movement Out of Africa
Meanwhile, Back in Africa
--Timeline: Later Hominins
--The Big Picture; Acheulian, Middle Stone Age, and Middle Paleolithic Traditions
Later Movement Out of Africa
Modern Humans, Neandertals, and Homo floresiensis
Multiregional and Recent Single Origin Models
--Skeletal Anatomy
--Isolation and a New Species
--Peopling the Past: Genetics, Neandertals, and Modern Humans
The Origins of Modern Behaviors
--Peopling the Past: Defining and Identifying Modern Behavior
Middle Stone Age Africa
Middle Paleolithic and Chatelperronian Europe
Disappearance of the Neandertals

Chapter 4: A World of Modern Humans
Modern Humans as Hunter-Gatherer-Foragers
Later Stone Age Africa
--Timeline: Hunter-Gatherer-Foragers
--The Big Picture: Later Stone Age and Upper Paleolithic Technologies and Tools
Upper Paleolithic Europe
--Early Upper Paleolithic
--Mid-Upper Paleolithic
--Peopling the Past: The Role of Art in Late Pleistocene Cultures
--Late Upper Paleolithic
--Interpreting Upper Paleolithic Cave Art
World-Wide Expansion
Australia/New Guinea
The Americas
--Peopling the Past: Megafaunal Extinctions

Chapter 5: Hunting, Gathering, Foraging, and Farming
The End of the Ice Ages
--Timelines: Late Hunter-Gatherer-Foragers
The Old World
Middle East
--Early Epipaleolithic
--Middle Epipaleolithic
--Late Epipaleolithic
--Peopling the Past: Aggregation Sites in the Levantine Epipaleolithic
Transition to Food Production in the Middle East
--Pre-Pottery Neolithic A
--Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
--Peopling the Past: Ritual in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic
The New World
North America
Mexico/Central America
South America
Why Food Production?
Early Ideas
Current Ideas
--The Big Picture: Niche Construction Theory and the Origins of Food Production
Complexity in the Archaeological Record
Social Complexity
Political Complexity

Part 3: On the Threshold of Political Complexity

Chapter 6: The North American Southwest
Early Food Production
--Timeline: The North American Southwest
The Late Archaic Period
The Basketmaker Phases of Ancestral Pueblo
--Basketmaker II
--Basketmaker III
Pithouse to Pueblo Transition
The Chaco Phenomenon
Resource Networks, Trade, and Exchange
Social Life
--Peopling the Past: Chaco Canyon and Mesoamerican Connections
--Peopling the Past: The Roles of Men and Women in Chaco Canyon
Warfare and Violence
The Late Bonito Phase in Chaco Canyon
Ancestral Pueblo after the Chaco Phenomenon
Pueblo IV and Later
--Peopling the Past: Oral Traditions and Archaeology in the North American Southwest
Hohokam and Mogollon: Contemporaries of the Ancestral Pueblo

Chapter 7: Eastern North America
Early Food Production
--Timeline: Eastern North America
Poverty Point Culture
Shell Ring Complexes
Woodland Period
Early Woodland
Middle Woodland
--Hopewell Interaction Sphere
Late Woodland
Cahokia and the Early Mississippian Period
Resource Networks, Trade, and Exchange
Social Life
--Peopling the Past: Resources, Trade, and Exchange at Cahokia
--Peopling the Past: High-Status Burials at Cahokia
Warfare and Violence
The Mississippian After Cahokia
The Late Mississippian
--Peopling the Past: Symbols in the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex

Part 4: Early Politically Complex Societies

Chapter 8: Early Dynastic Mesopotamia
Early Food Production
Pre-Pottery Neolithic
--Timeline: Mesopotamia Pottery Neolithic
Before the Early Dynastic
The Uruk Period
Early Dynastic Mesopotamia
--The Big Picture: Early Dynastic Political Organization
The Written Word
Resource Networks, Trade, and Exchange
--Supply, Demand, and Wealth
Social Life
--Peopling the Past: Roles of Women and Men in Mesopotamia
Ritual and Religion
--The Big Picture: Ideology and Art in the Early Dynastic
Warfare and Violence
Later Mesopotamia

Chapter 9: Pharaonic State and Old Kingdom Egypt
--Timeline: Egypt
Early Food Production
The Nabta Playa
Pharaonic State
Old Kingdom Egypt
The Written Word
Resource Networks, Trade, and Exchange
--Supply, Demand, and Wealth
Social Life
--Peopling the Past: Building the Pyramids of Egypt
--The Big Picture: Political Organization in Old Kingdom Egypt
Ritual and Religion
--The Big Picture: Art and Ideology in Old Kingdom Egypt
Warfare and Violence
After the Old Kingdom

Chapter 10: Shang China
Early Food Production
--Timeline: China
Before Shang
Yangshao Culture
Longshan Culture
Erlitou Culture
Shang China
--The Big Picture: Political Organization in the Shang Period
The Written Word
Resource Networks, Trade, and Exchange
--Peopling the Past: Oracle Bones, Divination, and the Origins of Writing
Social Life
Ritual and Religion
--The Big Picture: Art and Ideology in Shang China
Warfare and Violence
After Shang

Chapter 11: The Indus Valley
Early Food Production
--Timeline: The Harappan
Early Harappan
The Mature Harappan
--Peopling the Past: Deciphering the Indus Script
The Written Word
Resource Networks, Trade, and Exchange
--The Big Picture: Trade and Exchange in the Mature Harappan
Urbanization and Its Consequences
--The Big Picture: Urbanism in the Mature Harappan
After the Mature Harappan

Chapter 12: Mesoamerica and the Classic Maya
--Timeline: Mesoamerica
Early Food Production
Formative Mesoamerica
The Olmec in the South Gulf Coast Lowlands
Early and Middle Preclassic Maya
The Valley of Oaxaca
The Basin of Mexico
Late Preclassic Maya
The Lowlands Classic Maya
The Written Word
Resource Networks, Trade, and Exchange
Social Life
Ritual and Religion
--The Big Picture: Political Organization in the Classic Maya
Warfare and Violence
--The Big Picture: Art and Ideology in the Classic Maya
After the Classic Maya
--Peopling the Past: Politics and Warfare
Terminal Classic and Postclassic Maya
Arrival of the Spanish

Part 5: Later Politically Complex Societies

Chapter 13: Andean South America and the Inka Empire
Early Food Production
Late Preceramic Period
--Timeline: The Andean Region
Initial Period
Before the Inka
Early Horizon
Early Intermediate Period/Early Middle Horizon
Middle Horizon
--Wari Empire
--Tiwanaku Empire
--Late Intermediate Period
The Inka Empire
The Nonwritten Word
Resource Networks, Trade, and Exchange
--Peopling the Past: The Inka Road System
Social Life
--The Big Picture: Political Organization in the Inka Empire
Ritual and Religion
--The Big Picture: Art and Ideology in the Inka Empire
Warfare and Violence
After the Inka

Chapter 14: Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe in Africa
Food Production
--Timeline: Southeast Africa
The Rise of Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe
Resource Networks, Trade, and Exchange
--The Big Picture: Trade and Exchange in the Shashe-Limpopo and Plateau Region
Social Life
Ritual and Religion
--The Big Picture: Art and Ideology at Great Zimbabwe
Oral Traditions
--Peopling the Past: The Role of Oral History and Historical Documents
After Great Zimbabwe

Chapter 15: Politically Complex Societies in Perspective
Social Complexity in Pre-Contact Hawai'i
The Rise of Political Complexity
The Agency and Ecodynamics Frameworks
The Networks and Boundaries Framework
Themes in Politically Complex Societies
The Individual and the Group
Cornering the Market
All Good Things Come to an End
Lessons From the Past?


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