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This book owes its existence to a need felt, we believe, by many people who are trying to teach European prehistory, for an elementary textbook suitable for students taking their first course in the subject with little or no previous experience in archeology.
In this worldwide survey, Clive Gamble explores the evolution of the human imagination, without which we would not have become a global species. He sets out to determine the cognitive and social basis for our imaginative capacity and traces the evidence back into deep human history. He argues that it was the imaginative ability to "go beyond" and to create societies where people lived apart yet stayed in touch that made us such effective world settlers. To make his case Gamble brings together information from a wide range of disciplines: psychology, cognitive science, archaeology, palaeoanthropology, archaeogenetics, geography, quaternary science and anthropology. He presents a novel deep history that combines the archaeological evidence for fossil hominins with the selective forces of Pleistocene climate change, engages with the archaeogeneticists' models for population dispersal and displacement, and ends with the Europeans' rediscovery of the deep history settlement of the earth.
A closer look at genealogy, incorporating how biological, anthropological, and technical factors can influence human lives We are at a pivotal moment in understanding our remote ancestry and its implications for how we live today. The barriers to what we can know about our distant relatives have been falling as a result of scientific advance, such as decoding the genomes of humans and Neanderthals, and bringing together different perspectives to answer common questions. These collaborations have brought new knowledge and suggested fresh concepts to examine. The results have shaken the old certainties. The results are profound; not just for the study of the past but for appreciating why we conduct our social lives in ways, and at scales, that are familiar to all of us. But such basic familiarity raises a dilemma. When surrounded by the myriad technical and cultural innovations that support our global, urbanized lifestyles we can lose sight of the small social worlds we actually inhabit and that can be traced deep into our ancestry. So why do we need art, religion, music, kinship, myths, and all the other facets of our over-active imaginations if the reality of our effective social worlds is set by a limit of some one hundred and fifty partners (Dunbar's number) made of family, friends, and useful acquaintances? How could such a social community lead to a city the size of London or a country as large as China? Do we really carry our hominin past into our human present? It is these small worlds, and the link they allow to the study of the past that forms the central point in this book.
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