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Archaeology says present day humans have been on the planet for eighty thousand years. The first writing has been dated to 3,500 BC. This is what humanity may have been during from 20,000 to 5,000 BC, during the period of global warming which followed the last great ice age. The author uses archaeology to talk about humans at various times during this period of time and at various places on the planet. This book is about what life may have been like day to day over a fifteen thousand year period before we learned to write and live in cities.
"A truly pioneering work, perhaps the first by a practicing archaeologist to review coherently the evolution of human cognitive abilities." --Colin Renfrew, author of Before Civilization and Archaeology and Language Here is an exhilarating intellectual performance, in the tradition of Roger Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind and Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct. On the way to showing how the world of our ancient ancestors shaped our modern modular mind, Steven Mithen shares one provocative insight after another as he answers a series of fascinating questions: Were our brains hard-wired in the Pleistocene Era by the needs of hunter-gatherers? When did religious beliefs first emerge? Why were the first paintings made by humankind so technically accomplished and expressive? What can the sexual habits of chimpanzees tell us about the prehistory of the modern mind? This is the first archaeological account to support the new modular concept of the mind. The concept, promulgated by cognitive and evolutionary psychologists, views the mind as a collection of specialized intelligences or "cognitive domains," somewhat like a Swiss army knife with its specialized blades and tools. Arguing that only archaeology can answer many of the key questions raised by the new concept, Mithen delineates a three-phase sequence for the mind's evolution over six million years--from early Homo in Africa to the ice-age Neanderthals to our modern modular minds. The Prehistory of the Mind is an intriguing and challenging explanation of what it means to be human, a bold new theory about the origins and nature of the mind.
Along with the concepts of consciousness and intelligence, our capacity for language sits right at the core of what makes us human. But while the evolutionary origins of language have provoked speculation and impassioned debate, music has been neglected if not ignored. Like language it is a universal feature of human culture, one that is a permanent fixture in our daily lives. In THE SINGING NEANDERTHALS, Steven Mithen redresses the balance, drawing on a huge range of sources, from neurological case studies through child psychology and the communication systems of non-human primates to the latest paleoarchaeological evidence. The result is a fascinating and provocative work and a succinct riposte to those, like Steven Pinker, who have dismissed music as a functionless and unimportant evolutionary byproduct.
Freshwater shortages will affect 75% of the world's population by 2050. Mithen puts this crisis into context by exploring 10,000 years of water management. Thirst tells of civilizations defeated by the water challenge, and of technological ingenuity that sustained communities in hostile environments. Work with nature, not against it, he advises.
A unique interdisciplinary study of the relationships between climate, hydrology and human society from 20,000 years ago to the present day within the Jordan Valley. It describes how state-of-the-art models can simulate the past, present and future climates of the Near East, reviews and provides new evidence for environmental change from geological deposits, builds hydrological models for the River Jordan and associated wadis and explains how present day urban and rural communities manage their water supply. The volume provides a new approach and new methods that can be applied for exploring the relationships between climate, hydrology and human society in arid and semi-arid regions throughout the world. It is an invaluable reference for researchers and advanced students concerned with the impacts of climate change and hydrology on human society, especially in the Near East.