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Deep History: The Architecture of Past and…
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Deep History: The Architecture of Past and Present

by Andrew Shryock (Editor), Daniel Lord Smail (Editor)

Other authors: Timothy Earle (Contributor), Gillian Feeley-Harnik (Contributor), Felipe Fernándo-Arnesto (Contributor), Clive Gamble (Contributor), April McMahon (Composer)6 more, John C. Mitani (Contributor), Hendrik Poinar (Contributor), Andrew Shryock (Contributor), Daniel Lord Smail (Contributor), Mary C. Stiner (Contributor), Thomas R. Trautmann (Contributor)

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This is an anthology about the edgy border between archaelogy and recorded history, and is trying to set some defnitions that will reduce the debate about which is fact founded and which theories are more likely to be described as "Assumptions" and which are "Surmise". If my terminology is fuzzy so is the conclusion of this book. By the final chapter/essay we come at last to a theory of technological explosions in fields such as "Speech" Migrations" Food Technology" and "Kinships" that create the societies that closely recorded history deals with. I would say it is a step in the evolution of a syllabus for the study of Ancient History, that will provide future insights. The great explosion that will render this vision easily seen awaits us yet. Good try, Guys! ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jun 26, 2016 |
I have been reading this fascinating book in bits and pieces over the past two months and so I can't go into depth about everything it covers. But I will try to describe the basic ideas it presents. It is a very academic -- but well written -- contributed volume by scholars ("three historians, two cultural anthropologists, a linguist, a primatologist, a geneticist, and three archaeologists") working on the idea of the "deep history" of humanity, a term they prefer to "pre-history" because they want to "remove the barriers that isolate deep histories from temporally shallow ones." Individual chapters address the human body, energy and ecosystems, language, food, kinship, migration, and goods (i.e., decorative and trade goods), bookended by chapters on imagining the human in deep time and scales of change. The governing thesis of the book is that modern tools like genetic mapping and radiocarbon data, combined with others that "are older than written history itself" like "genealogies, bodily analogies, and predictive modeling" enable us to look at the distant past and see the challenges facing early humans and their responses as part of our shared human history.

"paleohistorians must be alert to powerful notions of progress and primitivism that color their work and determine how their findings are received and put to use in wider intellectual circles. The idea that the deep human past is best treated as a variant of biological sciences or natural history, and that evolution describes a strictly biological process rather than a social or cultural one, is another problem that arises in the field. Yet even developments as basic as bipedalism, hairless bodies, or concealed ovulation are implicated in complex assumptions about social life." p. 14

In the chapter on the body, for example, the writers argue that some of the changes in early hominid bodies were the result of cultural advances, including the development of tools and the mastery of fire. In the chapter on energy and ecosystems, one of the points they make is that humans have been exploiting their environment from earliest time "through social, technological, and physiological adaptations." The chapter on food is introduced by the thought that "because humans' relationship with the ecosystems of which we form a part is at its most intimate when we eat from them, the history of food exemplifies perfectly the question at the heart of this book: how and how far human agency combines with environmental or evolutionary influences in effecting change."

The chapter on the origins of ideas of kinship delves into primate kinship, and the chapter on migration notes that "recent claims about the novelty, transformative power, and unprecedented nature of human mobility in the age of globalization sound a bit strange given the more or less relentless movement of humans whenever opportunities for subsistence, political advantage, and the accumulation of wealth appear to have existed." The chapter on goods discussed the difference between prestige goods and "membership" goods, and points out that ornamental goods, like beads made from shells, go back at least 70,000 years to the Paleolithic.

The final chapter, on scale, shows that a typical J-curve, a curve with a long, flat tail to the left and an almost vertical line to the right (such as a graph illustrating human population shooting up starting with the industrial revolution) obscures the variation in that long, flat tail. It shows that "deep human history, too, is punctuated by momentous leaps in population, energy flow, efficiency, levels of political organization, and degrees of connectivity."

The book concludes:

"As we have shown, the data, method, and theory needed to gain access to temporally distant periods already exist in abundance. What is required is a new kind of historical imagination, one that will carry us into areas of our own past that seem extremely remote but to which we are intimately connected. Our passage through deep time is visible in the structure of our minds and our bodies, and in the material and social worlds we have made. Deep history is the architecture of the present. It is the storehouse of the human experience, richly filled, constantly replenished, a resource to carry with us into the future." p. 272.

I find the early history of humanity thrilling, and despite how long it took me to read this book, I learned a lot.
10 vote rebeccanyc | Jun 7, 2014 |
The complaint of the two who instigated the project which produced this book is that there is an irrational disjunction between history as seen by historians (which covers the last two or four thousand years), and history as seen by evolutionary scientists and archaeologists who deal with early human prehistory. So the various chapters in the book are co-authored by people who take different approaches to the whole of prehistory and history (the deep history of the title). Each chapter sets out to show that, seen from a particular perspective, all of history is a single story. The results are stimulating and thought-provoking - as I am sure the exercise was for the authors. ( )
1 vote trevorwatkins | Oct 24, 2012 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shryock, AndrewEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smail, Daniel LordEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Earle, TimothyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Feeley-Harnik, GillianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fernándo-Arnesto, FelipeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gamble, CliveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McMahon, AprilComposersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mitani, John C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Poinar, HendrikContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shryock, AndrewContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smail, Daniel LordContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stiner, Mary C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Trautmann, Thomas R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520270282, Hardcover)

Humans have always been interested in their origins, but historians have been reluctant to write about the long stretches of time before the invention of writing. In fact, the deep past was left out of most historical writing almost as soon as it was discovered. This breakthrough book, as important for readers interested in the present as in the past,brings science into history to offer a dazzling new vision of humanity across time. Team-written by leading experts in a variety of fields, it maps events, cultures, and eras across millions of years to present a new scale for understanding the human body, energy and ecosystems, language, food, kinship, migration, and more. Combining cutting-edge social and evolutionary theory with the latest discoveries about human genes, brains, and material culture, Deep History invites scholars and general readers alike to explore the dynamic of connectedness that spans all of human history.
With Timothy Earle, Gillian Feeley-Harnik, Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Clive Gamble, April McMahon, John C. Mitani, Hendrik Poinar, Mary C. Stiner, and Thomas R. Trautmann

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:34 -0400)

Humans have always been interested in their origins, but historians have been reluctant to write about the long stretches of time before the invention of writing. In fact, the deep past was left out of most historical writing almost as soon as it was discovered. This breakthrough book, as important for readers interested in the present as in the past, brings science into history to offer a dazzling new vision of humanity across time. Team-written by leading experts in a variety of fields, it maps events, cultures, and eras across millions of years to present a new scale for understanding the hu.… (more)

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