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Cro-Magnon by Brian Fagan
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Cro-Magnon

by Brian Fagan

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2012258,418 (3.71)26
Recently added byAmw100, almalena, doncornell, michaelavila, private library, psmithkent, pjweums, jldorner, danigoose1
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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
This prehistoric history of mankind was fascinating. The author's narrative describes the survival of the fittest in very real terms. Anyone interested in archaeology or the evolution of man would find this book to be an excellent primer. Fagen takes us through the general framework of cultural labels based on tool methadologies, such as the Mousterian, Aurignacian, Gravettian and Magdalenian cultures. He describes a great deal about their way of life and hunting strategies, based on extant people who are still facing extreme environments. I found the book to be relevant and interesting and complete, with super notes for those interested in more. The only problem I noticed with this book is that some of the diagrams are confusing or maybe wrong, but I figured them out, I think. Maybe it is the edition that I have which was printed in 2011. However, the colorplates in the paperback edition that I have were quite good. ( )
  robrod1 | Jul 10, 2013 |
This was on my Christmas list and I was so looking forward to it. Now I feel like the Grinch. And I fully realize that it is extra mean and unorthodox to start a review with complaints first, but in case you don't read on I have to. I will end with the positives.

Am I the only person who noticed the diagram and the text that go with it on p. 65 simply DO NOT MATCH UP AT ALL?

Or how about this - on page 102 last paragraph of Chapter 5:
Small in number, widely dispersed over inhospitable terrain- these anatomically modern people from Africa and then the Near East were the primordial ancestors of the Cro-Magnons. Within a remarkably short time, some of their descendants moved out of the Near East into Eurasia and Europe -- to a completely different world. And about 11 pages later in Chapter 6, tell me this doesn't ring bells in your head: Small in number, widely dispersed over inhospitable terrain-these were the primordial ancestors of the Cro-Magnons. Within a few millenia {or should that be.....a remarkably short time?} some of their descendants moved out of the Near East into Eurasia and Europe- to a completely different world.
To top that he used the phrase 'small in number' in the next paragraph..... which is also weirdly repetitive. In fact, huge portions of the book were weirdly repetitive...... it's full of sentences where, say, the word 'now' might appear three times.

My next beef is about the 'imagineering' - I can't tell you how many times a paragraph starts with "Imagine a family clad in skins moving silently through the rocky landscape..." or whatever..... only to conclude. "Of course none of this is known with any certainty." If I want fiction I'll read Clan of the Cave Bear - a darned good read actually! It's not the speculating per se, it is the frequency with which Fagan nonchalantly tosses of a disclaimer at the end of most of these flights of fancy.... so you end up not knowing what to believe. Are these his speculations entirely? Are they speculations which are generally received and bandied about? I'm not against some speculation, but it's better to make clear from the outset that that is what you are going to do, and an even better idea to back up your ideas if you can. My feeling about it is that Fagan has had it beaten into him that to write popular anthropology he has to make it 'come alive' regularly, so he struggled to come up with these scenes.

The problem with this kind of negligent editing is that it throws everything else in the book into question - you don't know what to believe. I ended up looking up everything I could on the internet and by and large the information offered is correct.

The book moves, albeit somewhat erratically (but hey, the ice went back and forth that way too), 'forward' in time, starting with an examination of the various African hominids, to the received ideas about the various exoduses from Africa, the calamities (like the huge Mount Toba eruption which almost wiped us off the planet) and the slow grinding effect of the ice ages. He expands on the theories about how, when, why the Neandertals died out - the climate changes as the tilt turned toward warm and/or the competition with the new homo sapiens, the Cro-magnon who could think in ways they could not (generlaly received speculation). I have a few new take-aways, Mount Toba, the fascinating Sungir digs in Eastern Europe/Russia, an even earlier glimpse of dogs teamed up with humans (30,000 years and I'm convinced I have the DNA of the first official dog-lover in my make-up). He describes hunting practices and methods convincingly, although I found many of his description of tool-making impossible to follow and plan to find some of the anachronistic stone tool-maker you tubes vids which inevitably exist..... Nonetheless I have a slightly more vivid picture of the emergence from Africa in waves that responded over thousand year cycles of changes in weather, creeping northward and down again, the Neanderthals succumbing to the inevitable, and the cro-magnon while not giving away, absorbing the new farming practices brought to them from the east, changing slowly from a hunter-gatherer life to a more settled not long before the great empires of the near east, India and Egypt begin to get underway and 'civilization' as we know it begins in earnest.

I'm giving it a *** because I don't think there is anything egregiously wrong with it and it is perfectly readable - just bear in mind if you find your brain locked in some feedback loop it probably isn't you, it's Fagan. Shake your head a little and move on. ( )
1 vote sibyx | Mar 23, 2013 |
[Cro-Magnon], by Brian Fagan introduces what is currently known (and speculated) about Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals. Fagan spices up his narrative with imaginative vignettes of Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons as they may have lived. I imagine such vignettes would appeal to most everyone in the general public, including teens, though they may be a little irritating to a hard-core scientist who isn't interested in imaginative speculation (just a guess...I loved them!). Another excellent feature of this book is that it has incorporated historic scientific discoveries about prehistoric peoples with modern science like mitochondrial DNA tracing. Again, this feature would be of interest to most of the general public, but isn't meant for experts--there are a lot of simplifications for the sake of clarity. I think this book is an excellent introduction to prehistoric peoples that could be enjoyed by both adults and teens (even precocious pre-teens). ( )
  The_Hibernator | Jun 25, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am waffling about what to rate this one. It was interesting but probably could have been shortened a bit and I felt there were some flaws and some stylistic things I would have preferred otherwise.

It was a fast read (for me) - about a week, with most of it going by on two airplanes. The content is fascinating, looking at the big picture was done well, and the story was well told in terms of bringing together the changes in climate/ice ages with the archaeology, anthropology, stone age technology and society.

Its written for a general audience as a narrative of what we know and can surmise about Cro-Magnon evolution, migration/geography, contact with and domination over Neanderthals, and general way of life/culture/art etc. This book does a great job of not getting bogged down in minutiae, classifications, or jargon, all of which abound in the technical fields. It also does a great job of sticking to the big picture and broad sweeps of human pre-history. There's a lot we don't know and that's stated up front. There's a lot we can infer and that's stated up front. And there's a lot we can imagine things being like and that's stated up front.

But there was also a lot that was stated that was overstated. There were a lot of "must have been"s when really it's "could have been". Climate changes and shifts in glaciers and temperatures would very likely have an impact on animal and human migration and settlement patterns, but I'm not yet convinced to make the leap that climate change would directly influence the human human evolution or the propensity for culture, religion, art, etc.

I'm also fairly skeptical that life was quite as static over the millenia as is repeatedly stated -- while I can't think of a way to prove it, it just doesn't seem quite right that there weren't social changes that just may not be reflected in the archaeological artifacts. There were many comparisons made to current hunter/gatherer societies - but I have to imagine there were some pretty substantial differences there as well. Finally, throughout the book there were fluffy imaginary scenes meant to illustrate these peoples and make them 'real' which I felt were superfluous and made the book feel more like historical fiction. There were also many side bars that two 2-3 pages each that disrupted the flow of reading. Often figures didn't appear anywhere near where they were being discussed which resulted in a lot of page flipping. And there was a lot of poor quality foreshadowing that sounded sort of like "well this is a really cool topic, but we won't talk about it until Chapter 6".

Overall, the book was really good at piquing my interest and at pointing out all the things that we really *don't* know about life for the first anatomically modern humans. There just isn't the evidence or archaeological record to say much at all with confidence. Ultimately, this remains a book that says much and means little in a generally interesting way.

Cautiously recommended - go ahead if you're looking for something intriguing and big picture but take it with a grain of salt. 3.5 stars. ( )
2 vote bfertig | Jun 27, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Veteran anthropologist Brian Fagan has provided a truly fascinating account of the development and spread of early modern humans into Europe, and their potential interactions with the Neandertal humans. Fagan draws on a wealth of evidence that includes geology, archaeology, anthropology, and genetics to reconstruct what is arguably the most fascinating element of human prehistory. While his reconstruction is heavily based in fact, he also uses "stories" or scenarios to give his readers a picture of how events may have transpired. Fagan considers it highly significant that cave art and use of jewlery and decoration were characteristic of the European "Cro-Magnons" but not the Neandertals, and speculates that the latter therefore lacked capacities for imagination and for recognition of a supernatural realm. Here his perspective grows conjectural. However, we know vastly more about both Neandertals and early modern H. sapiens than even 20 years ago, and scenarios such as Fagan's can be thought of as hypotheses available for future testing. I found this book thoroughly fascinating, and filled it with underlinings and marginal comments. While I cannot accept all of its conclusions, I recommend this book highly.
7 vote rybie2 | Jan 14, 2011 |
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Epigraph
A sudden intense winter, that was also to last for ages, fell upon our globe.
Louis Agassiz, Geological Sketches (1866)
Dedication
To Francis and Maisie Pryor
Archaeologists, gardeners, and sheep farmers,
with affection and respect and with thanks for many good laughs.
After all, they have turtles named after them...
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They call him Löwenmensch, "the Lion Man."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159691582X, Hardcover)

Cro-Magnons were the first fully modern Europeans?not only the creators of the stunning cave paintings at Lascaux and elsewhere, but the most adaptable and technologically inventive people that had yet lived on earth. The prolonged encounter between the Cro-Magnons and the archaic Neanderthals and between 45,000 and 30,000 years ago was one of the defining moments of history. The Neanderthals survived for some 15,000 years in the face of the newcomers, but were finally pushed aside by the Cro-Magnons' vastly superior intellectual abilities and cutting-edge technologies, which allowed them to thrive in the intensely challenging climate of the Ice Age.

What do we know about this remarkable takeover? Who were the first modern Europeans and what were they like? How did they manage to thrive in such an extreme environment? And what legacy did they leave behind them after the cold millennia? The age of the Cro-Magnons lasted some 30,000 years?longer than all of recorded history. Cro-Magnon is the story of a little known, yet seminal, chapter of human experience.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:37 -0400)

Cro-Magnons were the first fully modern Europeans--not only the creators of the stunning cave paintings at Lascaux and elsewhere, but the most adaptable and technologically inventive people that had yet lived on earth. The prolonged encounter between the Cro-Magnons and the archaic Neanderthals, between 45,000 and 30,000 years ago, was one of the defining moments of history. The Neanderthals survived for some 15,000 years in the face of the newcomers, but were finally pushed aside by the Cro-Magnons' vastly superior intellectual abilities and cutting-edge technologies. What do we know about this remarkable takeover? Who were these first modern Europeans and what were they like? How did they manage to thrive in such an extreme environment? And what legacy did they leave behind them after the cold millennia? This is the story of a little known, yet seminal, chapter of human experience.--From publisher description.… (more)

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