World Prehistory: Two Million Years of Human Life

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9780130281722: World Prehistory: Two Million Years of Human Life

World Prehistory provides a complete overview of world prehistory, human origins and the spread of humans across the globe. Written in a conversational style, the volume provides comprehensive coverage of regional archaeological sequences, a focused examination of food production, social complexity, and the spread of civilization. The volume addresses the study of world prehistory, the archaeological record, process of archaeological research, the dawn of humanity, the first humans and the origins of culture, the emergence of modern humans, the upper Paleolithic world, regional diversification, the evolution of food production, the rise of civilization and trends in world prehistory. For those interested in prehistoric humans and their culture.

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About the Author:

Peter N. Peregrine came to anthropology after completing an undergraduate degree in English. He found anthropology's social scientific approach to understanding humans more appealing than the humanistic approach he had learned as an English major. He undertook an ethnohistorical study of the relationship between Jesuit missionaries and Native American peoples for his master's degree, and realized that he needed to study archaeology to understand the cultural interactions that ;Native Americans had experienced prior to contact with the Jesuits.

While working on his Ph.D. at Purdue University, Peter Peregrine did research on the prehistoric Mississippian cultures of the eastern United States. He found that interactions between groups were common and had been shaping Native American cultures for centuries. Native Americans approached contact with the Jesuits simply as another in a long string of intercultural exchanges. He also found that relatively little research had been done on Native American interactions and decided that comparative research was a good place to begin examining the topic. In 1992, he began to participate in archaeological work in Syria, and has since extended his areas of interest to Africa and East Asia.

Peter Peregrine is currently chair of the anthropology department at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. He serves as research associate for the HRAF Collection of Archaeology and is co-editor with Melvin Ember of the Encyclopedia of Prehistory. He has published more than fifty papers and is the author of seven books. He continues to do archaeological research and teaches a wide range of anthropology and archaeology courses to undergraduate students.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The biggest challenge in writing a textbook for an introductory course in world prehistory is deciding what to cover. The ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, Mexico, and the Andes seem obvious choices, but they represent only a tiny portion of humanity's past. While we may know more about the urban civilizations who left behind massive pyramids and enduring works of art, most people did not live in these civilizations, and even among those who did only a small number had access to the impressive architecture and exotic goods upon which archaeologists often focus.

Without an understanding of the full range of variation in the way people lived in the past we can never hope to understand our past and ourselves. It would be as if we attempted to understand what it meant to be a person in the United States today by looking only at Beverly Hills. We need to study not only the wealthy and powerful, but also the ordinary and mundane. We need to recognize that over the two million years of humanity's existence most people have lived rather humble lives, just like most of us do. By focusing on the exotic we lose sight of the ordinary, and the ordinary is important. Prehistory, if we are true to the whole panorama of human life that has gone before us, has more to do with ordinary people living in ordinary places than with kings and priests living in Sumer or Thebes.

I wrote this book to provide a complete overview of world prehistory—not one focused purely on the "big" areas of research like Egypt, Peru, Mexico, and Mesopotamia, but one that provides balanced coverage of the entire world. I wanted not only to describe what prehistoric humans and their cultures were like but also to explain why they got to be that way, in all their variety. Doing so meant that I had to examine the whole range of cultures in the past, not just the high civilizations or the areas where the most field research has been done. I have been able to accomplish this in part because of the project I have been working on for the past six years—the nine volume Encyclopedia o f Prehistory (Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2001-2002). The Encyclopedia of Prehistory offers basic information on all the prehistoric cultures of the world. Its entries were written by over 200 scholars from more than 20 nations, and it has been a fundamental source of information for this textbook.


Part I. Introduction

The first part of the book introduces the practice of archaeology. There are three chapters. In Chapter 1, Why Study the Past?, I discuss what is special and distinctive about archaeology and why it is an important discipline. In Chapter 2, The Archaeological Record, I explain the four types of materials that make up the archaeological record: artifacts, ecofacts, fossils, and features. Finally, in Chapter 3, The Process of Archaeological Research, I describe the five phases of the archaeological research process: Asking Questions, Building Models, Collecting Data, Analyzing Data, and Presenting Results.

Part II. The Dawn of Humanity

The second part of the book explores the evolution of humans from our earliest ancestors to the Upper Paleolithic era, when regionally distinct cultures began to appear. There are four chapters in this section. In Chapter 4, The First Humans, I discuss our most ancient direct ancestors, the australopithecines and paranthropoids. In Chapter S, The Origins of Culture, I discuss what culture is and how it may have evolved. I then discuss the first members of our genus, Homo, who are most likely responsible for the early signs of cultural behavior, stone tools. In Chapter 6, The Emergence of Modern Humans, I examine the transition between early Homo and modern-looking humans. I give special consideration to the Neandertals and the question of their relationship to modern humans. Finally, in Chapter 7, The Upper Paleolithic World, I consider the cultures of modern humans in the Upper Paleolithic period—roughly 40,000 to 10,000 years ago. I discuss their tools, their economies, and their art—the first art made by humans. I also discuss human colonization of North and South America.

Part III. Regional Diversification

The eight chapters that comprise the third section of the book share a common focus: the archaeological record of a particular region of the globe. Each also shares a common framework. I begin each chapter with a brief overview of the geography and environment of the region. I then present the archaeological record for the region by considering settlements and other types of sites and their locations. I also examine the economic basis of the societies inhabiting the region and changes over time, with a focus on technology and food-getting. I consider the sociopolitical organization of the region's inhabitants as well, and changes over time. Each chapter ends with a summary that pulls together the information presented in the chapter. The eight chapters are: Chapter 8, The Arctic and Subarctic; Chapter 9, North America; Chapter 10, Middle America; Chapter 11, South America; Chapter 12, Africa; Chapter 13, Europe; Chapter 14, East Asia and Oceania; and Chapter 15, South and Southwest Asia.

Part IV Broad Patterns, Big Processes

The three chapters that comprise the fourth and final section of the book are intended to be synthetic. They each use information from the preceding chapters, mainly those in Part 111, to test theories about major events and processes in cultural evolution. Chapter 16, The Evolution of Food Production, deals with the domestication of plants and animals. My discussion focuses mainly on the theories explaining why domestication evolved and the consequences of the shift from food collection to food production. Chapter 17, The Rise of Civilization, deals with the rise of centralized political systems, typically called state societies or civilizations. Again, my focus is on the theories that have been offered to explain the evolution of political centralization. Finally, Chapter 18, Trends in World Prehistory, poses a provocative question: Have there been underlying trends in world prehistory? In addressing that question I revisit much of the material covered in the text and provide an active example of why understanding our past is important.


Boxes in Each Chapter

The first fifteen chapters have two box features, each of which focuses on a particular archaeological site. They are intended to provide students with a fuller understanding of the archaeological record and the history of research at important locales. In the last three chapters single box features focus on important archaeologists. These are intended to familiarize students with some of the key figures in the history of archaeology.

Media Lab

This feature brings to life topics that are related to each chapter. Each topic has been carefully chosen to pique students' interest and to further their knowledge of world prehistory. All of the necessary information is included at the end of each chapter; the static becomes dynamic once students access the Companion Website™ for animations or videos to illustrate the topic. As a summation, students are asked to communicate the results of their explorations.


In addition to an outline provided at the beginning of each chapter, I provide a synthesis at the end of each chapter that will help the student contextualize the major concepts and findings I discuss.

Discussion Questions, Essay Questions, and Research Projects

I also provide seven questions at the end of each chapter. Discussion questions stimulate thinking about the implications of the chapter. Essay questions require students to critically examine the text or questions raised by it. Research projects require students to go beyond the text and find additional information to answer a question relevant to topics raised in the text.


In each chapter I identify new terms in boldface type and define them in the margin. A complete Glossary is provided at the back of the book to review all terms in the book and serve as a convenient reference for students.

Archaeological Sites and-Traditions

In each chapter, I also identify archaeological sites and traditions in boldface type and list them in the margin, along with their location and time period. This provides a convenient way for students to navigate through the book and to keep track of the places and periods being discussed.


I believe firmly in the importance of documentation to tell readers what my descriptions and conclusion are based upon, and I have provided a list of sources at the end of each chapter. I also hope students will use this text as a resource both for research and essay questions and for pursuit of their own interests in world prehistory. For this reason I offer a comprehensive Bibliography at the end of the book listing those sources I relied upon and found most useful.


INSTRUCTOR'S RESOURCE AND TESTING MANUAL. For each chapter in the text, this manual provides a detailed chapter outline, discussion questions, classroom activities, and additional resources. The test bank includes multiple choice and essay questions for each chapter.

PRENTICE HALL TEST MANAGER. This computerized software allows instructors to create their own personalized exams, to edit any or all test questions, and to add new questions. Other special features of this program, which is available for Windows and Macintosh, include random generation of an item set, creation of alternate versions of the same test, scrambling question sequence, and test preview before printing.

COMPANION WEBSITE™. In tandem with the text, students can now take full advantage of the World Wide Web to enrich their study of world prehistory through the Peregrine Companion Website™. This resource correlates the text with related material available on the Internet. Features include chapter objectives, study questions, research projects, animations, and links to additional material that can reinforce and enhance the content of each chapter.

EVALUATING ONLINE RESOURCES, ANTHROPOLOGY, 2003. This guide provides a brief introduction to navigating the Internet and encourages students to be critical consumers of online resources. References related specifically to the discipline of anthropology are included. Free when packaged with any Prentice Hall textbook. Included with the Evaluating Online Resources guide is a free access code for Research Navigator™.

RESEARCH NAVIGATOR™. Research Navigator™ is the easiest way for students to start a research assignment or research paper. Complete with extensive help on the research process and three exclusive databases of credible and reliable source material, including EBSCO's ContentSelect™ Academic Journal Database, New York Times Search by Subject Archive, and "Best of the Web" Link Library. Research Navigator™ helps students quickly and efficiently make the most of their research time.

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Peregrine, Peter N.
Published by Prentice Hall (2002)
ISBN 10: 0130281727 ISBN 13: 9780130281722
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Peregrine, Peter N.
Published by Prentice Hall (2002)
ISBN 10: 0130281727 ISBN 13: 9780130281722
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