World Prehistory: A Brief Introduction (5th Edition)

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9780130404633: World Prehistory: A Brief Introduction (5th Edition)

Written by one of the leading archaeological writers in the world--in a simple, jargon-free narrative style--this brief, well-illustrated account of the major developments in the human past (from the origins of humanity to the origins of literate civilization) is ideal for those with no previous knowledge of the subject. Up to date and state of the art in content and perspective, it covers the entire world (not just the Americas or Europe), placing major emphasis on both theories and the latest archaeological and multidisciplinary approaches. The main focus is on four major developments--the origins of humanity; the appearance and spread of modern humans before and during the late Ice Age, including the first settlement of the Americas; the beginnings of food production; and the rise of the first civilizations. Features special boxes on Science (e.g., key dating methods and other scientific approaches), Sites (e.g., sites of unusual importance or interest, and Voices (e.g., quotes from writings of ancient times). Human Origins. African Exodus. Diaspora. The Origins of Food Production. The First Farmers. Chiefs and Chiefdoms. State-Organized Societies. Mesopotamia and the Eastern Mediterranean World. Egypt and Africa. South, Southeast, And East Asia. Lowland Mesoamerica. Highland Mesamerica. Andean Civilizations. For anyone interested in Archaeology, World Prehistory, Human Antiquity.

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About the Author:

Brian Fagan is one of the leading archaeological writers in the world and an internationally recognized authority on world prehistory. He studied archaeology and anthropology at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, and then spent seven years in sub-Saharan Africa working in museums and in monument conservation and excavating early farming sites in Zambia and East Africa. He was one of the pioneers of multidisciplinary African history in the 1960s. From 1967 to 2003, he was Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he specialized in lecturing and writing about archaeology to wide audiences. He is now Emeritus.


Professor Fagan has written six best-selling textbooks apart from this book: Ancient Lives: An Introduction to Archaeology; In the Beginning; Archaeology: A Brief Introduction; People of the Earth; World Prehistory, all published by Prentice Hall–that are used around the world. His general books include The Rape of the Nile, a classic history of Egyptology; The Adventure of Archaeology; Time Detectives; Ancient North America; The Little Ice Age, The Long Summer, and Fish on Friday. He is General Editor of the Oxford Companion to Archaeology. In addition, he has published several scholarly monographs on African archaeology and numerous specialized articles in national and international journals. He is also an expert on multimedia teaching and has received the Society for American Archaeology’s first Public Education Award for his indefatigable efforts on behalf of archaeology and education.


Brian Fagan’s other interests include bicycling, sailing, kayaking, and good food. He is married and lives in Santa Barbara with his wife and daughter, four cats (who supervise his writing), and, last but not least, seven rabbits.

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

Three thousand, four thousand years maybe, have passed and gone since human feet last trod the floor on which you stand, and yet, as you note the signs of recent life around you-the half-filled bowl of mortar for the door, the blackened lamp, the finger-mark on the freshly painted surface, the farewell garland dropped on the threshold-you feel it might have been but yesterday . . . . Time is annihilated by little intimate details such as these, and you feel an intruder.
Egyptologist Howard Carter, notebook entry on Tutankhamun's tomb, November 26, 1922

Golden pharaohs, lost cities, grinning human skeletons: Archaeology is the stuff of romance and legend! Many people still think of archaeologists as adventurers and treasure hunters, like Indiana Jones of Hollywood movie fame seeking the elusive Holy Grail. This enduring image goes back to the late nineteenth century, when archaeologists like Heinrich Schliemann could still find lost civilizations like Troy and excavate three royal palaces in a week. Today, few, if any, archaeologists behave like Indiana Jones. They are scientists, not adventurers, as comfortable in an air-conditioned laboratory as they are on a remote excavation. The development of scientific archaeology from its Victorian beginnings ranks among the greatest triumphs of twentieth-century science. Archaeology has changed our understanding of the human experience in profound ways. A century ago, most scientists believed humans were no more than 100,000 years old. Today we know that our origins go back at least 5 million years. Our predecessors assumed the Americas were settled in about 8000 B.C. and that farming began around 4000 B.C. New excavations date the first Americans to at least 12,000 B.C. and the beginnings of agriculture to about 10,000 B.C. Most important, archaeology has changed our perceptions of ourselves, especially of our biological and cultural diversity. Welcome to the fascinating world of archaeology!

The fifth edition of World Prehistory continues a long tradition of providing an interesting, jargon-free journey through the 5million-year-old landscape of the human past. I hope you enjoy your sojourn in its pages.

Highlights of the Fifth Edition

The fifth edition of World Prehistory has been revised throughout to reflect the latest advances in the field, and it includes suggestions by dozens of archaeologists and students who have taken the trouble to contact me after using previous editions.

This is an exciting time to be writing about archaeology. Many scientific advances are changing our perceptions about the past. Accordingly, the fifth edition is somewhat longer than its predecessors, with expanded coverage of major theoretical issues and the early civilizations. The fifth edition contains important new discoveries about early human evolution, the late Ice Age, and the origins of agriculture. New and updated coverage of the field appears in every chapter, with an up-to-date Guide to Further Reading at the end of the book along with a glossary of technical terms and one of archaeological sites and cultural names.

Updating and Rewriting

  • New perceptions of world prehistory. Chapter 1 includes important discussions of archaeology and alternative perspectives on the past, reflecting new thinking on this important topic.
  • Early human evolution. Chapter 2 discusses the latest advances in the study of human origins, including the latest fossil discoveries in Ethiopia and Kenya, among them Australopithecus garhi, a confusing and still enigmatic predecessor of humanity.
  • Origins of modern humans. Chapter 3 covers new research into the controversial issue of the earliest modern humans and fresh perceptions of Neanderthal ancestry and behavior.
  • Origins of food production. Chapter 5 incorporates expanded coverage of the latest theories on the origins of agriculture and animal domestication. Chapter 6, which describes the first farmers, incorporates new dates for early agriculture obtained from accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dates and the results of new researches into the early farming village at Abu Hureyra, Syria, currently the earliest agricultural settlement in the world.
  • Origins of states and civilization. Chapter 8 has been expanded to include current theoretical debates on the origins of state-organized societies, including the issues of factionalism and charismatic leadership. Chapters 9 to 14 offer an up-to-date description and analysis of the first civilizations, with expanded coverage of ancient Egyptian civilization and of south and southeast Asian states. Chapters 12 and 13 offer more comprehensive analysis of highland and lowland Mesoamerican civilizations than in previous editions.
  • Revision and updating throughout. The entire text and Guide to Further Reading have been revised and updated on a page-by-page basis.


Three types of in-text boxes enhance the book, designed to amplify the narrative:

  • Science. These boxes introduce key dating methods and other scientific approaches, such as radiocarbon and AMS dating, and also environmental reconstruction.
  • Sites. Each chapter includes one or more boxes describing sites of unusual importance, and some aspects of unusual interest.
  • Voices. The Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and highland Mesoamerican chapters include special boxes that quote from writings of ancient times, giving each an unusual "voice."

New and Revised Art Program

The fifth edition's art program has been expanded with new photographs and fresh or revised line art. The new illustrations provide additional background on recent discoveries, amplify the narrative, or replace older art with new pictures. Some expanded captions serve to integrate the illustrations more closely into the text.

Complete Redesign

The entire book has been completely redesigned to make it more user-friendly.

Ancillary Materials

The ancillary materials that accompany this textbook have been carefully created to enhance the topics being discussed.

Instructor's Manual with Tests. For each chapter in the text, this manual provides a detailed outline, list of objectives, discussion questions, classroom activities, and additional resources. The test bank includes multiple choice, true-false, and essay questions for each chapter.

Companion Website®. In tandem with the text, students and professors can now take full advantage of the World Wide Web to enrich their study of archaeology. The Fagan Website correlates the text with related material available on the Internet. Features of the Website include chapter objectives and study questions, as well as links to interesting material and information from other sites on the Web that can reinforce and enhance the content of each chapter. Address:

Anthropoloy on the Internet 2001: Evaluating Online Resources. This guide introduces students to the origin and innovations behind the Internet and provides clear strategies for navigating the complexity of the Internet and World Wide Web. Exercises within and at the end of the chapters allow students to practice searching for the myriad of resources available to the student of anthropology. This supplementary book is free to students when shrinkwrapped as a package with World Prehistory: A Brief Introduction, 5/E.


Many colleagues, too numerous to list here, have advised me on this revision. I am deeply grateful for their encouragement and assistance. I would like to thank the following reviewers for their help in revising this new edition. I appreciate their frank comments: Elliot M. Abrams, Ohio University; Mary C. Beaudry, Boston University; Katina Lollios, Ripon College; and John M. O'Shea, University of Michigan.

Lastly, my thanks to my editor Nancy Roberts and her colleagues at Prentice Hall. They have turned a complex manuscript into an attractive book and done all they can to minimize unexpected difficulties.

As always, I would be most grateful for criticisms, comments, or details of new work, sent to me c/o Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106 (e-mail:

Brian M. Fagan

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Fagan, Brian M.
Published by Prentice Hall (2001)
ISBN 10: 0130404632 ISBN 13: 9780130404633
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1

Book Description Prentice Hall, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 5. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0130404632

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