Where do we come from? How did our ancestors settle this planet? How did the great historic civilizations of the world develop? How does a past so shadowy that it has to be painstakingly reconstructed from fragmentary, largely unwritten records nonetheless make us who and what we are?
These 36 lectures bring you the answers that the latest scientific and archaeological research and theorizing suggest about human origins, how populations developed, and the ways in which civilizations spread throughout the globe. It's a narrative of the story of human origins and the many ties that still bind us deeply to the world before writing. And it's a world tour of prehistory with profound links to who we are and how we live today.
Woven through this narrative is a set of pervasive themes: emerging human biological and cultural diversity (as well as our remarkable similarities across surprising expanses of time and space); the impact of human adaptations to climatic and environmental change; and the importance of seeing prehistory not merely as a chronicle of archaeological sites and artifacts, but of people behaving with the extraordinary intellectual, spiritual, and emotional dynamism that distinguish the human. Among the corners of our mysterious past you'll explore: human prehistory from Australopithecus africanus through Homo habilis and Homo erectus; the beginnings of agriculture and animal domestication; theories behind the appearance of urban civilization and overall attributes of preindustrial civilizations; the maritime trading revolutions in Africa, India, and Southeast Asia; and much more.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2003 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2003 The Great Courses
Although this is a course rather than a book, I would recommend it with reservation.
On the upside, it paints human history in broad strokes and provides significant food for thought regarding what impacted early human development. On the flip side recent data is making some very significant points obsolete. The professor asserts that humans and Neanderthals did not interbreed, that Neanderthals did not produce art or have higher reasoning on par with homo sapiens sapiens. In 2003 when this course was first given this might have been the prevailing belief. Modern DNA research now shows that most of humanity outside of Africa is likely to have some Neanderthal DNA in our genetic make-up. Additionally, Neanderthals have been shown to make clothes, and use pigments at least for application on their body if not to create art on cave walls. Although there is still much to decipher and the final verdict is still out on how similar these two branches of humanity's tree were, the professors absolute statements regarding Neanderthals ring a bit hollow now with the passage of time coupled with recent developments. Still a good course overall.
Concise. Despite reservations noted above, he still seems quite knowledgeable and has a great deal to offer.
Yes. I went out and read more on the subject. Very interesting.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this series. It is one of the best Great Courses I have listened to so far. For those who may not be familiar, the Great courses are a series of lectures by distinguished professors, not necessarily an audiobook per se.
This would be an excellent introduction for most into the topics of Prehistory and the first civilizations. I enjoy learning about history and have more prior knowledge than many would going into this book, but I still learned a great deal and think it would be appropriate for most who are interested in learning more. I was skeptical at first about cramming both topics listed in the title into a single series, but, to my joy and astonishment, the lecturer managed to fit both topics in and still manage to be thorough, detailed, and comprehensive in a relative sense. The series goes from discussion of man's earliest ancestors, through archaic humans and neanderthals, to modern humans, and then covers the development of the earliest civilizations all over the world, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Europe, India, Africa, China, and the Americas. Roughly half of the course covers prehistory and half of it covers the first civilizations, but, believe me, you will leave this course feeling that you have had a thorough introduction to both. The professor is very knowledgeable, articulate, and organized and he proceeds through the material in a roughly chronological manner. The material may be dry for some who aren't used to historical content, but I think the professor did a good job of keeping you engaged with the material and making it comprehensible.
Just as an inside joke to those who have already listened to this, two unforgettable phrases you will hear time and time again are, "We don't really know," and "How did they do this?"
If you are at all interested in the topic, I can't recommend this more. My guess is that you won't be disappointed.
First, I am a college professor, so it pains me to give this lecture series anything but the highest praise. But I feel like they pick people who don't get the basic need for storytelling in the lecture format, and instead go with people with a professorial flair in the delivery. This lecture is the third in this series that I have attempted to plod through, and I am stopping at hour 7 even though the subject is of great interest to me. It may just be me, but I find nothing particularly compelling about this lecture- it's just okay. Most of the time I realize that even if I am listening intently, most of the information is just deserting me and I am needing to go back and listen again, as my mind seems to be completely uninterested in what Professor Fagan is saying. This lecture may work well in a room where you can see his gestures and visual aids, but in this format I find that I am retaining little and enjoying less.
Realizing that this was an overview course, it is still a huge amount of history to cover. Two things have stuck with me since I finished listening to these lectures. The first was Dr. Fagan's speaking. His voice was theatrical and almost Shakespearean. However, he pronounces some words in ways that seem tortured. Even though I have figured out what he means, it is almost impossible to say it the way he does. The word "Controversy," for example, is pronounced something like "Contravesee." It is not a British thing, but a Professor Garland thing. The other point that actually bothered me more was the lack of support, especially in the later lectures, for all the great material he was offering. Again, I realize that his was an overview set of lectures, but it would have been nice to have more information to support his perspective. Just the opposite of Dr. Castor, who tended to give almost too much historical support.
This is a good jumping off point to decide what prehistoric topics interest you most. He covers all major prehistoric civilizations worldwide, up to the 20th century in select cases. Some societies with writing were explored such as various Mesopotamian cities and Egypt. I didn't know that Incan god-kings were all expected to accumulate their own wealth with new conquests instead of inheriting everything. I was particularly interested in the earliest farming villages and less ostentatious societies that aren't often highlighted.
Female, Military Background, Mother, Wife. Enjoys Science, Medicine (in particular viruses and diseases).
This is a crash course on human history narrated by a man who should teach and narrate everything. The man has an English accent, which is good by itself for listening. He also rolls his r's occasionally and in odd places, annoying from most people but when he does it, it is scintillating. Then Dr. Fagan has a slight lisp some places, and then a hard core lisp other places. Individually, these can be annoying sounds, but in the same way that Morgan Freeman ' s face is beautiful even though it is comprised of average attributes, all of Dr. Fagan's vocal "flaws" come together to create an oratory sensation.
Put this together with a fascinating subject matter by a man who passionately cares about his subject and you become engrossed yourself. Please pay this man lots of money to read his own books, I could listen to him speak forever.
My husband and I learned so much from this course. The history of religion, government, and society in the First Civilizations is fascinating and enlightening and also added to our understanding of how our current world view was shaped.
I really hate the formal use of the teaching technique of "tell them what you're going to tell them, tel l it to them, then tell them what you've told them". Professor Fagan uses it very formally. I'd rather have a shorter first description, the meat of the lesson, then, if you must summarize the lesson, keep it extremely short. I can't complain about his lisp; that's beyond his control. It would be less noticeable if he wasn't trying to roll his rs. He is a bit too theatrical with his voice. Some inflection is helpful, but to me he's overdone it. Finally, not surprisingly, some of this at least is out of date. I understand that we now know that modern humans and Neanderthals could produce offspring, that in fact many people today have some evidence of Neanderthal DNA.
Yes. The subject matter is fascinating, and the professor does a great job. His passion for the product comes through in every lecture. He is obviously an expert in the subject.
He made a lot of mistakes, which gave it a live course feel. It was very listenable.
I wish there was more about metal development in the Americas. The anthropogenic global warming comments were needed in the lectures as much as an accordian player. What made the lectures real is the reliance on science. Then to move from a lecture about pre-history to a lecture about his politics was a distraction.
You can tell the professor is really excited about the subject matter. I really appreciate when the material is presented as not "absolute". That as discoveries are made historical views will also shift to fit the new evidence. Perhaps never really being accurate, but our best educated "guess". The insight is revealing;: where food and water was abundant civilizations thrived. Without it they dwindled. Well worth the journey to listen to this course. "
"Interesting but a little dated"
This is a good whistle-stop tour of world prehistory. The narrator stumbles occasionally but his enthusiasm comes across well and he holds attention. A couple of assertions (such as 'We know that modern humans did not interbreed with Neanderthals') now thought to be false, beg the question of what else is out of date now but I don't think that detracts too much from the purpose of the course: to give a general overview.
One other bugbear. Some of the pronunciations of Chinese words were bizarrely wrong. It does seem a shame that the pronunciations weren't looked up beforehand but again, this isn't a big deal in what is essentially a big picture course.
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