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The Cambridge Ancient History Volume 1, Part…

The Cambridge Ancient History Volume 1, Part 1: Prolegomena and Prehistory (urspr publ 1970; utgåvan 1970)

av I. E. S. Edwards (Redaktör), C. J. Gadd (Redaktör), N. G. L. Hammond (Redaktör)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1092189,449 (3.58)1
The present volume begins with an account of what is known about the remotest geological ages and comprises chapters on the different kinds of evidence concerning man and his physical environment up to the end of the Predynastic Period in Egypt and the parallel stages of development in Mesopotamia, Persia, Anatolia, Palestine, Cyprus, Greece and the Islands. To trace the history of these very early times it is necessary to rely chiefly on material remains, since writing had not then been invented. The text offers a setting against which the cultural progress of the historical epoch can be viewed. Archaeological investigation may be expected to bring to light more evidence to fill some of the present gaps in our knowledge, but already it is clear that the gulf between historical and prehistorical times in much of the ancient world is narrower than was once supposed.… (mer)
Titel:The Cambridge Ancient History Volume 1, Part 1: Prolegomena and Prehistory
Författare:I. E. S. Edwards (Redaktör)
Andra författare:C. J. Gadd (Redaktör), N. G. L. Hammond (Redaktör)
Info:Cambridge University Press (1970), Edition: 3, 780 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek


Prolegomena and Prehistory av I. E. S. Edwards (Editor) (1970)


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It is perhaps worth noting what this book is, as a 19-volume collection totalling over 16,000 pages of dense material is not a project worth embarking on unless it suits. That is to say, this is a 5-star work for what it sets out to be, but can never be a 5-star work in many other ways.

The Cambridge Ancient History is part of a larger series, completed by The Cambridge Medieval History and The Cambridge Modern History that tell the story of Europe (and, in some cases, further afield) from geological prehistory to the middle of the 20th century. There are 19 books in the Ancient, 7 in the Medieval, and 13 dense tomes in the Modern (where the focus really does narrow down to Western Europe). It is, in other ways, madness.

Why is it good? Well, it's by Cambridge. No, seriously. The professors and academics involved in each chapter and section have exhaustive knowledge of their subjects, and any given page details the scientific advances and knowledge (at least known to those in the last half of the 20th century, when these were published). For the most part, the approach is no-nonsense. This isn't some namby-pamby listen to the people who claim the Pyramids were built by aliens, or that there's a possibility that this was all faked by a deity who invented the world 2,000 years ago (it wasn't). This is science.

The tone is open-minded across the volumes, matter-of-fact although rarely all that enlivening. In many cases, the writers will happily go into immense detail on a subject (such as the colours and markings on Minoan pottery). Much like the best of the David Attenborough documentaries, it's hard to imagine how anyone could come away from this book anything less than completely convinced by the arguments at hand. Also, by taking the anthology approach of allowing experts to write each section (which were originally published as individual fascicles to help eager students), every section has the imprimatur of academia.

Combined with this, every volume has a detailed bibliography, maps where relevant, and lots of reassurance that all of the knowledge contained herein is part of a larger, ongoing conversation between academics and historians around the world, piecing together evidence to form hypotheses, then either verifying or discarding these as the decades go on. It's exactly what science should be, and it's a shame that the set is so expensive.

At the same time... of course, this is not for everyone, and isn't even necessarily the best way to learn this information. The books are written by academics and designed primarily for students and academics. Most people will find it practical to pick up the volume that suits the area they are interested in, rather than reading the whole work. If you don't have some knowledge of plate tectonics, entire chunks of pages would be better served as a doorstop. On top of this - as with other, similar, iconic works like The Arden Shakespeare - the volume was made for people with access to a university library. The section on Sumerian kings won't actually list any Sumerian kings, as you might expect to find in a source book. Rather, it will discuss the various lists that exist, and their sources, with footnotes directing you to where you can find the list. So, although this book contains much useful information, it is by no means a comprehensive source. Sometimes, you may come away from a section with only information about the information you were looking for!

On top of this, the internet has meant that armchair readers of a subject may find it easier to consult Wikipedia, science articles, and synopses of this information. There are good sources online for how the continents came to their present location that are speedier and just as satisfying as reading 60 pages of dense prattle. That's not to say any part of this set is unnecessary, but much of it serves a clear purpose that is not for the armchair historian: it is to provide a primer for academic students, or an overview for academics, that can direct them in expanding knowledge via the 15 or 20 relevant texts from the bibliography.

Also, it's not as much of a problem in the Ancient set, but younger people in the 21st century seem to struggle with the notion that an academic (or bunch thereof) has all the information. It's for this reason that the older style of documentary - in which one person (admittedly, usually a white man in those days) narrates their view of the world direct to the camera for 13 episodes - has fallen by the wayside a bit. Although, for me, there is nothing better than listening to the learned (if only we could shake up the gender and colour bias somewhat!). But that's a digression.

It's exciting to many of us to find such a large, attractive set, with such a wide scope of information. And these volumes will inevitably not be read by that many due to their size, density, and the fact that such endless streams of factual knowledge eventually withers even the sharpest mind, without much emotional or personal connection to the subject. Some of the volumes are better than others at tackling social and cultural information, while unfortunately there is still a tendency for some to approach history as a series of battles and kings. True, these are often easier to glean from the evidence available, but there is so much more. The differences we see in culture, in vocabulary, in attitudes, just between 1960 and today are exactly what occurred to the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Ancient Chinese, and others. For a long time, these issues were seen as somehow "less than history", as feminine or as entertainment. Now, they are being seen more and more as vital, as they should be.

So, all in all, yes. These volumes are magisterial, and we should cherish them - if for no other reason then it is unlikely something similar will come along again.
  therebelprince | Nov 15, 2020 |
A person has to truly love history, esoteric knowledge and pottery to read this book from cover-to-cover. I have actually read it twice. The first time was over 25 years ago, when I was able to get a copy from the library. I read several of the books in the series and swore that I would own them one day. This is the first of the 19 volumes that I've bought.

The history of mankind's first steps towards civilization is a fascinating mosaic of tool (and pottery) making, the first attempts at agriculture and domestication of animals -- and of movement. The amount of movement humanity did before wheeled vehicles or anything to ride is phenomenal. From Mesopotamia to Egypt to the islands of the Aegean and into Greece, the spread of people can be traced through the types of pottery and the patterns (among things) they brought with them, and through the trade in such items as obsidian, turquoise and -- late in the book -- copper. There were isolated communities, but trade routes were plainly already established, and culture spreading along those paths.

This is not a story of personality; there are no known people except in the chapter of how various king lists are used to coordinate time with several areas by matching names with those found in other documents. After that, it is a story of humanity as a whole, learning from each other how to better survive in the world.

I love learning just for itself. However, I have also always found books like this to be a storehouse of story fodder and background material for world building. I make certain that I mark out one interesting line within every 20 page stretch. These little tidbits often seed their way into stories, along with much else I read in the books.

Below are the quotes from this book:

Page 1 -- More than four-fifths of history of our earth was over before the fossil record opens.

Page 33 -- In the end it overlaps with pre-history, and the most recent events we have described -- for example the separation of the waters of the Mediterranean from those of the Red Sea -- were unwittingly witnessed by tool-using man.

Page 60 -- The archaeological evidence supports the suggestion that irrigation farming involved only the breaching of the natural embankments of streams and made use of uncontrolled local flooding.

Page 62 -- The land of Egypt consists of three major features: the alluvial lands of the valley and the delta, the low desert bordering these land son both flanks, and, beyond, the desert uplands.

Page 93 -- The most obvious and dramatic change in temperate Europe was that forest trees were able to expand from their Late-glacial landscape.

Page 111 -- The most impressive burial at Teviec comprised six persons: at the bottom there was a man of between twenty and thirty who had evidently been killed by an arrow mounted with a triangular microlith, and above five more burials, including those of two men, two women and a girl, the whole surmounted by a heap of stone incorporating what appears to have been a ritual hearth.

Page 124 -- Although we have described this model in terms of geographical spread, it is equally applicable to dialect differentiation among the various strata of a given society or to the divergence that arise between spoken and written forms of the language which continue to influence one another.

Page 145 -- It became extinct as a spoken language, for all practical purposes, soon after the close of the Ur III Dynasty, and the end of the third millennium, but was intensively cultivated by scribes down into the second century, B. C., if not even later. (Sumerian)

Page 170 -- It has been suggested that the genesis of the Iron Age accompanied the fall of the Hittite Empire at the beginning of the twelfth century B. C.

Page 188 -- Her disappearance from history some time between his 20th and 22nd years agrees with Manetho's slightly garbled statement that after the third king of the dynasty 'his sister Amesssis' ruled for twenty-one years and nine months. (Hatshepsut)

Page 206 -- It is towards the end of the reign of Suppliuliumash that the Hittite records mention the death of Tutankhamun.

Page 234 -- According to Cameron three rulers held office simultaneously dring that period of Elamite history. When the senior ruler, the sukkalmah, died the next senior, the sukkal of Elam and Simashki, moved up to sukkalmah. The junior ruler, the sukkal of Susa would move up whenever the next highest office was vacated, and a new sukkal of Susa would be appointed.

Page 249 -- Hunting was still the main occupation, but at Zawi Chemi there is abundant evidence for domestic sheep, the first animal to be domesticated.

Page 270 -- Burqras looks like an attempt by early farmers at settling in the Euphrates valley which failed, just as the early settlements in Palestine seem to have failed ultimately, though after a much more prolonged effort.

Page 284 -- In a previous section we have already described the establishment of early village sites on the edge of the alluvial plain in the Deh Luran district and we have seen how, soon after 6000 B. C., plain and painted pottery made its appearance in the 'Muhammad Ja'far phase' at Ali-Kush, together with a decline in agriculture and a concomitant increase in pastoralism that led eventually to the abandonment of the site.

Page 306 -- By reason of their seasonal migrations nomads are most efficient agents for the transmission of culture.

Page 331 -- It need not surprise us that this now desolate spot was once deemed to be a holy place and that the faithful journeyed there to leave offerings in the sand long after the city had ceased to be.

Page 349 -- Considered in retrospect, the most remarkable feature in this long prehistoric process is the inverse measure of progression revealed by an analysis of pottery and the architecture respectively. Whereas the painted wares found at the bottom of Eridu are artistically highly developed and elaborate in design, the first buildings are simplicity itself, and many centuries must have lapsed before they began to assume the basic form of ground plan which we associate with Sumerian civilization. Moreover, as the buildings became more elaborate and standardized in plan, the pottery lost its fullness of design, and tended towards repetition and a more mechanical output of relatively limited shapes.

Page 364 -- It is not unlikely that this was a dedication, a burnt sacrifice made when a temple named the 'Cone-mosaic Temple' was dismantled to make way for a ne one, and that a part of the older temple furniture was thus consecrated in perpetuity before being replaced by a new set.

Page 383 -- We may be tempted to see in these Gawra buildings the origin of the Megaron which, at a considerably later period, was to become so characteristic a feature of Anatolia -- at Troy and Beycesultan -- and eventually of the Mycenaean world.

Page 403 -- These caves are still used intermittently by Kurds for a month or two each yer as shelters during the season when they are collecting wild fruit, and also in autumn when they are hunting game: the nearest running stream is now at Havdiyan.

Page 434 -- Already we may discern the beginnings of the terrible population problems that confront us today: the perfect equilibrium between production and consumption is a notion of the golden age which, so far, has existed only within man's imagination, but has never been realized beyond it, however wide the open spaces may have been at the beginnings of prehistory.

Page 448 -- A bone holder for a flint knife from Sialk I represents a male figure with hands and arms reverently folder across the front of the body in an attitude of obeisance which is already astonishingly Persian!

Page 470 -- Animals and humans were buried in the same cemeteries. The bodies of the animals were wrapped in matting and linen, and their graves did not differ from those of humans except in their lack of tomb furniture. The remains found were those of small carnivores, either dog or jackal, cows and sheep. (El-Badari, predyansitc Egypt.)

Page 485 -- Some of the better graves were lined with matting or with wooden planks, which were the ancestors both of wooden coffins and the internal wood paneling of the First Dynasty tombs.

Page 519 -- It is no paradox to attribute to nomads the introduction of pottery and certain other developments; before the establishment of trading on a larger scale, nomads played an important part in the transmission of new ideas and the diffusion of influences.

Page 530 -- The Ghassul-Beersheba culture, which mad its appearance without any preliminaries, disappeared without any sequel.

Page 542 -- From time immemorial industrious Cypriot farmers have built thousands of miles of terrace walls to avert the worst effects of such storms.

Page 562 -- When the Thessalian Plain, and most likely other parts of Greece as well, became inundated, possibly between 30,000 and 20,000 years ago, man must have taken to the higher ground of the periphery, perhaps descending again in the several periods of desiccation.

Page 583 -- Made in much the same way were the more numerous clay sling bullets, unbaked or poorly fired, which seem to have been the only weapon of the period.

Page 606 -- Towards the end of the Late Neolithic period one can sense an increase in the movement of peoples into and about the Aegean, possibly a preliminary phase of maritime commercial enterprise such as characterizes the subsequent Early Bronze Age. ( )
  zette | Jan 5, 2012 |
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Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Edwards, I. E. S.Redaktörprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Gadd, C. J.Redaktörhuvudförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Hammond, N. G. L.Redaktörhuvudförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
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Wikipedia på engelska (6)

The present volume begins with an account of what is known about the remotest geological ages and comprises chapters on the different kinds of evidence concerning man and his physical environment up to the end of the Predynastic Period in Egypt and the parallel stages of development in Mesopotamia, Persia, Anatolia, Palestine, Cyprus, Greece and the Islands. To trace the history of these very early times it is necessary to rely chiefly on material remains, since writing had not then been invented. The text offers a setting against which the cultural progress of the historical epoch can be viewed. Archaeological investigation may be expected to bring to light more evidence to fill some of the present gaps in our knowledge, but already it is clear that the gulf between historical and prehistorical times in much of the ancient world is narrower than was once supposed.

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