Thursday, February 9, 2012
1) Fagan, Brian. The First North Americans: An Archaeological Journey. 2012. Thames and Hudson. Paperback: 272 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: This new history of North America is based mainly on archaeology, but also on cutting-edge research in many scientific disciplines, from biology and climatology to ethnohistory and high-tech chemistry and physics. Brian Fagan describes the controversies over first settlement, which likely occurred via Siberia at the end of the Ice Age, and the debates over the routes used as humans moved southward into the heart of the continent. A remarkable diversity of hunter-gatherer societies evolved in the rapidly changing North American environments, and the book explores the ingenious ways in which people adapted to every kind of landscape imaginable, from arctic tundra to open plains and thick woodland.
Professor Fagan recounts the increasingly sophisticated acclimation by Native Americans to arctic, arid and semiarid lands, culminating in the spectacular Ancestral Pueblo societies of the Southwest and the elaborate coastal settlements of California and the Pacific Northwest. He then traces the origins of the Moundbuilder societies of the Eastern Woodlands, which reached their apogee in the flamboyant Mississippian culture of the South and Southeast and the mounds of the ancient city of Cahokia. The book ends with a description of the Algonquian and Iroquoian peoples of the Northeast and St. Lawrence Valley, and an epilogue that enumerates the devastating consequences of European contact for Native Americans.
RECOMMENDATION: A good introduction on the subject.
2) Manley, Bill. Egyptian Hieroglyphs for Complete Beginners. 2012. Thames and Hudson. Paperback: 160 pages. Price: $16.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: An original and accessible approach to learning hieroglyphs, written by an experienced teacher and author.
This is the first guide to reading hieroglyphs that begins with Egyptian monuments themselves. Assuming no knowledge on the part of the reader, it shows how to interpret the information on the inscriptions in a step-by-step journey through the script and language of ancient Egypt.
We enter the world of the ancient Egyptians and explore their views on life and death, Egypt and the outside world, humanity and the divine. The book draws on texts found on some thirty artifacts ranging from coffins to stelae to obelisks found in museums in Egypt, America, and Europe, and selected across two thousand years. The texts are then explained clearly, and are supported by full translations, photographs, and line drawings.
RECOMMENDATION: Ever wanted to learn about Egyptian hieroglyphs? Here's the book for you!
3) Stringer, Chris and Peter Andrews. The Complete World of Human Evolution (2nd edition). 2012. Thames and Hudson. Paperback: 240 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Human domination of the earth is now so complete that it is easy to forget how recently our role in the history of the planet began. The earliest apes evolved around twenty million years ago, yet Homo sapiens has existed for a mere 160,000 years. In the intervening period, dozens of species of early ape and human have lived and died out, leaving behind the fossilized remains that have helped to make the detailed picture of our evolution revealed here.
Since this book was first published in 2005 there have been exciting new developments in the story of ape and human evolution, and the authors take account of them in this revised edition. The big gap in the fossil record in Africa is beginning to be filled with the discovery of several new species of apes in Kenya and Ethiopia that date from ten to nine million years ago. There are new discoveries of Australopithecus, updates on the dating of hominin sites, results of new DNA analyses, and much more.
Illustrated with photographs, diagrams, and reconstruction drawings, this is essential reading for anyone interested in human origins.
RECOMMENDATION: Ever wondered about our ancestors? Here's a readable introduction to human evolution.