Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations

The Teaching Company: Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations 18 Audio Cds with Course Outline Booklet (The Great Courses)
The lectures started out with a pronouncement of the superiority of modern archeological science, given in a British Elmer Fudd voice. Luckily, though there is a bit of cockiness, the lectures were fairly well done.

The first part deals primarily with the early prehistory that is "divined" from archeological data, augmented with dating and biochemical methods. Alas, the data is rather scarce, and the conclusions are, by nature, inconclusive. Our observations are based on the "hard" items that have survived. We can come to fairly broad conclusions of a migration out of Africa. However, there is plenty of controversy, with many theories being overhauled after new finds.

The population of America is particularly mysterious. Some people theorize a maritime population along the coasts. However, since the sea levels have risen significantly since the suspected period, these sights would be almost impossible to locate (and unlike to have much preserved.) The interior migration is more commonly accepted. However, this would involve migrating among glaciers.

Study of prehistory invariable involves making suppositions about motives based on simple remains. This brings the discoverer's view front and center. The views of the past are heavily colored by current world views and attitudes. They are also influenced by the type of artifacts that can survive. (If somebody dug up remains from our society 30,000 from now, they could find all the books and advanced technology biodegraded or pilfered and only uncover a few royal toys. What would they think of the society?)

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