Understanding Early Civilizations: A Comparative Study

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Cambridge University Press, May 5, 2003 - History - 757 pages
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Arising independently in various parts of the world, early civilizations--the first class-based societies in human history--are of importance to social scientists interested in the development of complexity, while their cultural productions fascinate both humanists and the general public. This book offers the first detailed comparative study of the seven most fully documented early civilizations: ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, Shang China, the Aztecs and their neighbors, the Classic Maya, the Inca, and the Yoruba. Unlike previous studies, equal attention is paid to similarities and differences in their sociopolitical organization, their economic systems, and their religious beliefs, knowledge, art, and values. Many of this study's findings are surprising and provocative. They challenge not only current understandings of early civilizations but also the theoretical foundations of modern archaeology and anthropology. Rival cultural and ecological approaches are demonstrated to be complimentary to one another, while a comprehensive understanding of human behavior is shown to require that more attention be paid to psychology and the neurosciences. Bruce G. Trigger is James McGill Professor in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University. He received his PhD from Yale University and has carried out archaeological research in Egypt and the Sudan. His current interests include the comparative study of early civilizations, the history of archaeology, and archaeological and anthropological theory. He has received various scholarly awards, including the Prix Leon-Gerin from the Quebec government, for his sustained contributions to the social sciences. He is an honarary fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and an honarary member of the Prehistoric Society (U.K.). His numerous books include Sociological Evolution (Blackwell, 1998), Early Civilizations: Ancient Egypt in Context (Amer. Univ in Cairo, 1993), A History of Archaeological Thought (Cambridge, 1989), and The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660 (McGill-Queens Univ., 1976).
 

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User Review  - thcson - LibraryThing

History can be written in many different ways. Many books on ancient history put an excessive focus on political events, with endless sequences of "Prince A inherited the kingship from his father B ... Read full review

Contents

Rationalism and Relativism
3
Comparative Studies
15
Defining Early Civilization
40
Evidence and Interpretation
53
Sociopolitical Organization
66
Kingship
71
City and Territorial
92
Urbanism
120
Appropriation of Wealth
375
Economic Constants and Variables
395
Cognitive and Symbolic Aspects
407
Conceptions of the Supernatural
409
Cosmology and Cosmogony
444
Cult
472
Priests Festivals and the Politics of the Supernatural
495
The Individual and the Universe
522

Class Systems and Social Mobility
142
Family Organization and Gender Roles
167
Administration
195
Law
221
Military Organization
240
Sociopolitical Constants and Variables
264
Economy
277
Food Production
279
Land Ownership
315
Trade and Craft Specialization
338
Elite Art and Architecture
541
Literacy and Specialized Knowledge
584
Values and Personal Aspirations
626
Cultural Constants and Variables
638
Discussion
651
Culture and Reason
653
Conclusion
684
References
689
Index
733
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About the author (2003)

Bruce G. Trigger is James McGill Professor in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University and has carried out archaeological research in Egypt and the Sudan. His current interests include the comparative study of early civilizations, the history of archaeology, and archaeological and anthropological theory. He has received various scholarly awards, including the prestigious Prix Léon-Gérin from the Quebec government, for his sustained contributions to the social sciences. He is an honorary fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and an honorary member of the Prehistoric Society (UK). His numerous books include The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660 (1976), A History of Archaeological Thought (Cambridge 1989), Early Civilizations: Ancient Egypt in Context (1993), and Sociocultural Evolution (1998), and The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, Volume 1 (Cambridge 1996), co-edited with Wilcomb E. Washburn.

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