Technology and Science in Ancient Civilizations

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Richard G. Olson
ABC-CLIO, Dec 21, 2009 - History - 262 pages
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Why did the Greeks excel in geometry, but lag begin the Mesopotamians in arithmetic? How were the great pyramids of Egypt and the Han tombs in China constructed? What did the complex system of canals and dykes in the Tigris and Euphrates river valley have to do with the deforestation of Lebanon's famed cedar forests? This work presents a cross-cultural comparison of the ways in which the ancients learned about and preserved their knowledge of the natural world, and the ways in which they developed technologies that enabled them to adapt to and shape their surroundings. Covering the major ancient civilizations - those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, Greece, the Indus Valley, and Meso-America - Olson explores how language and numbering systems influenced the social structure, how seemingly beneficial construction projects affected a civilization's rise or decline, how religion and magic shaped both medicine and agriculture, and how trade and the resulting cultural interactions transformed the making of both everyday household items and items intended as art. Along the way, Olson delves into how scientific knowledge and its technological applications changed the daily lives of the ancients.

 

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Contents

1 On Definitions Approaches and Periodization
1
Mathematics and Measurement
25
Written Language Educational Institutions and the Character of Natural Knowledge
59
4 From Technologies of Divination to the Science of Astronomy
83
5 Calendars Time Keeping and the Increasing Complexity of Astronomy
99
6 Empirical and Religious Medical Practices
125
7 Philosophical Medicine Cosmology and Natural Philosophy
145
Materials Tools and Fixed Structures
165
9 Producing and Processing Food and Clothing
183
10 Minerals Metals Pigments Glazes and the Origins of Alchemy
209
Bibliography
241
Index
251
About the Author
263
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About the author (2009)

RICHARD G. OLSON professor of History and W.W. Keith Fellow in Humanities at Harvey Mudd College adn professor of History at Claremont Graduate School, is the author of Science Deified and Science Define (U. California Press, 1982 vol. 1, 1990 vol. 2). He is also the series editor for Greenwood's Science and Religion series.

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