Understanding Early Civilizations

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April 2007



This book offers the first detailed comparative study of the seven best-documented early civilizations: ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, Shang China, the Aztecs and adjacent peoples in the Valley of Mexico, the Classic Maya, the Inka, and the Yoruba. Unlike previous studies, equal attention is paid to similarities and differences in their sociopolitical organization, economic systems, religion, and culture. Many of this study's findings are surprising and provocative. Agricultural systems, technologies, and economic behaviour turn out to have been far more diverse than was expected. These findings and many others challenge not only current understandings of early civilizations but also the theoretical foundations of modern archaeology and anthropology. The key to understanding early civilizations lies not in their historical connections but in what they can tell us about similarities and differences in human behaviour.


Part I. Introduction: 1. Rationalism and relativism; 2. Comparative studies; 3. Defining 'early civilization'; 4. Evidence and interpretation; Part II. Sociopolitical Organization: 5. Kingship; 6. States: city and territorial; 7. Urbanism; 8. Class systems and social mobility; 9. Family organization and gender roles; 10. Administration; 11. Law; 12. Military organization; 13. Sociopolitical constants and variables; Part III. Economy: 14. Food production; 15. Land ownership; 16. Trade and craft specialization; 17. Appropriation of wealth; 18. Economic constants and variables; Part IV. Cognitive and Symbolic Aspects: 19. Conceptions of the supernatural; 20. Cosmology and cosmogony; 21. Cult; 22. Priests, festivals, and the politics of the supernatural; 23. The individual and the universe; 24. Elite art and architecture; 25. Literacy and specialized knowledge; 26. Values and personal aspirations; 27. Cultural constants and variables; Discussion: 28. Culture and reason; 29. Conclusion; References; Index.


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 Leon-Gerin 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.


'This book is an extraordinary undertaking and a great achievement … It provides an accessible introduction to the problems and priorities of cross-cultural comparison and approaches to early civilisations.' Antiquity
EAN: 9780521705455
ISBN: 0521705452
Untertitel: A Comparative Study. Illustrations, maps. Sprache: Englisch.
Verlag: Cambridge University Press
Erscheinungsdatum: April 2007
Seitenanzahl: 774 Seiten
Format: kartoniert
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