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Origins and Revolutions
Human Identity in Earliest Prehistory


  • Date Published: May 2007
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521677493

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About the Authors
  • In this study Clive Gamble presents and questions two of the most famous descriptions of change in prehistory. The first is the 'human revolution', when evidence for art, music, religion and language first appears. The second is the economic and social revolution of the Neolithic period. Gamble identifies the historical agendas behind 'origins research' and presents a bold alternative to these established frameworks, relating the study of change to the material basis of human identity. He examines, through artefact proxies, how changing identities can be understood using embodied material metaphors and in two major case-studies charts the prehistory of innovations, asking, did agriculture really change the social world? This is an important and challenging book that will be essential reading for every student and scholar of prehistory.

    • Presents an entirely new framework for understanding change in prehistory
    • Keynote work by one of the best known, most innovative and most accessible of contemporary prehistorians
    • Theoretically innovative, supported with in-depth case-studies
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Origins and Revolutions is an effervescent read that skilfully challenges many of the sacred cows of archaeology. it is rich and deep in the philosophical acumen and attention to social theory for which Gamble is known. He also writes with an admirable sense of humour and irony; he knows how to join humanistic flair with empirical rigour at the dig.' Nature

    '… an engaging style, and a healthy lacing of humour … Origins and Revolutions is well worth the effort. It displays considerable erudition and theoretical subtlety, challenges orthodox histories of our deep past, and sets out an agenda for thinking about the fragmentary remains of the remote societies of early prehistory in new and refreshing ways.' British Archaeology

    '… Gamble has written a book that deserves serious attention and engagement, and hi sideas are original and far-reaching …' Journal of Archaeological Science

    'Clive Gamble's Origins and Revolutions enters new, virtually unexplored territory in the field of what may be termed cognitive archaeology: the archaeology of mind. And it makes a contribution because it tries deliberately to look at the early phases in human cognitive development, during the Palaeolithic period, in new ways. … Gamble writes well about 'material metaphors' in a way which appreciates this decisive role in the creation of new social worlds. … Gamble's approach is to undertake a thoroughgoing examination of the notion of personal identity, during what he terms the 'long introduction' to modernity, up to 100,000 years ago. … What I like about these chapters … is his series of detailed examples, drawn mainly from the Palaeolithic of Europe. … There are many good and unfamiliar ideas here … For the moment, he has given us a pioneering work in the cognitive archaeology of the Palaeolithic period. It is a major step forward and it offers many challenges.' Cambridge Archaeological Journal

    '… dense with provocative ideas, fresh points of view, an intellectual background that ranges far and wide between academic disciplines and schools of thought … this book should be read by professionals and graduate students as an eye-opener to alternative narratives of human evolution … an intriguing book …' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2007
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521677493
    • length: 366 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 154 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.483kg
    • contains: 30 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Steps to the Present: Prologue: the longest of long revolutions
    1. The neolithic revolution
    2. The human revolution
    3. Metaphors for origins
    Part II. The Material Basis of Identity:
    4. Bodies, instruments and containers:
    5. The accumulation and enchainment of identity
    6. Consuming and fragmenting people and things
    Part III. Interpreting Change:
    7. A prehistory of human thechnology:
    3 million to 5000 thousand years ago
    8. Did agriculture change the world?
    Epilogue: the good upheaval.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Current Archaeology
    • Western Civilization I - desk copy request - need regular copy, not eReview.
  • Author

    Clive Gamble, Royal Holloway, University of London

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