Friday, July 23, 2010

New Book: What Makes Civilization

Oxford University Press

What Makes Civilization? The Ancient Near East and the Future of the West
David Wengrow

Renowned archaeologist David Wengrow creates here a vivid new account of the "birth of civilization" in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, bringing together within a unified history the first two nations where people created cities, kingdoms, and monumental temples to the gods. But civilization, Wengrow argues, is not exclusively about large-scale settlements and endeavors. Just as important are the ordinary but fundamental practices of everyday life, such as cooking, running a home, and cleaning the body. Tracing the development of such practices, from prehistoric times to the age of the pyramids, Wengrow reveals unsuspected connections between distant regions and provides new insights into the workings of societies we have come to regard as remote from our own. The book obliges us to recognize that civilizations are not formed in isolation, but through the mixing and borrowing of culture between different societies. It concludes by drawing telling parallels between the ancient Near East and more contemporary attempts to reshape the world according to an ideal image.

More details of the book are available on the above page and, if you missed it in an earlier post, Wengrow's own comments on his book are available on the OUP Blog.

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