This book is a history of the world between 20,000 and 5000 вс. It is written for those who like to think about the past and wish to know more about the origins of farming, towns and civilisation. It is also written for those who think about the future. The period under discussion was one of global warming during which new types of plants and animals arose -domestic species which underpinned the agricultural revolution. These new genetic variants of wild species have an intriguing resonance with the genetically modified organisms being manufactured today, while global warming has also begun anew. Those concerned with how GMOs and climate change will impact upon our world may wish to know how new types of species and global warming have already impacted upon our past.
The past is worthy of study for its own sake, irrespective of any lessons it may have for the present day. This book asks the simple questions about human history: what happened, when, where and why? It provides answers by interweaving a historical narrative with causal argument. When doing so, it also caters for those readers who will ask 'How do we know that?' -often a very appropriate question when the archaeological evidence appears so scant. And After the Ice asks another type of question about the past: What was it like to live in prehistoric times? What was the day-to-day experience of those who lived through global warming, an agricultural revolution and the origin of civilisation?
I have tried to write a book that makes the evidence from prehistory accessible to a wide readership while maintaining the highest levels of academic scholarship. The popularising of archaeology on TV and in many recent books often adopts a condescending attitude to its viewers and readers, providing superficial and inaccurate accounts of our past. Conversely, many of prehistory's most remarkable events remain hidden from all but a few academics and specialist readers in scholarly works of impenetrable and jargon-laden prose. I have endeavoured to make archaeological knowledge more readily available whue also catering for those who wish to assess my claims critically and undertake further study of their own. To that end I have included a comprehensive bibliography and extensive endnotes that specify primary sources, discuss technical issues and provide alternative opinions. These are, however, optional extras: my main aim has been to produce a 'good read' about an astonishing period of human history.
This has not been an easy book to write. Having begun work on it several years ago, writing progressed in fits and starts owing to the demands of academic and family life. New themes kept emerging: the history of archaeological thought, the (im)possibility of understanding other cultures, travel as a metaphor for reading and excavation. That I have been able to complete After the Ice has only been due to the generous support of family, friends, and colleagues.
As it draws on research and teaching conducted over the last decade I must initially thank my colleagues in the Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, for providing a stimulating and supportive environment for the whole of that time. Of these colleagues I am particularly grateful to Martin Bell, Richard Bradley, Bob Chapman, Petra Dark, Roberta Gilchrist, Sturt Manning and Wendy Matthews who answered specific questions or provided pertinent advice. I am also grateful to Margaret Matthews for her advice and help in preparing the colour illustrations, and to Teresa Hocking for her meticulous care in checking my text. The inter-library loan department of the University Library deserves special thanks for attending so efficiently to my copious requests.
I have benefited enormously from the kindness of archaeologists from around the world who provided advice, unpublished papers, tours of their excavations and visits to archaeological sites. In addition to those mentioned above and below, I would particularly like to thank: Soren Andersen, Ofer Bar-Yosef, Bishnupriya Basak, Anna Belfer-Cohen, Peter Rowley-Conwy, Richard Cosgrove, Bill Finlayson, Dorian Fuller, Andy Garrard, Avi Gopher, Nigel Goring-Morris, David Harris, Gordon Hillman, Ian Kuijt, Lars Larsson, Paul Martin, Roger Matthews, Edgar Peltenburg, Peter Rowley-Conwy, Klaus Schmidt, Alan Simmons, C. Vance Haynes, and Trevor Watkins.
Others kindly answered specific questions about their sites and provided colour illustrations - many of which I was finally unable to use. And so I would also like to thank: Douglas Anderson, Francoise Audouze, Graeme Barker, Gerhard Bosinski, James Brown, the Catalhoyuk Project, Jacques Cinq-Mars, Angela Close, Creswell Crags Heritage Trust, John Curtis, Rick Davis, Tom Dillehay, Martin Emele, Phil Geib, Ted Goebel, Jack Golson, Harald Hauptmann, Ian Hodder, Keiji Imamura, Sibel Kusimba, Bradley Lepper, Curtis Marean, Paul Mellars, David Meltzer, Andrew Moore, J. N. Pal, John Parkington, Vladimir Pitul'ko, John Rick, Lawrence Robbins, Gary Rollefson, Michael Rosenberg, Daniel Sandweiss, Mike Smith, Lawrence Straus, Paul Tacon, Kathy Tubb, Francois Valla, Lyn Wadly and Joao Zilhao.
I thank my brother Richard Mithen for advice regarding agricultural practices, plant genetics and crop developments. I am immensely grateful to those who read and commented upon one or more of my chapters: Angela Close, Sue Colledge, Tom Dillehay, Kent Flannery, Alan James, Joyce Marcus, Naoko Matsumato, David Meltzer, James O'Connell, Anne Pirie, and Lyn Wadley. Two of these - Anne and Sue - need special thanks for reading more than their fair share and advising about the contents and style of the book in general. I would also like to thank Toby Mundy who commissioned this book when at Weidenfeld & Nicolson and to Tom Wharton who provided detailed editorial advice on the whole text to its immense benefit.
Four further archaeologists need special mention: Robert Braidwood, Jacques Cauvin, Rhys Jones and Richard MacNeish. All were outstanding archaeologists and died while I was in the latter stages of writing. Their excavations and ideas are documented in After the Ice and I wish to acknowledge their seminal contribution to our understanding of the past.
The completion of this book before the end of 2002 was made possible by the BritishAcademy whose award of a Research Readership-in October 2001 provided the necessary relief from my normal academic duties. Before this, the vast majority of writing, however, was done in stolen time. It was stolen from my students when I should have been attending to their essays and preparing lectures, from my colleagues when I should have been more punctual for departmental meetings, from my field team in Wadi Faynan when I should have been digging. But most of all, it was stolen from my family.
It is to them that I offer my apologies and greatest thanks. I especially thank Heather (now aged eight) for the afternoon that she came home fresh from a literacy hour at school and reminded me to 'use verbs and nouns, as well as adjectives' in my book. Also to Nicholas (twelve) for his suggested title of 'Trudging Through Mud' - which must sum up his unfortunate experience of archaeology. And to Hannah (fifteen) for being the first to recognise that 'Dad's book is really a family project'. Indeed it was, a project that could not have been completed without their support. It is to Sue, my wife, that I owe my greatest debt simply for being at the centre of my world. And it is with immense love and gratitude that I dedicate this book to my parents, Pat and Bill.
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