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What Makes Civilization?: The Ancient Near East and the Future of the West
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Product SKU 9780199699421
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What Makes Civilization?: The Ancient Near East and the Future of the West - softcover


Author: David Wengrow 
ISBN:  9780199699421 
Publisher: Oxford University Press 
Year: Jan 2018 
Language: English 
Pages: 240 
Weight: 312g


  • A vivid account of the 'birth of civilization' in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, from prehistoric times to the age of pyramids


  • Looks at these two seminal civilizations side by side, showing how they mixed with and borrowed from each other over the centuries


  • Deals with everything from the creation of cities, kingdoms, and monumental temples to the birth of 'everyday' practices such as cooking food and keeping the house and body clean


  • Concludes with a telling comparison between the ancient Near East and more recent attempts to reshape the world to an ideal image


New to this Edition:
Addresses the significance of major social and geo-political changes in the Middle East since the first edition, including the Arab Spring and ISIS.


The targeted destruction of ancient sites and monuments in the Middle East provokes widespread outrage in the West. But what is our connection to the ancient Near East? In this updated edition of What Makes Civilization? archaeologist David Wengrow investigates the origins of farming, writing, and cities in ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Egypt, and explores the connections between these two civilizations. It is the story of how people first created kingdoms and monuments to the gods and, just as importantly, how they pioneered everyday practices that we might now take for granted, such as familiar ways of cooking food and keeping the house and body clean. Wengrow asks why these ancient cultures, where so many features of modern life originated, have come to symbolize the remote and the exotic.


Today, perhaps more than ever, he argues, the beleaguered cultural heritage of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia stands as a warning for the future. A warning of the sacrifices people will tolerate to preserve their chosen form of life; of the potential for unfettered expansion that exists within any cultural tradition; and of blood perhaps yet to be spilled, on the altar of a misguided notion of civilization.




Chronological Chart
Preface and Acknowledgements
Introduction: a clash of civilizations?


Part One: The Cauldron of Civilization
1:Camouflaged Borrowings
2:On the Trail of Blue-Haired Gods
3:Neolithic Worlds
4:The (First) Global Village
5:Origin of Cities
6:From the Ganges to the Danube: the Bronze Age
7:Cosmology and Commerce
8:The Labours of Kingship


Part Two: Forgetting the Old Regime
9:Enlightenment from a Dark Source
10:Ruined Regimes: Egypt at the Revolution
Conclusion: What Makes Civilization?
Further Reading




"For any student studying the question of what civilisation actually is this is valuable reading." - John Bulwer, Euroclassica


"Convincingly concludes that the parallel development of Mesopotamia and Egypt demonstrates the deep attachment of human societies to the concepts they live by, and the inequalities they are prepared to endure in order to preserve those guiding principles." - Nature


"What Makes Civilization? [...] is expertly grounded, thoughtfully written and discreetly radical in its findings." - Dominic Green, Minerva


"What Makes Civilization? is well written for a student or educated lay-person audience...when the past is being employed to understand the present or predict the future of human societies, archaeologists must be part of the discussion." - Current Anthropology


"This book promises a lot and delivers even more...It guides readers into the heart of the sources of civilization." - Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institue


"Provocative....stimulating..." - Steven Snape, History Today


"Lively and insightful work." - Geoff Ward, Western Daily Press


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