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Patterns in Prehistory

Humankind's First Three Million Years

Fifth Edition

Robert J. Wenke and Deborah I. Olszewski

Publication Date - August 2006

ISBN: 9780195169287

640 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Bringing together theories and archaeological examples, the new edition of Patterns in Prehistory offers a comprehensive and engaging survey of humanity's past three million years.


Who are we? How did the world become what it is today? What paths did humanity traverse along the way?

Patterns in Prehistory, Fifth Edition, is a comprehensive and engaging survey of humanity's past three million years. It brings together theories and archaeological examples to pose questions about who we are and the means by which humanity evolved into what it is today.
Ideal for introductory courses in world prehistory and origins of complex societies, Patterns in Prehistory, Fifth Edition, offers a unified and thematic approach to the four great transformations--or patterns--that characterize humanity's past: the origins and evolution of culture; the origins of modern humans and human behaviors; the origins of agriculture; and the origins of complex societies, civilizations, and pre-industrial states. Integrating theoretical approaches with archaeological data from the Middle East, Mesoamerica, North and South America, Egypt, China, the Indus Valley, and temperate Europe, Patterns in Prehistory, Fifth Edition, reveals how archaeologists decipher the past. It demonstrates how theory and method are combined to derive interpretations and also considers how interpretations evolve as a result of accumulating data, technological advances in recording and analyzing data sets, and newer theoretical perspectives.

This new edition of Patterns in Prehistory provides:

* Fresh insights with the addition of coauthor Deborah Olszewski, who has carefully reviewed and revamped the material with an eye toward making the text clearly understandable to today's students
* Updated discussions throughout, including expanded information on post-processual archaeology, current methodologies, and technological advances
* Approximately 250 illustrations and maps, more than half of which are new to this edition
* Groundbreaking research on new discoveries of hominin fossils, genetic research, prehistoric migrations, the peopling of the Americas, and theories of the origins of agriculture and the origins of complex societies
* Timelines for all relevant chapters as well as an overarching timeline for the entire book to help students place events in context
* Extensively updated chapter bibliographies and chapter endnotes

Previous Publication Date(s)

March 1999
November 1990
February 1985


"I've read the entire volume, word for word, in part because I continue to learn new things from every revision of Wenke's work. It continues to be the best introductory book on world prehistory on the market. The text is easily accessible and serious at the same time, and I highly recommend it for courses that are designed as overviews of the emergence of modern humans as a biological and social species."--Terence N. D'Altroy, Columbia University

"Patterns in Prehistory does a better job of covering the whole scope of archaeological achievement than any other book on the market."--Paul Zimansky, Boston University

Table of Contents

    Chapters 1-15 end with a Summary and Conclusions.
    Chapter 1. Prehistory, History, and Archaeology
    What Are Archaeologists Looking For? (The Meaning of the Past)
    Archaeology as the Reconstruction of Extinct Cultures and Their Histories
    Archaeology as a Body of Theories and Methods for Explaining the Past
    A Short History of Attempts to Understand the Past
    Chapter 2. Fundamentals of Archaeology
    Archaeologists and the Practice of Archaeology
    The Basic Data of the Past
    Analyses of the Past
    Dating the Past
    Chapter 3. The Origins of Culture
    The Problem of Cultural Origins
    The Nature of Culture
    The Ecological Context of Cultural Origins
    Models of Cultural Origins
    Chapter 4. The Origins of Homo sapiens sapiens
    Human Evolution and Radiation: 1.8 million to Circa 300,000 Years Ago
    Homo sapiens: Models of Origins
    The Middle to Upper Paleolithic Period
    Human Colonization of the World: Circa 30,000-10,000 Years Ago
    Chapter 5. The First Americans
    Routes for the Initial Colonization of the Americas
    Evidence for the First Americans
    Early Paleoindian Economies
    Chapter 6. The Origins of Agriculture
    Agriculture, Domestication, and Sedentary Communities
    Hypotheses About the Origins of Domestication, Agriculture, and Sedentary Communities
    Early Domestication and Agriculture: The Post-Paleolithic Background
    The Origins of Domestication, Agriculture, and Sedentary Communities in Southwest Asia
    Other Old World Domesticates
    Agricultural Origins in the New World
    Chapter 7. The Evolution of Complex Societies
    Social Complexity and Human Values
    Traditional Sociocultural Typologies
    Contemporary Approaches to Sociocultural Typology
    The Archaeology of Complex Societies
    Explaining the Evolution of Civilizations: The Search for Causes
    Chapter 8. Origins of Complex Societies in Southwest Asia
    The Ecological Setting
    Fundamentals of the Southwest Asian Archaeological Record
    The Neolithic Origins of Southwest Asian Civilization
    Initial Cultural Complexity
    Early States: The Uruk and Jemdet Nasr Periods
    The Early Dynastic Period
    Southwest Asia After 2350 B.C.
    Chapter 9. The Origins of Complex Societies in Egypt
    The Ecological Setting
    Early Egyptian Agriculture
    The Predynastic Period
    The Archaic, Old Kingdom, and First Intermediate Periods
    The Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Periods
    The New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Periods
    Ancient Egyptian Art and Thought
    Egyptian Writing and Literature
    Who Were the Ancient Egyptians?
    Chapter 10. The Evolution of Complex Societies in the Indus Valley
    The Ecological Setting
    The Neolithic Background to South Asian Cultural Complexity
    The Neolithic-Urban Transition
    Early Harappan Culture
    Mature Harappan Civilization
    The Decline of Harappan Civilization
    Chapter 11. The Evolution of Complex Societies in China
    The Ecological Setting
    Early Farmers
    Regional Neolithic Developments in North China
    Early Complex Chinese Societies
    Erh-li-t'ou Culture
    Shang Civilization and Its Contemporaries
    Early Imperial China
    Chapter 12. Later Complex Societies of the Old World
    Temperate Europe
    A Brief Overview of Other Later Old World Complex Societies
    Colonization of the Western Pacific Islands
    Chapter 13. The Evolution of Complex Societies in Mesoamerica
    The Ecological Setting
    Early Mesoamerican Farming
    The Archaeological Record of Early Complex Mesoamerican Societies
    The Archaeological Record of Mesoamerican States in the Valleys of Mexico and Oaxaca
    The Maya
    Postclassic Mesoamerica
    The Spanish Conquest
    Chapter 14. The Evolution of Complex Societies in Andean South America
    The Ecological Setting
    Early Hunters and Gatherers
    The Agricultural Basis of Andean Civilization
    The First Complex Societies in Andean South America
    The Early Horizon
    The Early Intermediate Period: Early States
    The Middle Horizon: Competing States
    The Late Intermediate Period: Early Empires
    The Late Horizon: The Imperial Transformation
    The European Conquest
    Chapter 15. Early Cultural Complexity in North America
    The Ecological Setting
    The North American East
    The North American Southwest
    Chapter 16. Prehistory in Perspective
    Our Intellectual Heritage
    Lessons of Prehistory
    The Future of Archaeology
    Art Credits