on 7 October 2005
The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Civilisations really keeps the reader engaged by the way it combines the general and the particular. The book manages to blend a clear explanation of causes and theories with a grand sweep of history and a close-up focus on particular places and periods. The book deals with the Old World civilisations up to the rise of the classical civilisations and the New World civilisations up to the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century.
One might argue that the American civilisations, such as the Aztecs and Incas, are not truly ancient, but it is useful to have them included because the level of social and technological complexity the native Americans had achieved by the 16th century makes it relevant and interesting to compare them to the earlier Old World civilisations. The causes of their rise are very similar but the outcomes are so different.
As well as pleasant surprises such as the Mississippian mound builders of North America, the book covers everything that you might reasonably expect to be covered. This includes, the Babylonians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Chinese and Egyptians along with lesser-known civilisations, such as the Elamites and the ancient Iberians. In fact the coverage compares well with much more expensive offerings. Also, and perhaps crucially, the maps are clear and attractively designed - which, unfortunately, is not always the case.
At the price, this book is extremely good value (as also is its companion volume by Andrew Jotischky, 'The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World', which shares the same qualities).
on 1 February 2006
This atlas is very comprehensive for its size, giving global coverage. The text is clear and readable and the maps are good. One small criticism is that photos are not always shown to best advantage because of their small size. At the modest price, however, this book is excellent value - you do get a lot for your money.
on 7 April 2011
If like me you have difficulties remembering which came first, Sumer or Assyria or where the Toltecs and Olmecs hung out, then this is the book for you (and me). The text is clear, the maps are truly excellent and as a guide for keeping the ancient world "straight" in your head, it is invaluable.
Admittedly, there is not much about any of the civilisations documented - though it is worth mentioning that the entire globe is covered and not just Eur-Asia and South America - that's not its job. However, as a starting point, especially for young people, it could hardly be beaten.