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Thirst: Water and Power in the Ancient World Paperback – 15 Aug 2013


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Thirst: Water and Power in the Ancient World + After the Ice: A Global Human History, 20,000 - 5000 BC + The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body
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Product details

  • Paperback: 347 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (15 Aug 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 178022687X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780226873
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 13 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 213,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jippu on 15 Oct 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Steven Mithen, an archeologist, has written several interesting and entertaining books about human prehistory. This one is about the use of water and its role in the development and decline of civilizations. He presents several interesting cases on the use of water, starting for the sumerians and covering petra, rome, china, cambodia etc.. Water has been used both for practical purposes and for displays of power, as well as for pure pleasure and Mithen has a good eye for all of these. His discussions of Roman water techniques or Chinese waterways (still in use) are highly interesting. There is a very personal touch because Mithen has visited all the places he discusses and in some cases we get an ordinary tourist point of view. In fact, some descriptions are more travel book stuff than analysis of the role of water in history. A good example is the description of how Mithen finds himself on a beach in the outskirts of Angkor Wat, with the locals enjoying the water as a simple recreation. On the other hand it becomes clear that in many cases the present day situation is a step back from the advanced water techniques used in the history, sometimes by cultures which did not have written language. This is a highly readable and instructive book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Torben Retboll on 22 Sep 2013
Format: Paperback
Steven Mithen is Professor of Early Prehistory at the University of Reading and the author of several books, including After the Ice (hardcover 2003, paperback 2004). His book "Thirst" has the subtitle "Water and Power in the Ancient World." In this book he examines nine ancient civilizations or societies which had some kind of water management. Here are the locations with approximate time frames:

** The Sumerian civilization, 5000-1600 BC
** Minoan Crete and Ancient Greece, 1800-146 BC
** The Nabataean Kingdom (Petra), 300 BC-AD 106

** The Roman Empire (Rome and Constantinople), 400 BC-AD 800
** Ancient China, 900 BC-AD 907
** Ancient Cambodia (Angkor), AD 802-1327

** The Hohokam (Arizona, US), AD 1-1450
** The Maya, 2000 BC-AD 1000
** The Incas, AD 1200-1572

With this book Mithen ventures outside his field of expertise, because he moves from pre-history to ancient history. He studied the works of several experts and consulted some of them. In addition, he travelled the world in order to visit the locations which are covered in his book. Personal experiences and/or impressions from these locations pop up from time to time.

The text is illustrated by 28 black-and-white figures and 49 colour photographs. Many photos are taken by Mithen himself or by his wife, Sue Mithen, who is listed as co-author inside the book (although her name does not appear on the cover).

Mithen got some good reviews: inside the paperback version there are excerpts from several positive reviews of the hardcover version of this book or other books written by him.

A review of this book posted on Amazon.
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By powerful pierre on 16 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought this as a leaving present for a collegue,(we work in the water industry) and he informs me its a really good book!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Barista on 19 Jan 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book covers the efforts of a range of pre-industrial communities to control and use water. Not all are strictly ancient: Steven Mithen's chapters deal with pre-history in the Levant; the Sumerians; the Minoans, Mycenaeans and Ancient Greeks; the Romans and Byzantines; the Chinese; the Kings of Angkor in Cambodia; the Hohokam in the American South West; the Maya; and finally the Incas. Given this very broad coverage, both geographically and culturally, his treatment of each area is inevitably fairly short, even superficial in parts. But he provides a very interesting introduction to what is known, from archaelogy mainly but also in some cases from other sources, about the control and use of water by each of these cultures. In some cases the purpose is clear - collection and storage of water for human use or irrigation for example. In other cases there is controversy - whether the water engineering at Angkor was primarily for irrigation, for flood prevention or simply for display for example. In these cases he provides a useful guide to the competing theories and attempts to resolve them as far as he can. He does the same for theories about the role of failures in water management (eg through drought or salination) in the decline of cultures as diverse as the Sumerians and the Maya.

Stephen Mithen is Professor of Early Prehistory at Reading University. His own area of interest academically seems to be the very early period in the Levant and Mespotamia. This makes the first two or three of his case studies the most interesting Elsewhere the lack of depth can be frustrating, particularly where it is clear he is just skimming the surface. That is most obvious in the case of Roman water engineering and its antecedents.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Review of Thirst: Water and Power in the Ancient World 18 Feb 2013
By Charles R. Ortloff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent introductory, exploratory review of urban and agricultural water supply and distribution systems of several of the major world heritage sites in Meso- and South America, the Middle East and South East Asia. The book serves as an informative guide to direct readers interested in the subject matter to research done by current engineering specialists detailing the accomplishments of ancient hydraulic engineers. The uncovering of ancient hydraulic engineering methodology underwriting many of the hydraulic masterpieces of the ancient world is a new field of study and Mithen's book explores theories and controversies regarding appraisals of the engineering expertise and social structures in ancient societies in an easily read, conversational manner available to non-specialists in the field.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Comprehensive survey with solid information and intriguing synthesis of ideas... 8 Dec 2013
By muraco - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
However, the story could have been written in a more compelling way. Unlike books like Salt or Guns, Germs, and Steel, Thirst does not have much popular appeal. But the breadth of information and synthesis make this book worth a look for anyone interested in water scarcity or for anyone interested in technological progress or the technology of ancient civilizations.
Very interesting point of view 24 Mar 2014
By XanaduCal - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book had a very unique angle on the rise and fall of civilizations based on their access to and utlization of water. A nice alternative to reading ancient history from this perspective vs the usual battles and wars.
Adequate 23 Dec 2013
By Chuck - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Relies on the work of earlier writers but offers a clear interpretation of evidence supporting the role of water management in ancient societies.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Water wars have already started in some parts of the world 8 Oct 2013
By Janet L. Pearson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
and as ground water tables drop and temperatures rise in our primary agricultural areas, it will happen more often and in more locations. We waste our natural resources at an appalling rate and will reap the consequences.
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