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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A genuinely enthralling study., 5 July 2007
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This review is from: After the Ice: A Global Human History, 20,000 - 5000 BC (Paperback)
Most people have at least a passing interest in prehistory, and the origin of modern human civilisation, and they generally do not want to wade through, as Mithen aptly puts it 'jargon-laden prose' which only academics of archeology and the like will be able to comprehend. And now, the 'casual' reader has been catered for by Mithen in this hefty tome; 'After the Ice'. And indeed, it works very well, being a reletively simple read, and yet being stimulating and informative - it does not patronise the reader.
We are given a detailed glimpse of the past through a device that works rather well; Mithen uses a fellow named John Lubbock (who shares a common name with a Victorian archeologist) who wonderes the globe, stopping by at various hunter-gather campsites in order to learn of their day to day life. Sensibly, Mithen doesn't give this Lubbock chap a personality as such, nor does he engage with conversation with the ancient peoples, he is merely a by-stander, Mithen simply describes what he sees. As I said, the device works well, however whilst these sections are mostly a joy to read, they tend to grow somewhat repetetive, even rambling in some cases. Occasionally one suspects that the everyday behaviour these tripespeople were supposed exhibit isn't based on archeological evidence, and rather he is making an 'educated guess' on how these people went about their daily affairs; however it is nice to see the author inject some imagination into the book, rather relying completely on strict scientific fact.
The rest of the book is made up of descriptions of the excavation of various hunter-gatherer sites, and the evidence found therein. These sections are again, thrilling and endlessly fascinating, however as the book wares on, the endless discussions of old animal bones, so-called 'stone nodules' and scrpas of charcoal and other human waste can become very repetative, and even boring in some cases.
So prehaps the book is a tad too long, the main 'book' itself is 511 pages of rather small print. The rest of the book is extensively endnoted - one doesn't have to read these, but if you want a deeper and more complex read, the endnotes will provide more detail on various points, so one certainly can't complain about a lack of detail - but prehaps it's length and repetition of various similar points will render it tiresome for some less comitted readers.
The book generally fills the reader with a sense of wonder and awe, and leaves you in high spirits. Unfortunatelly, Mithen saw the need to blight the end of the book with a chapter looking to the fururte of the human race, and he makes several bleak and grim predictions about global-warming. Ending the book on this deeply pessemistic note was completely inappropriate, and other blighted an otherwise uplifting book.

All in all, this is a generally fascinating book, and will enlighten the interested casual reader to no end. Recommended - provided you are a commited reader, and are prepared to wade through some repetition.
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