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Deep History

Deep History: The Architecture of Past and Present

Andrew Shryock
Daniel Lord Smail
Timothy Earle
Gillian Feeley-Harnik
Felipe Fernández-Armesto
Clive Gamble
April McMahon
John C. Mitani
Hendrik Poinar
Mary C. Stiner
Thomas R. Trautmann
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 360
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pn9h0
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  • Book Info
    Deep History
    Book Description:

    Humans have always been interested in their origins, but historians have been reluctant to write about the long stretches of time before the invention of writing. In fact, the deep past was left out of most historical writing almost as soon as it was discovered. This breakthrough book, as important for readers interested in the present as in the past,brings science into history to offer a dazzling new vision of humanity across time. Team-written by leading experts in a variety of fields, it maps events, cultures, and eras across millions of years to present a new scale for understanding the human body, energy and ecosystems, language, food, kinship, migration, and more. Combining cutting-edge social and evolutionary theory with the latest discoveries about human genes, brains, and material culture,Deep Historyinvites scholars and general readers alike to explore the dynamic of connectedness that spans all of human history. With Timothy Earle, Gillian Feeley-Harnik, Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Clive Gamble, April McMahon, John C. Mitani, Hendrik Poinar, Mary C. Stiner, and Thomas R. Trautmann

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94966-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. A Note on Dates
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  6. PART ONE. PROBLEMS AND ORIENTATIONS

    • Chapter 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-20)
      ANDREW SHRYOCK and DANIEL LORD SMAIL

      History is a curiously fragmented subject. In the conventional disciplinary structure of academia, the study of the human past is scattered across a number of fields, notably history and anthropology but also folklore, museum studies, philology, and area-studies programs. Together, these fields constitute a dense layer cake of time. The bottom layer, by far the thickest, is grounded in deep time. The deep time of a discipline is not a specific date range or era: it is simply the earliest period to which the discipline pays attention. Among archaeologists and human evolutionary biologists, deep time is represented by the paleoanthropology...

    • Chapter 2 Imagining the Human in Deep Time
      (pp. 21-52)
      ANDREW SHRYOCK, THOMAS R. TRAUTMANN and CLIVE GAMBLE

      “All profound changes in consciousness,” Benedict Anderson wrote, “by their very nature, bring characteristic amnesias. Out of such oblivions, in specific historical circumstances, spring narratives.”¹ The discovery of deep time in the nineteenth century was certainly a profound change in consciousness. It altered perceptions of the natural order and triggered an explosion of new stories purporting to explain human origins. Yet for historians, the amnesia associated with an epistemological shift of this magnitude failed to materialize. The new Darwinian worldview did not cause them to forget what they already knew about the French Revolution, the spread of Islamic civilizations, or...

  7. PART TWO. FRAMES FOR HISTORY IN DEEP TIME

    • Chapter 3 Body
      (pp. 55-77)
      DANIEL LORD SMAIL and ANDREW SHRYOCK

      The human body, in the form of skulls, teeth, and bones, has been a central figure in humanity’s deep history for no more than a century. In 1859, as Prestwich and Evans were offering their demonstration of the antiquity of stone tools and Big Ben was beginning to toll the hours, the ancient body as a media figure was still over the horizon. For several decades to come, the arresting visual evidence for human antiquity would consist largely of the accumulating discoveries of flint artifacts and other stone tools. By the close of the century, however, the cold, one-dimensional proof...

    • Chapter 4 Energy and Ecosystems
      (pp. 78-102)
      MARY C. STINER and GILLIAN FEELEY-HARNIK

      Ecological systems are the products of the organisms that inhabit them. They adjust isostatically to the ebb and flow of their herbivore and carnivore members, their trees and grasses and beds of kelp, and their fungi and bacteria. All organisms, to greater or lesser degrees, interact continuously with the physical environment and with each other. In some cases, their impact or “footprint” in ecosystems may be disproportionate. Elephants and wildebeest, for example, have made the Serengeti plains what they are, from the characteristics of the grasses on which they tread to the chemical structure of the soil. Billions of years...

    • Chapter 5 Language
      (pp. 103-128)
      APRIL McMAHON, THOMAS R. TRAUTMANN and ANDREW SHRYOCK

      Well before the time revolution of the 1860s, the comparison of human languages and the discovery of their historical relations was the first effective foray into deep history. Language comparison—comparative philology, or historical linguistics—was already under way in the eighteenth century, seeking to push the frontiers of deep history beyond the limit of the written record. By the early nineteenth century, comparative philology had gained a sterling reputation as a key to the remote past.

      There were several reasons for this success. Language comparison could be used to study times and places before and without writing. It constituted...

  8. PART THREE. SHARED SUBSTANCE

    • Chapter 6 Food
      (pp. 131-159)
      FELIPE FERNÁNDEZ-ARMESTO and DANIEL LORD SMAIL

      Some prejudices seem ineradicable. The contempt that formerly banned the study of nonliterate societies from history departments persists. Its target, however, has shifted from the allegedly meaningless “gyrations of barbarous tribes” to the peoples of the deep past.¹ As it happens, the “barbarous tribes,” and all those whom they can be said to represent, have now been recognized as the proper subjects of colonial history. By contrast, the peoples of the deep past were never anyone’s victims, and nothing makes a people historical so much as victimhood. They fall short in other ways as well—supposedly changeless, unmoving, responding only...

    • Chapter 7 Deep Kinship
      (pp. 160-188)
      THOMAS R. TRAUTMANN, GILLIAN FEELEY-HARNIK and JOHN C. MITANI

      Kinship suffuses human sociality; it is the central story in the deep history of humankind, but so far we do not have a well-settled history of kinship. There are many obstacles to constructing such a history, and most of them center on what the termshistoryandkinshipactually mean. How can kinship be a part of history? What conception of kinship is needed for kinship to have a history?

      In the 1830s the philosopher Georg Friedrich Hegel situated history and nature on opposite sides of a great divide.¹ Nature he considered a realm of necessity whose only mode of...

  9. PART FOUR. HUMAN EXPANSION

    • Chapter 8 Migration
      (pp. 191-218)
      TIMOTHY EARLE, CLIVE GAMBLE and HENDRIK POINAR

      Darwin’s bulldog, Thomas Huxley, knew something of world travel and exploration, but he was scathing when it came to speculative theories about human migrations in the past. InMan’s Place in Nature, with his guns trained on the ethnologists (those trying to make sense of the miscellany of newly “discovered” world societies) and particularly their views on cradles of the human race, Huxley growled, “It is one thing to allow that a given migration is possible and another to admit there is good reason to believe it has really taken place.”¹ At a time of few fossil skulls and no...

    • Chapter 9 Goods
      (pp. 219-241)
      DANIEL LORD SMAIL, MARY C. STINER and TIMOTHY EARLE

      The shells of mollusks, like teeth, can have fascinating life histories. Although formed by organisms, they have a hardness approaching that of ceramics and of gemstones like lapis lazuli and turquoise. To the mollusks who make them, shells serve many purposes, including armor, camouflage, and warning. But once the shells are picked up by beachcombers, they embark upon a new life as beautiful and valued objects. They are fun to gather and useful for purposes of ornamentation. If they are rare or taken far from their point of origin, they also serve as the carriers of costly signals in a...

    • Chapter 10 Scale
      (pp. 242-272)
      MARY C. STINER, TIMOTHY EARLE, DANIEL LORD SMAIL and ANDREW SHRYOCK

      Scholars of the modern era, like policy makers, are fascinated by the notion of take-off. The idea is a simple one. At some point in the past two centuries, humanity burst through a ceiling and embarked on a novel path toward an exhilarating, uncertain future. This metaphor has been applied to numerous research topics, including energy consumption, global temperature, species extinction rates, income level, land clearance, and dietary protein. The data generated in these fields lend themselves to graphs that illustrate scalar leaps, sharply angled moments of take-off that produce the distinctive J curve of modernity. The exact date of...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 273-288)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 289-324)
  12. Contributors
    (pp. 325-326)
  13. Index
    (pp. 327-342)