How Ancient Europeans Saw the World: Vision, Patterns, and the Shaping of the Mind in Prehistoric Times

Princeton University Press
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The peoples who inhabited Europe during the two millennia before the Roman conquests had established urban centers, large-scale production of goods such as pottery and iron tools, a money economy, and elaborate rituals and ceremonies. Yet as Peter Wells argues here, the visual world of these late prehistoric communities was profoundly different from those of ancient Rome's literate civilization and today's industrialized societies. Drawing on startling new research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, Wells reconstructs how the peoples of pre-Roman Europe saw the world and their place in it. He sheds new light on how they communicated their thoughts, feelings, and visual perceptions through the everyday tools they shaped, the pottery and metal ornaments they decorated, and the arrangements of objects they made in their ritual places--and how these forms and patterns in turn shaped their experience.

How Ancient Europeans Saw the World offers a completely new approach to the study of Bronze Age and Iron Age Europe, and represents a major challenge to existing views about prehistoric cultures. The book demonstrates why we cannot interpret the structures that Europe's pre-Roman inhabitants built in the landscape, the ways they arranged their settlements and burial sites, or the complex patterning of their art on the basis of what these things look like to us. Rather, we must view these objects and visual patterns as they were meant to be seen by the ancient peoples who fashioned them.

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About the author

Peter S. Wells is professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. His many books include Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered and The Barbarians Speak: How the Conquered Peoples Shaped Roman Europe (Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 26, 2012
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9781400844777
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Ancient / General
History / Europe / General
Social Science / Anthropology / General
Social Science / Anthropology / Physical
Social Science / Archaeology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Werner Herzog's 2011 film Cave of Forgotten Dreams, about the painted caves at Chauvet, France brought a glimpse of Europe's extraordinary prehistory to a popular audience. But paleolithic cave paintings, stunning as they are, form just a part of a story that begins with the arrival of the first humans to Europe 1.3 million years ago, and culminates in the achievements of Greece and Rome. In Europe before Rome, T. Douglas Price takes readers on a guided tour through dozens of the most important prehistoric sites on the continent, from very recent discoveries to some of the most famous and puzzling places in the world, like Chauvet, Stonehenge, and Knossos. This volume focuses on more than 60 sites, organized chronologically according to their archaeological time period and accompanied by 200 illustrations, including numerous color photographs, maps, and drawings. Our understanding of prehistoric European archaeology has been almost completely rewritten in the last 25 years with a series of major findings from virtually every time period, such as Ötzi the Iceman, the discoveries at Atapuerca, and evidence of a much earlier eruption at Mt. Vesuvius. Many of the sites explored in the book offer the earliest European evidence we have of the typical features of human society--tool making, hunting, cooking, burial practices, agriculture, and warfare. Introductory prologues to each chapter provide context for the wider changes in human behavior and society in the time period, while the author's concluding remarks offer expert reflections on the enduring significance of these places. Tracing the evolution of human society in Europe across more than a million years, Europe before Rome gives readers a vivid portrait of life for prehistoric man and woman.
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