Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations

Course No. 380
Professor Brian M. Fagan, Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Barbara
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Course No. 380
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Course Overview

Where do we come from? How did our ancestors settle this planet? How did the great historic civilizations of the world develop? How does a past so shadowy that it has to be painstakingly reconstructed from fragmentary, largely unwritten records nonetheless make us who and what we are?

This course brings you the answers that scientific and archaeological research and theorizing suggest about human origins, how populations developed, and the ways in which civilizations spread throughout the globe.

It is a narrative of the story of human origins and the many ties that still bind us deeply to the world before writing.

Your professor is Brian M. Fagan, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Professor Fagan was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1973 and has received numerous awards, among them the Public Service Award of the Society of Professional Archaeologists and the Public Education Award of the Society for American Archaeology. He received a Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California at Santa Barbara. His excavations have made him a pioneer of multidisciplinary African history.

Dr. Fagan's numerous books include People of the Earth and In the Beginning, two widely used university and college textbooks in archaeology and prehistory. His other works include The Rape of the Nile, The Adventure of Archaeology, Time Detectives, and The Little Ice Age. He also edited The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Professor Fagan was born and educated in Britain and speaks with a British accent.

AudioFile® magazine writes about Dr. Fagan: "Vibrant and dynamic. It's easy to hear why he has been lauded by faculty and students at The University of California, Santa Barbara, for his teaching and academic excellence since 1967."

What Is "Prehistory"?

Prehistory—meaning human societies without writing or widespread written records—survived until Western culture and industrial society completed their globalization in the 20th century, making the topic of a course that begins with some very old fossils seem more current than you may think.

You learn about dozens of archaeological sites all over the world and learn about stone-tool making, mammoth hunting, and temple building as you explore man's earliest origins and the earliest civilizations.

Themes to Remember: Human Achievement

Woven through this narrative is a set of pervasive themes:

  • Emerging human biological and cultural diversity (as well as our remarkable similarities across surprising expanses of time and space)
  • The impact of human adaptations to climatic and environmental change
  • The importance of seeing prehistory not merely as a chronicle of archaeological sites and artifacts, but of people behaving with the extraordinary intellectual, spiritual, and emotional dynamism that distinguish the human.

This is a world tour of prehistory with profound links to who we are and how we live today.

2.5 Million Years of History

This 36-lecture narrative covers human prehistory from our beginnings more than 2.5 million years ago up to and beyond the advent of the world's first preindustrial civilizations.

Due to the large spans of time and geography covered in this series, these lectures are divided into six sections:

Section I: Beginnings

This section surveys the archaic world of the first humans, you travel into the remote past, learning why the late Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould was probably right to observe that we all come from the same African twig on the bushy tree of human evolution.

You examine prehistory from Australopithecus africanus through Homo habilis (the first tool-making hominid), and Homo erectus (whose remains were first found on Java but whose origins lie in Africa) through the hardy Neanderthals who lived and hunted successfully in Europe despite the bitter grip of the last Ice Age 100,000 and more years ago. You focus on the first human settlement of Africa as early as 800,000 years ago.

Section II: Modern Humans

This section tells the story of the great diaspora of anatomically modern humans in the late Ice Age. Whether and how these modern humans spread from the African tropics into southwestern Asia and beyond remains one of the great controversies among scholars of prehistory.

You follow Homo sapiens sapiens north into Europe some 45,000 years ago. You meet the Cro-Magnons, among the first known artists as well as hunter-gatherers, who exhibited degrees of spiritual awareness, social interaction, and fluid intelligence.

You venture into the frigid open plains of the Ukraine and Eurasia, where big-game hunters flourished in spite of nine-month winters. Moving to the Americas, debate over the origins of the first human settlement continues.

Section III: Farmers and Herders

This section describes perhaps the most important development in all human prehistory: the beginnings of agriculture and animal domestication.

This defining chapter began about 12,000 years ago, when hunter-gatherers in the Near East broke from the long human tradition of intensely mobile foraging and turned to more settled ways of life built around cultivating cereal grains or tending animals.

Section IV: Eastern Mediterranean Civilizations

Professor Fagan describes early civilizations in an increasingly complex eastern Mediterranean world, discussing many theories accounting for the appearance of urban civilization and overall attributes of preindustrial civilizations.

You examine Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia and the intricate patchwork of city-states between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. You explore ancient Egypt, the Minoan civilization of Crete, the Mycenaeans, and the Hittites.

You learn about the Uluburun shipwreck of southern Turkey, a sealed capsule of international trade from 3,000 years ago.

Section V: Africans and Asians

You analyze the beginnings of South Asian civilization and the mysterious Harappan civilization of the Indus, which traded with Mesopotamia. Professor Fagan resumes the story of South Asian civilization after the collapse of the Harappan and shows how Mauryan rulers on the Ganges encouraged trading much farther afield.

You see the impact of monsoons which revolutionized maritime trading among Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, and explore Meroe, Aksum, and the coastal civilization of East Africa.

Several lectures cover the beginnings of civilization in China and Southeast Asia.

Section VI: Ancient Americans

Professor Fagan takes you into sophisticated chiefdoms and civilizations that developed in the Americas over the past 3,500 years, including Pueblo cultures of the North American Southwest and the Mississippian culture of the South and Southeast. You learn about Mesoamerican civilization, primordial Olmec culture of the lowlands, and the spectacular ancient Maya civilization.

Moving to the highlands, you visit the city-states of Monte Albán in the Valley of Oaxaca and Teotihuacán near the Valley of Mexico. Professor Fagan also describes the rise of Aztec civilization, followed by a journey to the Andes. Finally, you explore the southern highlands, with the rise of Tiwanaku near Lake Titicaca, the Chimu civilization of the coast, and the huge Inka empire.

The series closes by analyzing the closing centuries of prehistoric times during the European age of discovery and summarizing the main issues and themes of the course:

  • What was involved in the archaic world
  • The appearance and spread of modern humans
  • Food production
  • The development of states
Hide Full Description
36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Introducing Human Prehistory
    The themes of the course include emerging human biological and cultural diversity as well as our similarities, the importance of climatic and environmental change, and the importance of seeing prehistory as a tale of people and their beliefs, not just archaeological sites. x
  • 2
    In the Beginning
    Evidence of human origins dates from between 6 million and 3 million years ago. What anatomical and behavioral changes occurred among hominids across this vast expanse of time? What fossil forms define the earliest stages of human evolution? x
  • 3
    Our Earliest Ancestors
    The earliest tool-making hominids appeared between 3 million and 2 million years ago. Evidence from Louis and Mary Leakey's excavations at the famous Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania suggests that Homo habilis, the first toolmaker, used these stone implements as aids in scavenging and foraging. x
  • 4
    The First Human Diaspora
    Until about 730,000 years ago, world climate seems to have been fairly stable. Since then, climate shifts including Ice Ages have played a major role in human biological and cultural evolution, as we can see by considering theories of how humans first moved from Africa to Asia. x
  • 5
    The First Europeans
    Europe seems to have been colonized only about 800,000 years ago—the dating is controversial. Archaeological research indicates people who lived a flexible and highly mobile life, but with cognitive and linguistic abilities that seem no match for those of modern humans. x
  • 6
    The Neanderthals
    This lecture clears away many of the misleading stereotypes about these nimble, efficient hunters who used simple but versatile tools in order to adapt impressively to the harsh climate of late Ice Age Europe and Eurasia. x
  • 7
    The Origins of Homo sapiens sapiens
    You learn the compelling evidence from molecular biology that shows the origins of Homo sapiens sapiens, modern humans, lie in tropical Africa more than 100,000 years ago. x
  • 8
    The Great Diaspora
    The spread of modern humans from Africa into other parts of the world is one of the great dramas of prehistory. Why did it occur, and how did the Sahara Desert play a critical role in it? x
  • 9
    The World of the Cro-Magnons
    The modern humans whom we call Cro-Magnons began to settle Europe 45,000 years ago. What was their crucial advantage over Neanderthals and other more archaic people? How did the Cro-Magnons bring together the material and spiritual worlds in ways never before seen? x
  • 10
    Artists and Mammoth Hunters
    What are the major features of Cro-Magnon mobile and cave art? How can we evaluate the various theories that have been put forward to explain what it means? How did the unique big-game hunting societies of the late Ice Age cope with their exceptionally harsh environment? x
  • 11
    The First Americans
    How and when the Americas were first settled is one of the most controversial questions in the entire field of prehistory. This talk outlines the basic issues and describes the two major competing hypotheses and the relevant evidence. x
  • 12
    The Paleo-Indians and Afterward
    Hunter-gatherer societies began to flourish in North America about 14,000 years ago. They differed across regions, from the more densely peopled Eastern woodlands to the plains and the drier West, but all had elaborate beliefs reflected in art, burial customs, and ceremonial objects. x
  • 13
    After the Ice Age
    What vast climatic changes followed the end of the Ice Age about 10,000 years ago? How did a huge glacial-meltwater release in Canada affect the climate thousands of miles away in the Near East so profoundly that it may have sparked the development of agriculture? x
  • 14
    The First Farmers
    What do excavations of early farming settlements at Abu Hureyra, Syria, and Jericho, Jordan, tell us about how the change from hunting and collecting to herding and farming took place? x
  • 15
    Why Farming?
    What are the leading theories about the beginnings of agriculture? Why is it the case that the consequences of agriculture are more interesting than its origins? How do the remains of early farming societies in southwestern Asia and the Nile Valley help us to trace these effects? x
  • 16
    The First European Farmers
    Europe was a sparsely inhabited place until farmers began to spread rapidly across it from southeast to northwest beginning in about 7,000 B.C. Could the sudden formation of the Black Sea by the rising waters of the Mediterranean have been the trigger for this diffusion? x
  • 17
    Farming in Asia and Settling the Pacific
    Rice has been grown in the Yangtze Valley of southern China since before 7,000 B.C., with millet farming in the Huangho Valley of the north about a millennium behind. But the many islands lying far off Asia could not be settled until root crops like taro and yams were domesticated. x
  • 18
    The Story of Maize
    The tale of how researchers traced domestic corn or maize to its wild Mesoamerican ancestor (a grass called teosinte) is one of the great detective stories in prehistory. Spreading both north and south, the farming of maize and associated crops such as beans would transform the landscape of both Americas. x
  • 19
    The Origins of States and Civilization
    The world's first civilizations appeared in southwest Asia about 5,000 years ago. What makes a "civilization," and what do all preindustrial civilizations have in common? What are the theories accounting for civilizations' expansions? x
  • 20
    Sumerian Civilization
    Evolving out of innovative farming societies that used irrigation to grow food between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the small, competing city-states of Sumer were engaging in long-distance trade by 4000 B.C. and then became parts of a drive to form much larger empires. x
  • 21
    Ancient Egyptian Civilization to the Old Kingdom
    The long, fertile, green ribbon of the Nile Valley is the setting for this most famous and flamboyant of ancient civilizations. Beginning, as had Sumer, in a series of smaller kingdoms along the river, Egypt's pyramid-building "Old Kingdom" flourished till 2180 B.C. x
  • 22
    Ancient Egypt—Middle and New Kingdoms
    How did Mentuhotep, the politically gifted ruler who restored the Middle Kingdom, redefine his own role as pharaoh in order to achieve this? How did the New Kingdom of Ramses II and company redefine it as Egyptian military and imperial power grew? x
  • 23
    The Minoan Civilization of Crete
    In journeying north across the eastern Mediterranean from Egypt, we come across the Minoan civilization of Crete, whose site was the Palace of Minos at Knossos on that island. What made the religious beliefs at the heart of Minoan civilization so different from those found in other early states? x
  • 24
    The Eastern Mediterranean World
    Among the high points of this talk is the discussion of the remarkable Uluburun shipwreck, an amazing 1984 find off the coast of Turkey that contains a rich cargo drawn from nine regions and gives us a superb window on the burgeoning world of international trade c. 1300 B.C. x
  • 25
    The Harappan Civilization of South Asia
    This civilization rose in the Indus Valley of what is now Pakistan before 2500 B.C. In a way, it was a result of the rise of cities in Mesopotamia because trade with that area seems to have stimulated the rise of cities along the Indus. Were Harappan religious beliefs the ancestors of Hinduism? x
  • 26
    South and Southeast Asia
    Starting with the Harappan collapse (c. 1700 B.C.), we enter the Vedic period, when far-reaching cultural, religious, and technological changes swept South Asia, culminating in the discovery of the monsoon wind cycle (c. 100 B.C.), which opened the door to travel and trade across the Indian Ocean and beyond. x
  • 27
    Africa—A World of Interconnectedness
    Ranging over sites on the continent from the caravan routes of Sudan to the great cattle-raising kingdoms of the south-central plateau around Zimbabwe, this talk shows how Africa played a major role in the Indian Ocean world during the first millennium A.D. x
  • 28
    The Origins of Chinese Civilization
    Here we explore the increasingly complex Longshanoid cultures that grew up over a wide swath of northern China after 3000 B.C. What do we know about the three early dynasties—Xia, Shang, and Zhou—and the realms over which they presided? x
  • 29
    China—Zhou to the Han
    The Western and Eastern Zhou periods were times of endemic warfare until Emperor Qin Shihuangdi unified China in 221 B.C. The Han Dynasty brought China into contact with the West via the Silk Road, and with India by connecting to the ancient monsoon-wind routes of Southeast Asia. x
  • 30
    Southeast Asian Civilizations
    While these civilizations possess indigenous roots, it is also true that China and India had a large impact on them. The famous sites of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom give us insight on the uniquely centripetal Khmer civilization and its notions of divine kingship. x
  • 31
    Pueblos and Moundbuilders in North America
    With this talk we change hemispheres to examine the chiefdoms and states of the Americas before Columbus. Topics include the Pueblo sites of Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde, the moundbuilders of the Eastern woodlands, and the great chiefdoms of the Mississippian tradition. x
  • 32
    Ancient Maya Civilization
    We explore the rise and decline of the Maya, who ran the greatest lowland civilization of pre-Columbian times, analyze their origins, study their central institutions such as kingship, describe key Maya sites such as Nakbe and El Mirador, and examine the reasons for their collapse c. A.D. 900. x
  • 33
    Highland Mesoamerican Civilization
    Like the lowlands, the highlands of Mesoamerica were also a cradle of civilizations beginning around the first millennium B.C. The last and most famous was that of the Aztecs, who rose from obscurity to become masters of Mesoamerica in just two dizzying centuries, only to fall themselves before a tiny band of Spanish conquistadors. x
  • 34
    The Origins of Andean Civilization
    This civilization developed between two poles: one on Peru's North Coast, the other in the south-central Andes. Around the former grew up the remarkable Moche state (c. 200 B.C. to A.D. 600), which provides a case study of how a civilization can be overcome by natural disasters. x
  • 35
    The Inka and Their Predecessors
    The Inka were imperial conquerors who took over smaller kingdoms in both the Andean highlands and Peru's north coast sometime after A.D. 1000. Aside from their passion for organization, what institutions fueled the Inkas' endless conquests? And how did a tiny band of Spanish adventurers seize this vast empire so quickly in 1532? x
  • 36
    Epilogue
    Here you cast a backward glance over the four main chapters of human prehistory—the archaic world, the appearance and spread of modern humans, food production, and the development of states. Why does knowledge of this matter in today's world? How does it strengthen our understanding of the human condition? x

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  • Maps
  • List of archaeological sites
  • Suggested readings

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Your professor

Brian M. Fagan

About Your Professor

Brian M. Fagan, Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Dr. Brian M. Fagan is Professor Emeritus of Archaeology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Born in England, Dr. Fagan earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Archaeology and Anthropology from Pembroke College, Cambridge University. Professor Fagan's excavations in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) from 1959 to 1965 earned him recognition as a pioneer of multidisciplinary African history. He has served as Director of...
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Reviews

Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 112.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pretty Good BUT! Excellent in most ways yet Disappointing in others. Needs to be undated to reflect latest DNA knowledge that Modern Humans DID interbreed with both Neanderthals and Denisovans.
Date published: 2018-06-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from First Third of the Couse is Fascinating After the first third of the course I was utterly engaged and wondering why this course had such negative reviews. By the time I had experienced the last two-thirds of the course I could see why it is currently rating an overall score of 4.0. One of the main reasons I purchased this course was to learn more about the origins and evolution of early humans prior to the adoption of agriculture and civilizations. And the first 12 or so lectures definitely delivered on that front. I found these discussions fascinating and enlightening. The only criticism I can muster would be that little was said about the social structure of hunter-gatherer societies prior to agriculture; How big were these groups? How were they comprised? What type of interaction or organization existed? However, overall these lectures were the highlight of the course. But then the last 2/3 of the course (origins of agriculture/farming settlements and the first civilizations) was much less interesting and engaging. Can't exactly put my finger on it but a few general observations on the minus side: • The professor seemed to spend way too much time discussing the theme of inter-connectedness involving the first urban civilizations in Europe and Asia (how trade drew all of the cultures closer together into a web of economic connections) when more time could’ve been spent on the individual civilizations’ histories and rulers • Without a map it was difficult to follow some of the lectures including the one on innovations on sea travel between the Mediterranean world and India • The scope of the course may just be too wide. An astounding amount of time is covered: from our species' origin millions of years ago to the 15th century AD); I like the approach of covering all corners of the globe when discussing the first civilizations but that is alot of ground to cover and maybe the course should've stopped with prehistory or after the very first civilizations in Asia. A nusiance more than anything: the professor would constantly refer to the Mediterranean region or Near East (middle East) as "Southwest Asia". It kept throwing me off since my first thought when I hear any reference to “Asia” would be China or India so I had to keep orientating myself to "oh he means the middle east". But I hope you don't think this is a negative review in general. There certainly was good in this course: it is unique in some ways in that it included discussions of empires and civilizations that are not typically well known or covered in other courses including African cultures, the Khmer empire of southeast Asia, and North American cultures. I do give the professor credit for trying to cover such a broad spectrum of time, topics, and civilizations. And he brought good energy and passion to the lectures. In general areas of focus of the course included: o The first hominids including: Homo habilis and Homo eretus o Movement of Homo erectus out of Africa and into Asia o Movement of Homo erectus from Asia to Europe o Neanderthals in Europe and Asia o Modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) and their movement out of Africa and into Europe (Cro-Magnons), Asia/Australia, and the Americas o Invention of human art and spirituality o Origins of agriculture- food farming and domestication of animals which led to a transition from a hunter-gatherer society to a sedentary one o The formation of farming settlements in the middle east, Asia, Europe, Pacific islands, and the Americas o The formation of the first urban civilizations:  Eastern Mediterranean: • Sumer/Mesopotamia • Egypt • Minoa • Mycenae • Hittite  Asian: • Harappan/Indus Valley • Vedic • Mauryan empire • Chinese dynasties • Khmer (in current day Cambodia)  African: • Meroe • Aksum • East African coast • Zimbabwe • West Africa  Pre-Columbian American: • Pueblo cultures of the North American Southwest • Eastern woodlands of North America (mound builder cultures) • Mississippi cultures in the North American Southeast • Mesoamerica including Olmec, Maya, Monte Albán, Teotihuacán, Toltecs and Aztec • South American Andean cultures including Moche, Tiwanaku, Chimu, and Inka If you're looking for a study of human prehistory (before agriculture/civilization) and the various controversies and theories behind aspects of this time period then I definitely recommend this course. If you're more interested in the origins of civilizations and their histories you may want to instead pick up "History of the Ancient World - A Global Perspective" which I thought was an excellent course. Or "The History of Ancient Egypt" or "Foundations of Eastern Civilization" which I also thought were well done.
Date published: 2018-05-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Terribly dated, but still worth it Let me say that I've read most of, if not all of, the negative reviews, and I think they are largely unfair. The course has a number of problems. Chief among those is the fact that the course is badly dated. The course was apparently recorded in 2003, and much has changed since then. Specifically, much of what Prof. Fagan says about the Neanderthals is no longer current. However, the flaws of the course are more than made up for by the excellent overview of prehistory and early civilizations. Overall, I'm torn between a three and a four star rating. I liked the presentation and enjoyed prof. Fagan a good bit. Is he perfect? By no means. But he is a very interesting and engaging speaker. A number of reviewers had a problem with Prof. Fagan's delivery. (One reviewer went so far as to call him a "non-native English speaker". Note: he's British - the original native-English speakers....) Some called his delivery pompous or overwrought. That (again) is unfair. Prof. Fagan's style is somewhere between David Attenborough and Pontus Pilate in Monty Python's Life of Bryan (or "Bwian", if you will). While it may sound a bit posh to American ears, it is easy enough to get used to. Similarly, a large number of negative reviews were based on the lack of visuals. I listened to the course while driving, so I can only speak to the audio. However, the audio was excellent. Based on those reviews, it would appear that the video is not worth the increment, but I prefer the audio anyway. The content of the course is very good. Although much of the material is dated, it still serves to remind us of how far we've come in a very short time. DNA analysis and new finds in Africa and Southwest Asia (to say nothing of South and Central Asia) have led to nothing short of a revolution in our understanding of human migration and the relations between and among pre-modern humans. But we would do well to listen to the state of play back in 2003 to help us understand the shape of that revolution. That's true, in part, because we may yet return to some form of that prior understanding. For example, much is made of Prof. Fagan's comment that no gene flow occurred between early modern humans and Neanderthals. We now know that is incorrect. One commenter pointed out that as much as 4% of modern human genetic material came from Neanderthals. However, that same commenter suggested that there was continuous interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals during the period when their ranges overlapped. More recent research, however, suggests that this may not be the case. There may have been as little as a single interbreeding period between Neanderthals and modern humans and only two interbreeding periods between modern humans and Denisovans. (Whether this research suggests "periods" or "events" I don't know.) Our state of knowledge is constantly changing. And this is something that Prof. Fagan does a good job of reminding us of frequently. I would also be remiss in not mentioning that much of what Prof. Fagan says about early art being attributable exclusively to modern humans has similarly come under question more recently. The dated nature of some of the material does not necessarily take away from some of the other fascinating insights that Prof. Fagan offers. For example, I had never understood what it was that kept humans from migrating out of Africa on a continuous basis. Why do humans migrate? What are the pressures that push us to move out of Africa, across the Bering Strait, or into the Pacific? Prof. Fagan does an excellent job of offering (possible) insights into these pressures. The nature of the relationship between the Sahara and human settlement and migration was one I had never understood. Prof. Fagan illuminates this issue and explains how this relationship led to humans migrating out of Africa in waves, in response to climatic change that drove changes in the Sahara. This is only one example of the many insights that he offers (at least to me). There are many others. These lectures were time well spent. I enjoyed the lectures. I learned a great deal. But I also had a relatively firm grounding in some of the more recent research in human prehistory. Much of that was from the popular press, so no need to rush out top buy Svante Paabo's "Neanderthal Man" just to prepare for this course. (Though it doesn't hurt, and is a great, reasonably accessible, read.) Buy the course, do some Wikipedia research, and enjoy what is on offer here. ___________________ One side note to the Teaching Company itself. As several commenters have argued, you really do need to publish the recording date of the lectures on the website. I realize this could hurt sales of these courses, but as detective Cleese explained in "Crunchy Frog", he's not interested in your sales. He's got to protect the general public. It is, after all, only fair that we should be fully informed of what we're buying. In addition, it appears that Prof. Fagan is still with us and I wonder if he wouldn't be willing to do an additional thirty-minute lecture updating some of the knowledge that have been gained since he recorded this course. If not he, then perhaps another of the esteemed professors who have recorded courses for the teaching company would be willing to do so. This kind of update would be most welcome to your listeners.
Date published: 2018-05-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Dated and in places misleading This course is 15 years old, and the field of paleoanthropology has made some dramatic strides in the past 15 years. I’m certain that Professor Fagan no longer stands by his repeated and unqualified statements that homo sapiens sapiens did not and COULD NOT interbreed with Neanderthals, to take a glaring example; and of course there is no coverage of the “hobbits,” which have been studied since this course was recorded. And the presentation is dated. It may well have been state-of-the-art when it was made, but more current lectures rely much less on the “professor stands at the front of the class” model and are far richer with additional visuals. I can’t count the number of times that I wished for a picture of a tool, site, or artifact that he struggled to capture in words. Finally, I agree with the other commenters who objected to Prof Fagan’s habit of making generalizations about beliefs or habits without delving into why archeologists have come to these conclusions. The course needs supporting examples, or the information becomes meaningless. I realize that, as Prof Fagan himself tells us, this topic is unmanageably large and complex for a single course of lectures. I STRONGLY recommend that TLC rethink and redesign their approach, and issue one or more revised and updated courses — and be prepared to do so again (and again) as this vibrant field continues to advance.
Date published: 2018-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fine plunge into early human civilizations! I enjoy the narrative of Professor Fagan. I have read several of his books, attempting to bring recent scholarship and significance of archaeology to my high school students. This series should assist well the efforts of high school teachers.
Date published: 2018-02-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good speaker! I have only finished 22 lectures so far. Dr. Fagan is an excellent speaker with great knowledge of the subject. However, I feel this series doesn't use enough video assets. When professor Fagan speaks of Sumerian or Egyptian villages it would help if we could see what they looked like, either through archaeological digs or in artist's concepts or modern photos.
Date published: 2018-02-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Features This is a great course. Some aspects are very speculative but scientific history often is. The teacher tries hard to make sense of limited, pragmatic data. He does it well. A good course based on fragmented data.
Date published: 2018-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This man is a legend! An academic and archaeologist of world-wide note. An author of countless books. This man does NOT have a speech impediment! He speaks with an English accent, with a slight dialect polished by years of academia in top universities. Dare I say, I find the speech of some of TGC American accents difficult to understand at times! It depends upon culture and familiarity.
Date published: 2018-01-28
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