Book Review: Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind

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Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind

Colin Renfrew
The Folio Society Ltd, £29.95hands-book012

This beautiful new edition of Professor Renfrew’s Prehistory is a bookshelf essential for anyone interested in the questions and theories behind the cultural evolution of humankind. Here, Renfrew lends his expertise of archaeological theory, genetics, linguistics and radiocarbon dating to the vast subject of prehistory in an updated version of his 2007 work.

The first part of the text addresses the term ‘Prehistory’: what it really means, and how the idea of a time before the present state first entered human consciousness. The discussion embraces how prehistory was brought to life by archaeologists, geologists, and biologists, including the creation of the three age system, typological classification of material culture, and the revolution of radio carbon dating. The second part of the volume examines the  human evolutionary journey, looking to understand why cultural revolutions happened as they did. With little significant change to Homo sapiens genetics after the expansion out of Africa 60,000 years ago, Renfrew looks for alternative answers to what caused our rapid advance towards culture and civilisation.

At times, the understanding of passages requires a basic knowledge of archaeological theory. However, Renfrew’s conversational writing-style makes it an accessible read for students and professionals alike. This hardback edition, with its fantastic colour illustrations, the Folio Society’s attractively designed  cloth cover, and a perceptive introduction by Alice Roberts, is certainly one to savour.



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